How to improve employee engagement in organizations with D&I

Carolina Gomez

Growth Hacker

DEI, D&I, DE&I – they’ve quickly become crowd-favorite acronyms.

They might seem like the latest trend, but DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion)  in the workplace is so much more than that. While there have been practices over the last few decades around reducing discrimination and equal employment, it’s only recently that many companies have started to truly understand the value of DEI.

DEI is quickly proving to be an important strategy for leadership and people teams. From employee engagement to retention, to talent acquisition, the impact of DEI efforts (or lack thereof) can be far-reaching.

Despite recognizing the value, only a small fraction of HR and people teams have DEI on the priority list. And it’s more than just offering a one-off training session for staff. Diversity initiatives require careful thought and consideration in order to achieve results, but the ROI is invaluable.

Keep reading as we explore some of the basics around D&I, why it matters, and how teams can make DEI a bigger part of their internal workplace strategy.

What is DEI?

DEI stands for three core values – diversity, equity, and inclusion. Together, they help elevate a workplace by celebrating differences, offering equal opportunity, and creating a work environment where everyone can belong.

While the three areas are often lumped together (and are closely intertwined), they are each their own unique and distinct concepts.

In order to understand how DEI and D&I play a role in employee engagement strategies, it’s important to recognize how these areas differ:

Workplace Diversity:

Everyone is different. There are so many factors that play into who we are. Whether it’s race, culture, sexuality, lifestyle, age, or some other factor, these all impact our lived experiences. A truly diverse workplace celebrates what makes everyone different.

Workplace Equity:

Equity is about putting processes in place to level the playing field. It considers things like race, gender, disability, or other characteristics and removes systemic barriers so everyone has equal access to opportunity.

Workplace Inclusion:

We all want to feel like we belong – the same goes for at work. Inclusive workplaces create environments where everyone feels like they are a valued and respected part of the team. Inclusion focuses on building a workplace where everyone feels welcome.

DEI brings all three concepts together under one umbrella, all of which work together to build a better workplace. For example, equitable hiring practices can help increase the diversity in your workplace, which ultimately creates a culture of inclusion.

Implementing DEI initiatives allows companies to better support their employees, create a more positive work environment, and better achieve their company goals.

What’s the difference between DEI and D&I?

D&I stands for diversity and inclusion. Notably missing the equity portion of DEI. While many people choose to use the two interchangeably, DEI encapsulates a larger area of conscious workplace improvement.

How does DEI impact employee engagement?

Employees who are engaged, tend to be more productive and happier with their work life. They’re often more productive and are motivated to contribute to their employer reaching their company goals. With clear benefits that impact the bottom line, many companies have made employee and talent engagement a priority.

So how does DEI factor in?

A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace can help make employees feel like they fit in your puzzle. Most employees don’t want to come to work to keep a seat warm. They want to feel like they’re playing a role in propelling your company toward its goals. However, for that to happen, they need to feel like they belong.

Companies with better levels of belonging tend to correlate with higher employee net promoter scores (eNPS) and employee engagement.

Let’s look at some of the ways DEI can make a tangible difference when it comes to employee engagement and their work.

What are the benefits of DEI?

Beyond employee happiness, actively practicing DEI can help companies improve the work they do.  Here are some of the top benefits of engaging in DEI efforts as an organization.

Foster innovation and creativity

When it comes to innovation and creativity, more brains are almost always better. Companies that don’t prioritize diversity, often find themselves with a group of like-minded individuals. This can cause teams to fall into the trap of groupthink.

Meanwhile, having a diverse workforce (that feels comfortable sharing their ideas) means you get a wide range of perspectives, ideas, and insights. Opening up doors to creativity and innovation and frankly, better decision-making skills.

Better collaboration

Teams that work well together and collaborate are often more productive than those that work in silos.

Employees that feel like they belong, are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns. This includes their peers and their managers. This helps teams bond and build trust – creating a safe space for all team members.

Inclusive teams also tend to build better empathy skills, making them more willing to step into other people’s shoes. These helps all employees develop better communication skills – a key component to delivering efficient and better work.

Attract and retain top talent

We know that diverse and inclusive workplaces keep employees engaged, helping reduce turnover and keep employees happy.

However, the same can be said for hiring new candidates. If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that the market can be competitive for top talent. Candidates want to work for companies where they think they’ll be valued and subsequently look for employers that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

As you consider how you build an inclusive workplace, remember that your DEI efforts shouldn’t be exclusive to current employees. It’s important to extend DEI best practices into the employer branding and hiring processes.

Maximize profit and performance

Creating a welcoming and fair environment for employees is the empathetic and right thing to do. But actively participating in DEI efforts is also just smart business.

