For a long time, the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) equation was missing an important piece — belonging (B).
While the difference between inclusion and belonging may seem trivial, in practice, employees can be “included” without feeling like they “belong.” The burden of fitting into an existing workplace culture disproportionately falls on employees.
As most organizations have finally begun to embrace the B in DEIB, it’s time to revisit how these initiatives actually help employees and which practices need some tinkering.
What does DEIB mean in 2023?
DEIB stands for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging. Each component has a different meaning but together, they give employees a sense of genuine acceptance and the freedom to bring their whole selves to work.
- Diversity refers to the wide array of differences and similarities individuals bring to the workplace. In practice, it may look like having a diverse workforce, hiring from underrepresented groups, and making everyone feel appreciated for their unique contributions.
- Gallup defines equity “as fair treatment, access and advancement for each person in an organization.” At a workplace, that can mean introducing pay parity, making accommodations for every employee, and fair access to learning opportunities.
- Inclusion is defined as making employees feel valued and welcome. Examples of inclusion include gender neutral restrooms, nursing rooms for new parents, or creating employee resource groups (ERGs).
- Belonging is similar to inclusion in that it’s also about employees feeling welcomed and valued. But another component of belonging is respect. It can manifest in many ways in a workplace — a genuine desire for meaningful relationships, company-wide appreciation and recognition, or even managers stepping in to shield their team from rude customers.
As good as that sounds in theory, and even with 8 in 10 CHROs (chief human resource officers) stepping up their DEIB initiatives, data suggests that companies aren’t so great at following through.
A report from Catalyst that surveyed 24,000 workers from 20+ countries found that a vast majority of workers don’t think their workplaces are being fair. Not only do workers see many inequities, but also only about half of American workers believe that their companies hold leaders accountable for DEIB initiatives. And global responses mirror that sentiment.
Organizational change takes time. But companies have to realize that top talent can only be engaged and retained if their processes are equitable, progress is shared, and leaders are held accountable to DEIB goals.
DEI vs. DEIB: The impact of belonging
While we’ve briefly discussed why belonging is important in spite of inclusion being an integral part of the DEI equation, the debate goes deeper than that.
Inclusion without fostering a sense of belonging fails to make employees feel truly welcomed. And this is especially important for Gen Z and millennial workers.
In fact, research from The Muse revealed that 72% of their audience experienced “Shift Shock” — feelings of surprise or regret when they start a new position and realize their role and the organization is different than what they were initially led to believe.
Coupled with the fact that the pandemic has made many people realize that life is too short to stick around at an unfulfilling job, attrition is an inevitable outcome.
Retaining top talent requires companies to go all in on making them feel like they belong. And inclusion isn’t enough to achieve that. While inclusion initiatives are measured in numbers, belonging is measured in quality.
One way to look at belonging is to see it as a result of DEI initiatives.
Diversity -> Equity -> Inclusion = Belonging
What belonging looks like in your organization may differ, but you know you’re moving in the right direction when:
- There are fewer incidences of microaggressions, exclusion, and ostracism.
- DEIB educators ensure there’s company-wide alignment on these initiatives.
- Benefits are inclusive and compensation is transparent.
The best way to measure the success of belonging initiatives is to ask for employee feedback, set up listening sessions and regular DEIB reports. Remember, perfection isn’t the goal — progress is.
Importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the Workplace
DEIB initiatives encourage better team dynamics, increase productivity and create an environment of learning and innovation. With the right processes and strategy in place, every employee is aligned with the company’s mission, receives equal opportunities, and can do their best work.
Surfaces unconscious biases
Unconscious bias at work refers to the tendency that workers have to arrive at opinions about others without enough context. Bias stems from stereotypes, past experiences or preconceived judgments.
A few examples of these biases include ageism, confirmation bias, and gender bias. These biases lead to an uncomfortable work environment and discrimination.
DEIB initiatives can mitigate most, if not all, of these issues. To begin with, DEIB policies for hiring teams ensure a diverse pool of candidates. A diverse workforce goes a long way in creating a positive culture at work.
Also, DEIB educators can provide training to managers and employees to make them aware of their unconscious biases and offer steps on how to approach future situations with greater sensitivity.
Encourages top talent to apply
Younger job seekers don’t see DEIB initiatives as a nice-to-have — it’s a requirement. Glassdoor’s Diversity & Inclusion Workplace Survey found that for 76% of employees and job seekers, a diverse workforce is crucial. Also, about half of Black and Hispanic employees and job seekers reported quitting after either experiencing or witnessing discrimination in the workplace. And 37% of respondents said they would never apply to a company that had negative ratings by people of color.
Robust DEIB initiatives can flip those statistics in your favor, so top talent is always vying for a job at your organization.
Boosts employee productivity
DEIB initiatives, especially belonging, have been found to increase employee productivity and help them establish psychological safety at work.
In fact, a Culture Report by Achievers Workforce Institute found that employees with a strong sense of belonging report feeling more productive, competent, and psychologically safe at work compared to those who don’t. The outcomes of strategic DEIB initiatives also include increased retention and engagement.
Drives financial targets and performance
Gartner’s research shows that 75% of organizations with decision-making teams that are both diverse and inclusive are more likely to exceed their financial targets. Also, on average, gender-diverse and inclusive teams perform better than gender-monolithic teams that aren’t as inclusive by 50%.
