Although diversity, equity, and inclusive (DEI) initiatives have been successfully part of some company cultures for years, we struggled for a long time to get a solid program off the ground at IMPACT.
Perhaps it wasn’t advancing because we didn’t make it a company-wide priority, or because we didn’t have someone really “owning” it, or possibly because at the end of the day, we didn’t truly understand why it was so important.
During this time when we still didn’t have a program in place, our team continued to grow, introducing employees from new areas, backgrounds, cultures, and more.
Whatever our hurdle to a successful DEI program, it was clear that we needed to overcome it because our team increasingly requested a focus in that area, and our diversity was increasing as well. It would be naive to think everyone felt equally included or supported without any focus on changing or adapting our culture.
As the person in charge of spearheading most of our culture initiatives at IMPACT, I realized I didn’t have any idea what a successful DEI initiative truly entailed. As I researched and consumed content that our team members shared, I realized how little I knew about DEI in general.
While I, along with many other members on the team, educated ourselves, a few passionate employees volunteered to take the lead on moving things forward.
Although I’ve only scratched the surface on expanding my knowledge on DEI, I quickly came to understand some of the true benefits of a solid DEI focus in an organization.
DEI can be “measured” in the workplace in various ways. However, it conventionally revolves around looking at a company’s breakdown of varying employee gender, age, religion, race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, languages, education, abilities, etc.
HelpScout, a global provider of help desk software, publicly displays their DEI stats on their website, such as the percentage breakdown of their team by race, gender, age, and more.
Their decision to create a page specifically to display their progress with DEI clearly shows that they understand its importance.
However, this may not be as clear to other companies. Much like it wasn’t clear to us at first either.
While many people are familiar with what DEI is and know they should focus on it, they still might struggle to really understand why.
Although there are endless intangible and cultural benefits to embracing diversity and inclusion on your team, below I focus on four powerful and data-driven benefits that just about every business strives for.
Benefit #1: Outperform the competition
Most companies are willing to go to great lengths to beat out their competitors. However, many probably never realized that DEI could help in this area.
A lot can be said for having employees who have a true sense of belonging at work and are encouraged to contribute and have their voices heard.
According to a report on Gallup.com, “The combination of employee engagement and gender diversity resulted in 46% to 58% higher financial performance — comparable revenue and net profit, respectively — for business units above the median on both engagement and gender diversity, compared with those below the median on both.”
In addition to focusing on gender-specific diversity, Greenhouse published that “Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their peers.”
But what is it about diversity that makes these companies more successful?
Well, imagine a puzzle, and each piece represents a unique person on your team. They’re all shaped differently, and fit into different places in the puzzle, much like different roles in a company.
If you don’t have a variety of pieces, you’ll never see the full picture.
Similarly, when you’re making organizational decisions about your products, customers, etc., you’ll want to bring together as many different “puzzle pieces” as possible to make an informed decision.
If your competition is solving problems with the same hypothetical puzzle, you’ll always want to stay at least a few pieces ahead of them by adding these essential diverse “puzzle pieces” to your team.
Benefit #2: Increase profitability
“I don’t want to increase profitability at my company.” ...said no company leader ever.
For those of us who are interested in increasing profitability at our organizations, it appears that we should start by looking at the makeup of our executive teams.
In an article published by Envato Tuts+, they state “Companies with the most gender diversity in their leadership teams were 21% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than those with the least diversity.”
In fact, when swapping “gender diversity” with “ethnic diversity,” they found that the percentage increased to 33%.
But the profits don’t stop at the leadership team level.
The benefits of diversity on these teams likely comes from the variety of perspectives it brings. By having people from a variety of genders, racial and religious backgrounds, abilities, locations, etc., you shine light on new perspectives that can lead to better ideas, solutions, and overall discussions.
Because leadership teams and board members don’t typically change overnight, the sooner that companies focus on building more diversity into the team overall, the more likely these teams will become more diverse as they evolve over time.
Benefit #3: Keep employees on the team longer
Employee turnover is expensive.
Between the time and resources spent on recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, training, and more, replacing an employee costs an average of 33% of that worker’s annual salary.
Low and behold, DEI initiatives can help reduce employee turnover as well.
When a company culture accepts and supports varying beliefs, opinions, and perspectives, employees feel safer to be themselves, in turn making them feel valued for their individual contributions.
It’s exhausting and frustrating to suppress natural feelings, thoughts, and actions, so it’s no wonder why people want to work in an environment where they don’t need to yet still feel like they fit in.
TalentLyft does a great job of showing the correlation between happiness and retention by noting that “when employees feel accepted and valued, they are also happier in their workplace and stay longer with a company. As a result, companies with greater diversity in the workplace have lower turnover rates.”
Keep in mind that having a diverse team doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone automatically feels accepted. It’s essential to build that culture of acceptance across the whole organization as a core part of your DEI initiative.
At IMPACT, we do our best to foster an environment where people can feel comfortable being themselves. For instance, we have a very open dress code so in-office employees don’t feel like they have to fit a certain mold.
We also encourage people to share their backgrounds, opinions, traditions, and more. One of the ways we encouraged this was through a virtual series that we called “Employee spotlight” during the pandemic. Employee spotlights would be virtual “shows” where employees would volunteer to showcase something about their life, their culture, their talents, etc. on a live Zoom meeting that anyone in the company could attend.
Below is an excerpt from our employee newsletter announcing the episode that Shandi was hosting.
Those who tuned in had the opportunity to make the Jamaican Fried Dumplings along with Shandi, and/or to observe, ask questions, and take some time to learn about Shandi’s tradition(s).
In addition to encouraging sharing around backgrounds and traditions, we use a variety of methods to encourage people to share their unique opinions such as:
With decision-making being a central part of everything we do, increasing the quality of the decisions we make can have a huge impact on not only the companies we work in but also our lives in general.
Much like the old saying “two heads are better than one,” which highlights the benefits of more than one opinion; diversity of opinions creates a similarly positive outcome.
Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings.
Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.
Once again, fresh and varying perspectives lead to more unique solutions, allowing teams to make more informed and innovative decisions. Circling back to that old saying, it can also be said that two (or more) perspectives are better than one.
At IMPACT, one of the ways we encourage employees to weigh in on ideas or decisions is through a monthly “Employee Roundtable” meeting. Each hour-long meeting pulls together a new group of employees to meet directly with Bob, our CEO.
Recent company changes or ideas are often discussed in these meetings, and employees are encouraged to share anything that’s on their mind and know that it is being heard directly “from the top.”
Making your mark on DEI in the workplace
Putting aside all of the facts and the statistics around creating diverse and inclusive work environments, another important reason to focus on DEI in your organization is that it’ll simply make your organization somewhere people want to work.
Everyone should have the opportunity to bring their best selves to work every day, regardless of what their differences are. They shouldn’t feel like they have to hide away aspects of their culture, personality, and identity just to be accepted.
Whether you’re just starting your DEI journey at your company or you’ve been on it for years, the key is to not let it fizzle out. A true DEI initiative is never finished. Companies should always be learning and adapting in different ways to bring these initiatives to light and make them successful.