DEI in the Workplace: Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matter

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Many HR departments and organizations as a whole have begun to focus more on diversity, equity and inclusion, not only from a business standpoint, but also because, logically, we are moving toward a more diverse world.

In 2020, nearly one quarter of the U.S. workforce was made up of non-White individuals, while slightly less than half of the total working population were women. In 2021, the labor force also saw an increase in the portion of workers with a disability, rising from 3.8% in 2020 to 4.1% the following year.

While the actual makeup of the workforce is evolving, it makes sense that what employees look for in a workplace is evolving as well. In fact, 76% of respondents to a recent study by Glassdoor noted a diverse workforce as an important factor in their job search, with 1 in 3 stating they would not even apply with a company that lacks diversity.

It is obvious that if you are not focusing on diversity and inclusion within your current workforce, it will be hard to grow in the future. Keep reading to learn more about what DEI means and how these important issues can benefit your organization.

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Defining the Terms

Before we dig into why diversity, equity and inclusion are important to incorporate into any workplace, let’s quickly look at what each of these truly mean. While they often — including here — are grouped together for practical purposes, they of course each have their own definition.

employees in a meeting

Of these three terms, diversity is likely the most straightforward and the one people can most easily identify. A workplace is considered diverse when there are employees representing a variety of characteristics, including age, ethnicity, physical or mental ability, political affiliation, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background and many others.

Equity refers to fairness regarding individual needs related to different demographics. On the other hand, equality occurs when everyone is given the same opportunities. This may seem like a good strategy, but not all employees come from the same starting point, meaning companies should focus on equity rather than equality, where the focus is on equal outcomes, not necessarily equal treatment.

Inclusion occurs when every employee feels valued and, importantly, feels they can add value. Oftentimes, inclusion can be considered an overarching idea that includes both diversity and equity. This is true, but remember that if you create an inclusive workplace, it does not automatically mean there are no inequalities.

It is crucial you consider these pieces as separate, and equally important, areas of focus. One or two of them will certainly help move your workplace toward being a more welcoming and opportunistic place. However, incorporating all three into your business shows both your employees and your customers that you are committed to creating a truly safe, hospitable and effective work environment.

6 Benefits of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

While these are separate ideas, the goal should be to incorporate all three into your organization. When you address diversity, equity and inclusion together, you can be certain you are covering all your bases and will gain more than you would by just focusing on one issue.

Opens a wider candidate pool
employees celebrating DEI in the workplace

Let’s look at just one aspect of diversity: race. Out of 76 million baby boomers in the United States, 72% are white. On the other hand, only 56% of the roughly 87 million millennials are white. Unsurprisingly, similar trends exist in numerous other characteristics of diversity. 

It is easy to see how being overly picky about traits that don’t affect talent or work ethic will significantly decrease the number of people you can even consider. If you are not setting out to embrace diversity in your organization, you are going to miss out on many future candidates. Embracing diversity and striving for inclusion are key to finding good hires.

Decreases employee turnover

Despite what many managers and executives may want to believe, employees often leave a job because of internal company issues. Purdue University, consistently one of the top colleges in the country, understands and explains that creating an environment where people feel wanted and appreciated can help cut down on employee turnover. 

Decreased turnover, of course, helps the company overall because they don’t have to worry about the time and expenses required to find, hire and train new employees. Additionally, employee turnover often breeds more turnover, as even the employees who seem content will notice people leaving, which can cause them to rethink their own situation. Employee turnover is a dangerous cycle for any company to become involved with.

Offers new perspectives

It may seem obvious to say, but increasing the diversity within your workforce will help your organization in coming up with new, different and — of course ideally — better ideas, from individual projects to overarching business strategies. 

Different perspectives can also aid in boosting problem solving and productivity. A recent study found that inclusive groups in the workplace make better decisions 87% of the time, and make those decisions twice as fast with half the normal amount of meetings. Clearly there is something to be said for bringing in differing viewpoints.

Demonstrates a higher rate of innovation

Beyond simply welcoming employees with different perspectives, exposure to such variety also encourages creativity. When you have a group of people from similar backgrounds, everything from their thought patterns to life experiences to problem-solving skills are likely to be similar as well.

On the other hand, when you put together a group of people who see the same thing in different ways, you are more likely to get fresh, new, and creative ideas. New circumstances are known to spark fresh ideas. According to HR expert Josh Bersin, companies who are highly inclusive are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders.

Boosts employee morale
employees with high morale

It should seem fairly obvious that when people feel welcomed and appreciated in their place of employment, they are much more likely to work hard to see themselves and their teammates — and, by extension, their company — succeed.

And just like how employee turnover often breeds more turnover, positive employee morale tends to breed better morale. A positive working environment helps people feel valued and engaged, leading to happy employees promoting a positive company culture and creating happy employees. When you demonstrate that every employee, no matter their background or identity, is included

Increases company profits

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have been numerous studies showing that inclusive teams perform better, which results in increased profits. However, the benefits don’t stop at having a diverse workforce. A study from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that U.S. companies with diverse executive boards have a 95% higher return on equity than those with homogenous executive boards. 

Similar to what we noted above about innovation, having a workforce — or even management or boards of directors — that introduces and encourages different viewpoints is clearly good for business.

A DEI Wrap-up

As an employer, it should be clear by now why incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion into your workforce, from top to bottom, needs to be a priority. When your employees feel valued for what their unique experiences can bring to the table, they are much more likely to work hard and encourage others to do the same.

At the same time, when you are seeking out services or vendor relations from other companies, you should try to find like-minded businesses that demonstrate diversity, equity and inclusion within their own organizations. Many of the largest companies in the world now include DEI information on their websites and it doesn’t hurt to find out if a potential business partner does the same.

Contact SafetySkills today to learn more about how creating, welcoming and encouraging a diverse workforce, including everything from non-native speakers to workers with any of a range of disabilities, can help your business succeed in both a corporate sense and on a more real, human level.

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