It’s clear that DEIB policies influence more than employee satisfaction — they ultimately feed into major business outcomes like performance and revenue.
Case study: Read how a global firm uses mentoring to strengthen diversity and develop employees
Challenges with advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging initiatives
When DEIB initiatives have such significant positive outcomes, what holds organizations back from jumping in head first?
The truth is in spite of the best intentions, the struggle to make DEIB policies everyday practice is real.
Workers and employees are not on the same page
While most workers and employees surveyed by Just Capital report that their organization is committed to advancing DEIB, they’re split on how progress is measured and how much progress has been made in the first place.
A major roadblock is that leaders haven’t reached out to enough or the right stakeholders. Only 1 in 3 employers reported seeking feedback from underrepresented feedback.
Motivations for establishing DEIB programs are misguided
Employers are motivated by a variety of reasons to establish DEIB programs. But not all reasons are employee-centric.
37% of employers want to create a good public impression for the media, and 44% do it to comply with requirements set by the board of directors. Companies that aren’t motivated by employee growth often find their DEIB programs dead in the water.
Most organizations are still at the starting line
The remaining 59% of companies’ DEIB initiatives were categorized as “less mature.” This survey indicates that a majority of organizations haven’t found their footing yet. And in a world where the workforce has rapidly progressed to have greater expectations from DEIB programs, these companies still have a lot of catching up to do.
Leadership ranks are still not gender and racially diverse
Like most organizational change, DEIB initiatives are more successful when the approach is top down. But women are still underrepresented in leadership ranks.
The same HR Research Insititute study found that only 20% of HR professionals reported that their leadership consists of 61% or more women. More than half (54%) of the respondents revealed women make up just 40% of the leadership ranks.
When you look at ethnic and racial minorities, the narrative gets even worse. Data from McKinsey found that women of color only hold 3% of C-suite roles whereas men of color and white women fare better occupying 12% and 19% of positions, respectively.
DEIB initiatives don’t get the time they deserve
44% of HR Insititute study participants shared that only 20% of their role is focused on DEIB issues, programs, or policies.
This data point clearly indicates that DEIB programs don’t get the attention they need to flourish and succeed. It’s no wonder that most organizations struggle to make DEIB concepts a part of their hiring activities and communicate the benefits and progress of these policies to their employees.
How to Promote Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Workplace
For DEIB concepts to be embedded in the fabric of the workplace, leaders have to stop looking at these terms are buzzwords and start seeing them for what they really are — tools to make employees feel happy, safe, and engaged and help the business succeed.
We’ve curated actionable tips to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging that can help you bridge the gap between policy and practice.
Hire leaders who value and reflect DEIB initiatives
As we’ve established, leadership is responsible for bringing about significant changes. And when the C-suite values DEIB initiatives and reflects those ideas, it’s easier to bring about those changes.
This advice holds true when hiring managers and team leads as well. Any manager that isn’t invested in making the workplace a safe space to work will only make it harder for your initiatives to take root.
Invite diversity discussions
We know that most companies that fail to advance their DEIB initiatives often don’t take their employees’ opinions into account.
Holding regular discussions and inviting members from underrepresented groups and ERGs is a good way to circumvent that problem. You can use this meeting as an opportunity to share new initiatives, progress of the programs in place and solicit feedback to make continuous improvements.
Align your DEIB goals with business outcomes
It can be hard to make a significant investment in DEIB programs if they feel disconnected from business outcomes. Your DEIB goals should be linked to clear outcomes like:
- Improving employee productivity
- Boosting customer satisfaction
- Achieving financial targets
- Maintaining team performance
- Bringing in more revenue
If you can’t map policies to outcomes, there’s a huge chance those initiatives will never take off.
Use mentoring as a DEIB strategy
As a DEIB strategy, mentoring solves a lot of the problems that DEIB programs are designed to eradicate.
Not only does mentoring help make new hires feel welcome and valued, but it also provides fair and equitable access to learning opportunities. Also, having diverse and inclusive mentors in the first place can further promote those concepts among mentees.
Mentor new diverse hires
Even though onboarding programs are commonplace, 70% of new hires still feel unprepared. Mentoring new hires can significantly reduce “Shock Shift” and help them feel valued and welcomed from Day 1.
You can pair mentors and mentees based on shared skills, interests, and goals. And then provide structured mentoring sessions with set agendas to induce thought-provoking sessions.
Monitor the progress of mentorship programs
Like with other initiatives, measuring the progress of mentorship programs is vital. It can help with reducing new hire attrition and ensuring these programs are worth the investment.
You can monitor which employees are engaged, how each mentor-mentee pair is growing, and which mentees need extra attention.
Run diversity mentoring programs for ERGs
You can match mentees to diverse and inclusive mentors who are well-versed in DEIB initiatives to improve the outcomes of the overall DEIB programs.
Lean on an easy-to-use mentoring platform
When it comes to DEIB initiatives, most organizations struggle to connect the dots between intentions and outcomes. But with a mentoring platform like Together, advancing DEIB programs and making progress is easy.
Together helps you make mentoring central to your DEIB strategy with its easy-to-use platform that helps you pair mentors with mentees at scale. Not only can you get started quickly with the out-of-the-box templates but you also get the option to customize the mentoring programs to fit your DEIB policies.
Ready to advance your DEIB strategy with Together? Book a demo