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4 reasons to invest in DEIB in the workplace beyond ‘business case’

Posted on: March 7, 2024Updated on: April 17, 2024By: Maliyah Bernard

Does your company’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) come to life beyond its mission and vision statements?

4 Reasons To Invest In Deib In The Workplace Beyond ‘business Case’
4 reasons to invest in DEIB in the workplace beyond ‘business case’

Some business leaders treat investing in workplace diversity as a chance to tout how it impacts their organization’s financial performance. But these conversations need to dive deeper than the bottom line or the ‘business case’ for DEIB in the workplace. Fostering an inclusive work environment is not just a revenue driver—it’s a must-have.

Organizations should also be considering the additional benefits (keep reading for a breakdown) of a diverse and inclusive workplace as compelling and worth the effort. So how can you foster an authentically inclusive workplace culture and meet your DEIB goals? It starts with a solid DEIB strategy and a focus on fair treatment and equal opportunities for all.

What does DEIB stand for?

DEIB in the workplace addresses four key areas: diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Each is important in its own right.

Diversity

Diversity is about the distinguishing characteristics and qualities that make employees who they are. 

Common types of diversity include race, national origin/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and cognitive or physical ability. But a diverse team of employees might also vary in age, socioeconomic status and religious or spiritual beliefs.

Effective diverse teams acknowledge what makes them different—their backgrounds, skill sets and personal experiences—and use diversity efforts to drive innovation, solve problems and get things done.

Equity

Equity is about leveling the playing field so employees can access equal opportunities, regardless of their differences. Though sometimes used interchangeably with the term equality, equity is different because it recognizes each employee has complex and unique needs and faces their own, distinct barriers to success.

An equitable workplace doesn’t just offer employees one-size-fits-all solutions and resources under the guise of “equal access.” It uplifts underrepresented groups and yet-to-be-discovered top talent so everyone has a chance to shine. 

An equitable workplace also utilizes technology to ensure that the training, resources and support offered to its people are available to all team members, regardless of language or reading proficiencies.

Inclusion

Inclusion is about treating employees with dignity and mutual respect, giving them the tools to do their best work. The Canadian Association for Supported Employment says inclusive workplaces also protect employee rights and allow employees at all levels of the organization to develop and advance.

Why is creating an inclusive work environment so important? 25% of the workforce reports having a disability or health condition that limits their major life activities, including work performance. Inclusive workplaces remove barriers and promote career growth, which can improve employee satisfaction.

If diversity is about inviting many different voices into the room and equity is about ensuring they all have the ability to access the right resources and support, inclusion is the area of DEIB that ensures everyone’s voice is heard and that they feel like they’re part of a community.

Belonging

Belonging is about the employee experience and how they feel as part of your company’s community.  A culture of belonging happens when diverse teams are treated equitably and included.

Are employees embraced and enabled by your organization? Or do they feel isolated and like their voices don’t matter?

The “B” in DEIB is a newer addition to the acronym but matters just as much as the other three areas. RedThread Research’s Getting Real About the Frontline Workforce report found that nearly half (47%) of workers don’t currently feel a sense of belonging in their organization. This highlights a major opportunity for leaders to connect more effectively with their teams so they’re informed about what employees need to succeed.

The five pillars of belonging, as explained by David Bator, Director of the Achievers Workforce Institute, are:

  1. Welcomed: Do employees feel like they’re part of a team from day one?
  2. Known: Are employees encouraged to bring their whole selves to work and appropriately recognized for doing so?
  3. Included: Do teams feel connected to the mission and vision of the organization (and their colleagues)?
  4. Supported: Is supporting employees treated as a shared responsibility—or does employee development fall on the shoulders of managers or individuals alone?
  5. Connected: Does everyone have access to the resources, people and skills they need to succeed?

Watch below to learn how to bring the 5 pillars of belonging to life within your organization.

Benefits of a diverse workforce

Prioritizing DEIB allows your entire workforce to accomplish their best work and thrive. 

Diverse workforces have:

Challenges to fostering DEIB at work

Why aren’t organizations investing despite DEIB’s importance? According to a study by Affirmity, just 12% of organizations have DEIB integrated into their business strategies. 

Challenges to fostering DEIB in the workplace could include:

  • Unaddressed unconscious biases among senior leaders
  • Limited time, budget and commitment to dedicate to creating new resources and processes
  • Lack of measurement of DEIB training programs that show decision-makers its true value and why they should prioritize it 
  • The traditional checkbox treatment of DEIB programs 
  • Assumptions about employee buy-in or the pressure to get things right

Whatever the case, remember that DEIB in the workplace is not about perfection, but progress. Try not to feel discouraged when taking that first step—just show up!

“There are no nice, neat stories. Every single one of us is filled with complexity and contradiction. When you help people figure out this is going to be a heart and head journey, it helps them recognize they too can find their way.”

Russell Wigginton, President of the National Civil Rights Museum

 4 ways to cultivate DEIB in the workplace

Even the seemingly small moves that improve your DEIB practices, like evaluating your hiring process, recognition strategies or how your organization supports the diverse talent on your teams every day, can have a big impact.

Here are four suggestions to start upgrading, promoting and championing your DEIB strategy today.

1. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing DEIB efforts

Do your recruiters try to reach job seekers from a diverse talent pool? Have volunteers established any employee resource groups? Does your organization have a standard for inclusive language use—and do people know about it? These are must-ask questions as you reevaluate your DEIB goals. Examine which DEIB programs are working and which need to be adjusted, starting with your hiring process. 

2. Celebrate the differences on your teams

Get to know your people and build strong relationships with them. Being an active listener and amplifying the voices on your team builds connection and understanding. Listen to understand—not to defend—and you might learn something new.

3. Create safe spaces for employees to share their true selves

One way to create inclusive communities is by establishing employee resource groups (ERGs). They allow employees to share their whole selves with peers, improve working conditions for workers who might be feeling alienated, make it easier to identify and tackle company-wide challenges and give employees trusted outlets to express suppressed frustrations.

 4. Involve employees in the process

Employees want to be heard and likely have valuable insights about how you can best support them and improve their sense of belonging. So don’t just mandate DEIB training programs. Create feedback loops and employee engagement processes to collect insights and make a real impact. 

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Genuine investment in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging isn’t just about dollar signs. An organization that’s really committed to its DEIB initiatives encourages employees from diverse backgrounds to thrive and supports them along the journey to becoming top talent.

Maliyah Bernard

Maliyah Bernard is an academic writer turned content writer. As a former frontline worker, she loves writing about all the ways organizations can support these essential workers smarter.