Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are essential aspects of creating a positive and productive workplace environment. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll define diversity as the variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and characteristics that employees bring to the workplace. It can include differences in race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, neural diversity, and more. Equity focuses on ensuring fairness and equal opportunities for all employees, and inclusion is about creating a culture where all employees feel valued, respected, and included, regardless of their differences. As an employer, promoting DEI in the workplace reflects a commitment to social responsibility and fairness—but DEI also leads to greater success and more engaged employees. In fact, a Pew Research Study showed 56 percent of employees think DEI initiatives are a positive thing.¹
People need to feel and embrace a sense of belonging in the workplace. Studies have found that when team members feel like they belong and are valued for who they are, they are more likely to be productive and engaged in their work. Diverse and inclusive workplaces foster community and collaboration. Employees feel comfortable working together towards common goals. This encourages innovation and improved decision-making. When we are free to bring our whole selves to the workplace, we contribute the best of our talents.
Prioritizing DEI in the employee journey needs to be more than waving a flag in a particular month. It needs to be woven into the fabric of the company and its people and values itself. One simple thing that companies can do is to include pronouns in employee profiles. Another idea is to post pictures of the team. If you look more like the United Nations than a homogenous group, you are conveying your commitment to DEI.
When people have to hold back or are overly concerned about aspects of their life needing to stay hidden, they’re unable to perform to their full capabilities. DEI is one of those ways to be understanding and respectful of who people are so they can bring their whole selves and be able to perform when it’s critical instead of worrying about background noise. Being frank, anyone who thinks that diversity is a problem doesn’t understand their own genealogy.
The goal of DEI initiatives is not just to meet legal requirements, but to create a thriving, inclusive workplace where every employee can reach their full potential. An employer’s efforts should be ongoing and adaptive, as workplace dynamics and societal norms continue to change and evolve. This will require commitment and full support from top leadership. Leaders must set the tone by advocating for diversity and modeling inclusive behaviors.
In the end, I am ever aware that business is about results. McKinsey has found that diverse companies have greater profitability. In fact, as much as 33 percent more profitable.² Regardless of the changes to affirmative action and some of the hot-button social issues of our times, employees want to work for companies that reflect their own commitment to diversity, and this nearly always results in better professional results.
Variety is the spice of life. It’s also the formula for success in business.
¹ https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/05/17/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-in-the-workplace/, accessed September 2, 2023.