DEIB: Embracing Acceptance at Your Organization

“The only constant in life is change.” We’ve all heard this sentiment in the business world. You’ve likely kept it in mind when adapting your company’s mission, goals, operations and even marketing to an evolving world.

But have you taken the same approach with your workforce? Our population is doing more than growing; it’s changing. Having staff and leadership that reflect these shifts is a critical piece of your organization’s future. This is why a culture that embraces diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging—or DEIB—is quickly becoming a hallmark of successful companies.

But what does that actually mean? What is DEIB, why is it important and how can you embrace it at your workplace?

Defining DEIB

To understand this concept, we need to first address each of the terms that make up its name:

  • Diversity – The variation of demographics in your workplace. This includes ethnic background, religious belief, gender, disability, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Equity – Providing fair and equal access to opportunity, advancement and success for all employees. For example, you can make sure employees can get tuition reimbursement to expand their skills and open opportunities for promotion. It could also be providing a disabled employee the accommodations needed to do their job well.
  • Inclusion – Treating everyone on a team fairly and respectfully by including and encouraging their participation. In meetings, for instance, does everyone have a chance to voice their opinion on the topic at hand or contribute ideas to a project?
  • Belonging – Respecting and valuing everyone’s contributions by fostering psychological safety to create an environment where everyone feels uniquely seen, heard, and valued. An example this would be recruiting for positive cultural add (adding to the existing culture instead of making new employees fit into it).

A DEIB-based culture is one that encompasses these four components to create a workplace that best reflects and embraces the uniqueness of your employees and the world around you.

Why is DEIB important now?

Well, it’s always been important. But the American population is more diverse than ever. It’s a trend spearheaded by Generation Z (people born after 1996). According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of Gen Z identifies as Black, Hispanic, Asian or other non-White groups. And a recent Gallup poll found that 21% of them identify as LGBTQ+. That figure is almost double the rate of millennials and significantly higher than that of Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Because Gen Z represents the youngest members of today’s adult population, they are the future of your workforce (not to mention the people you serve). Their influence will only increase as they age, and their tendency to be more accepting of other cultures and backgrounds will rub off on the generations that follow.

This younger generation has demanded that employers pay attention. And now that they’re entering the workforce en masse, their input is vital as you grow your organization. Additionally, recent events and social movements such as Black Lives Matter, Asian Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter have brought the concepts of DEIB to the forefront of public discourse.

If you don’t acknowledge the challenges and opportunities surrounding DEIB, you’ll miss out on a large portion of the talent pool. Additionally, many clients/customers consider an organization’s DEIB standards when choosing who to partner with. So by not embracing a culture of DEIB your organization can miss out on both good employees and good business!

What are the business benefits of a DEIB-based organizational culture?

DEIB boosts creativity and innovation at all levels, especially in leadership. A lack of diversity leads to stale ideas that don’t appeal to or serve large swaths of employees and clients. Additionally, an organization’s reputation is often tied to how they respond to DEIB issues and what their representation looks like. If you give the impression of being blind to a diverse population and the issues they face, you’re more likely to become obsolete.

Diverse leadership and employees also expands a company’s customer base. Many customers don’t want to do business with a company (or support an organization) whose leadership doesn’t reflect their identities. They might feel that without representation, the entity won’t understand their viewpoints or have their best interests at heart. Your organization can benefit from an increased level of trust from the beginning of your relationship with people if you’re seen as “one of them” so to speak.

Diverse teams that provide opportunity for input (inclusivity/belonging) also lead to better decision making by bringing a wider range of perspectives and information to the group. For example, a nonprofit held a weekly mobile food distribution event to serve low income individuals and families. However, they were confused about why so few people turned out each week.

During a board meeting one day, a person of color pointed out that the location they’d chosen was on the opposite side of town (where most of those in need didn’t live) and not on a bus route. So the people who really needed the food couldn’t get to the event. This prompted the board to change the location to better serve their clients, and turnout increased.

Finally, emphasizing DEIB helps you attract and retain quality employees. According to a 2021 Glassdoor survey, 76% of employees and job seekers said they look for a diverse workforce when considering where they apply and what offers they accept. They also seek equity in the form of opportunities for advancement. Consider a woman looking for a position providing upward mobility. She checks out a company and sees a C-suite or partner leadership consisting entirely (or mostly) of men. Chances are she won’t even give that employer a second look and instead and take her talents elsewhere.

How can I make my organization more DEIB friendly?

Most organizations have good intentions when it comes to making everyone feel welcome. They simply don’t know the nuances that can introduce implicit bias.

Dress codes are a good example, in particular those that require more formal clothing and forbid tattoos, piercings and other physical adornments. In many instances, such a code has simply been passed down over the years; not much thought is put into its current purpose.

However, today’s business climate is more casual than ever – especially since the pandemic. Many clients no longer expect suits, ties or high-heeled shoes when doing business. Yet a dress code that requires them unintentionally shuts out people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who might not be able to afford such a wardrobe. They’re also not accommodating to people of different body types and cultures. And dress codes that require women to wear high heels, makeup or skirts (or forbid men to do the same) emphasize physical appearance and perpetuate gender stereotypes.

So what can you do to increase DEIB? Start by assessing how well you’re doing in promoting an inclusive culture. Conduct employee surveys or interviews, truly listen to their concerns and get actionable feedback from them. You can also review your hiring and recruiting practices, workplace polices, training programs, etc. to find subtle microaggressions or biases.

If possible, have a third party conduct this assessment. Employees might not feel comfortable being honest if their answers are collected by supervisors or other company personnel. A third party is also more likely to be objective; often we think we’re doing better than we really are.

Once you know where your deficiencies are, create and implement an action plan to address them and monitor it regularly. Steps you can take to increase DEIB include:

  • Include a commitment to DEIB in your mission statement and values.
  • Consider naming a chief diversity officer or diversity manager.
  • Perform a salary study and investigate/correct any anomalies between demographic groups.
  • Establish employee resource groups and encourage their use.
  • Create pipelines to recruit new hires from diverse backgrounds.
  • Only use a dress code if it’s relevant to job needs or workplace safety (and not to promote a specific “image”).
  • Use inclusive language (for example, “esteemed guests” or “hello friends” instead of “ladies and gentlemen”)
  • Create internship programs.
  • Create a mentorship program.
  • Conduct consistent and quality DEIB training for leadership and staff.
  • Make sure benefits and programs are inclusive (e.g., parental leave policies).
  • Scrutinize board/executive team representation.
  • If you run a nonprofit, require term limits on board members to promote turnover and allow for new ideas.
  • Hold leadership accountable for DEIB goals.
  • Listen to suggestions from employees.
  • Avoid over-inflating job requirements in a job listing. For example, do you really need a bachelor’s degree to do the job, or is work experience sufficient?
  • Remove names from resumes before evaluating them.
  • Acknowledge current events that may take a toll on the mental health of employees from diverse demographic groups (e.g., George Floyd, Pulse shooting, etc.).

Many of these steps involve little to no costs. Sometimes all it takes is a tweak here and there in policy wording or other aspects of your policies. A little research goes a long way in that regard. You can also enlist an HR consultant to help review your current culture and choose the best steps to take.

That said, the steps that do involve spending funds are a sound investment in your organization’s future.  The positive results of a DEIB-infused culture reach far and wide. Your organization, those who work for it, those served by it, and society as a whole… we all benefit from environments that embrace people for who they are.

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a James Moore professional. James Moore will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.