Businesses rely on revenue and profits to thrive. Despite what some people believe, DEI goes way beyond fluff. Companies that have diversity and inclusion embedded in their workplace culture tend to yield higher profits that their competitors.

How to prioritize DEI in your organization

Diverse Team

The first step to making DEI a part of your internal engagement strategy is understanding the basics. But tips for effectively implementing a DEI strategy and making it a core part of how your team functions.

Assess your current situation

Before implementing anything new, it’s always good to take a pulse check. It gives you an opportunity to establish a baseline from which you can focus your efforts.

When it comes to DEI, it’s important to understand your gaps and what you’re already doing well. But there’s no specific metric for diversity, equity, and inclusion – so where do you start?

Assessing your current standing can be done in a few different ways:

Look at the diversity in your employee representation:

What do your demographics look like across the organization? What does it look like at the senior leadership level? If you’re seeing low levels of representation, especially from marginalized groups, it may be a sign that you need to adjust your hiring practices.

Survey your employees:

Use metrics like eNPS, and job satisfaction rates, to understand how your current employees are feeling. At the end of the day, all the DEI efforts in the world won’t make a difference if your employees don’t feel it benefits them.

Consider employee turnover and retention:

High turnover and retention rates could be a sign that there is a lack of belonging and loyalty among employees.

You can also look at things like salary equality and internal opportunities to see if there is equal representation across the board.

Provide the right DEI resources and education

The areas of DEI are incredibly nuanced. Helping foster an inclusive work environment requires more than simply telling people to be welcoming or empathetic. True DEI is very purposeful and often tackles systemic issues head-on – something not everyone has the knowledge and expertise to deal with off the bat.

There are many educational resources (for both leaders and employees) that can help make diversity, equity, and inclusion. Investing in reputable DEI resources can help elevate your workforce and implement best practices that are equitable and inclusive.

Offer policies that promote diversity and equity

Actively engaging in DEI starts with the basics – your policies. Whether your team is made up of 10 employees or 10,000, it’s important that you have policies in place that can be applied equally across the board. They should be fair but also inclusive.

Your policies and benefits should be set up to celebrate everyone’s unique experiences and backgrounds. Meaning they should be flexible enough to accommodate diversity among your team.

For example, many individuals may not be able to physically work in an office or work extremely rigid hours. Flexible working arrangements make it easier for a wide variety of folks to be equal contributors in a team.

Companies that have diverse and equitable priorities will come out ahead – attracting talented and more engaged employees.

Take time to recognize and appreciate your team

Part of building an inclusive workplace is fostering a culture of appreciation.

Taking the time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of others is an easy way to show your appreciation for their unique perspectives. Whether it’s peer-to-peer recognition or company-sponsored acts of appreciation, employees who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to feel a sense of belonging.

With that in mind, it’s important that there are guardrails in place to ensure that reward programs and employee recognition is being applied equitably across the organization. The last thing you want is to make leave some employees feeling excluded because they aren’t being recognized the same way as their teammates. (Resulting in the opposite effect.)

It’s one of the reasons peer-to-peer recognition can be so powerful since it allows teams to recognize each other based on their day-to-day interactions.

Make DEI a part of your company culture

DEI efforts can be improved by implementing strategies and policies. However, in order to reap the most benefits, it should be at the core of your company culture.

This means that diversity and inclusion are things that everyone in the organization should strive to achieve – from putting new workflows in place or running meetings. Because this makes inclusive practices more of a behavioral change, it’ll be more sustainable and a part of everything that you do.

Having a strong company culture that embraces diversity can also be a very powerful tool for building an employer brand and keeping your team engaged.

Also, you can introduce tools that help you embrace diversity, such as, a solution that empowers organizations to enhance inclusiveness through improved daily communication and lessons from missteps!

Every workforce engagement strategy needs DEI

There’s no disputing it. In this day and age, every company needs to invest in DEI. From talent acquisition to day-to-day collaboration, inclusion should be an innate part of how you and your employees think and behave.

Achieving true equity and inclusion in the workplace takes time and effort, but it's well worth it for everyone – from your company to your employees.

If you want to dig more into this topic, this TedTalk would give you more insights about the DEI and how important it is.

Take the first step with Evergreen.

Evergreen helps leading companies build employee engagement and inclusion with peer-to-peer recognition software. By empowering your team with the tools to recognize their peers, you can build the foundation for a culture of inclusion. Everyone can show their appreciation and be recognized by their peers.

Plus, Evergreen will plant a tree for every act of appreciation. It’s our way of making inclusive team practices feel extra good.

Schedule your free Evergreen demo today

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