Best Practices to Support DEI in the Workplace 

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Published On: March 22, 2022

Over the past few decades, companies across the nation have come to understand the importance of building and nurturing diverse workforces, including implementing enterprise-wide strategies that encourage a wealth of experiences, backgrounds, and views. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have never been more important as The Great Resignation continues to eat away at employee retention rates. According to recent studies, a solid DEI program can go a long way in retaining your current talent and attracting rising stars to your organization. 

Although companies across all sizes and industries have made considerable progress in building and sustaining inclusive work environments, an incredible 75% of employees still feel like they do not receive any tangible benefits from DEI programs. 

So, what does it take to build strategic DEI programs, and how can you custom-fit those best practices into your organization in an authentic way? Beyond that, how can companies lean on DEI to drive greater operational excellence, encourage collaboration, and drive employee retention?   

Why Is DEI Important? 

According to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), a global nonprofit organization committed to making the world a better place through more effective leadership, DEI in the workplace relates to “actions taken in order to shift mindsets, behaviors, and practices toward equitable and inclusive leadership for individuals, teams, and organizations.” 

For instance, employees who feel comfortable expressing their unique selves bring a higher degree of productivity and innovation to the workplace– a fact that ultimately impacts your bottom line. 

What’s more, the CLL advises that: “Infusing your organization’s leadership culture with the awareness, mindset, skillset, and tools needed to enhance DEI is vital, and creating systemic workplace culture change requires a systemic approach. To successfully tackle systemic equity, diversity, and inclusion challenges and achieve meaningful progress, organizations must be willing to assess and approach their DEI efforts in multiple phases and at multiple levels.” 

A recent study also found that companies with a higher diversity in leadership positions earned, on average, 38% more revenue than companies with lower diversity. Similarly, a separate study revealed that a failure to prioritize DEI could have a devastating impact on employee retention and engagement.   

How to Set Up a Successful DEI Program 

There are a few best practices your company should strive for when implementing a DEI program in your organization. Below are some to consider. 

Listen to What Your Employees Want 

Many organizations think diversity and inclusion only matter when talking about hiring practices or filling leadership positions. Although these are important, DEI is much more than diversifying your workforce. 

What these organizations fail to understand is that hiring diverse talent will not produce the desired results unless the company creates a space for those diverse voices to share thoughts and implement desired changes. Building a work environment that promotes listening to all views and collaborating on multi-faceted solutions is the only way to fully unlock the potential of diversity. 

If your enterprise has not yet taken stock of or truly defined your company culture, there is no time like the present. Create an internal survey asking how the company is doing and encourage employees to grade any existing DEI initiatives honestly. 

Hiring an outside firm to assist with this process may also be worthwhile. Not only would an independent third party be responsible for gathering feedback and ensuring the integrity of the process, but also employees may feel more secure providing feedback. 

Once you collect all this feedback and access, you should have an aspirational goal to work toward. 

Don’t Let Hybrid Workplaces Slow Down Your DEI Efforts 

As more organizations continue to shift toward a hybrid workplace, many organizations will face new challenges with DEI efforts. However, you cannot let the lack of face-to-face contact eliminate the esprit de corps of the team. 

Some employees may be unable to advance in the company without some facetime at the office. Conversely, working remotely may also become a privilege given to only a few who have moved up in the organization, creating a potential “ivory tower” that segregates leadership from their workforce.  

When looking at your remote or hybrid work options, make sure whatever work environment employees choose is not playing out along gender, race, or other lines. Additionally, you should find ways to engage with your employees and make sure they feel secure contributing without fear of judgment or reprimand. 

Build Common Connections 

ADP Research Institute’s study recently found that employees who share a common purpose and connecting to their employers were seven times more likely to stay with that company.  

Predictably, those employees who felt like they were experiencing discrimination were six times less likely to be strongly connected and more likely to seek new opportunities. 

What should be stressed here is diversity of thought and of workplace preferences. Teams only work when leaders value the unique strengths and needs of their people. Identifying those things, leaning into them and being able to connect them to a larger purpose allows employees to become highly valuable contributors to the business. 

DEI Is a Shared Responsibility 

As you start building your diversity, equity, and inclusion program, remember these initiatives are not just recruiting buzzwords for HR, but also a shared responsibility for every member of the organization. If you want to optimize your employees’ expertise and talents to level up your business, consider learning what makes your employees unique and direct them toward a common goal. 

Diversity and inclusion must be about more than brandishing well-meaning posters on teamwork or one-off training if they are to succeed. True DEI strategies are about building a framework that ensures each employee is valued, heard, and appreciated.  

Great leaders identify team members with unique talents and experiences, then do their best to foster environments that allow those individuals to succeed.  

Looking for more exclusive content? Check out what’s new on the Mployer Advisor blog, and be sure to check out Mployer Advisor’s new podcast “This Week in Benefits.”  


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Abbey Dean

Director of Content, Mployer Advisor


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