October 5, 2021

How will the future of DEI work look like?

Anthony Tilghman
Anthony Tilghman, is an 2x Award-winning photographer, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the 2020 & 2021 Dateline award for Excellence in Local Journalism.

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. And many social injustices movements, such as the Black Lives Movement, have shed light on cases of social injustices, often compelling people to reflect on them and do better. The focus has also shifted into the professional world. As a result of this, DEI has taken center stage in many workplaces over the past decade.

As more employees voice their discriminative experiences in the workplace, organizations are beginning to listen and improve their organization’s hiring policies and practices. In the past couple of years, DEI has evolved to become a core business function.

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An hr. Research survey revealed that 57 percent of businesses agreed and strongly agreed that DEI frameworks are integrated into business strategies.

DEI might be now getting the attention and the limelight, but the movement begun in the 1960s with diversity training programs. Diversity programs that included a long list of office do’s and don’ts. In an attempt to make the workplace more inclusive, DEI reforms and policies have grown since then.

The growth, however, may have encountered some challenges in 2020—thanks to the pandemic. Covid-19 created a wave of new and urgent people needs. And as companies were grappling with these new needs, they were battling a fast-declining economy.

Firms’ existing DEI strategies were meant to serve them for five to ten years, but in lieu of the pandemic, many of these firms either scrapped their policies or adapted to cater to their employees’ immediate needs. 

Despite these setbacks, Misty Gaither, Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Business Partners at Indeed.com, noted that in 2020, “there has been significant increase in the creation of (DEI) jobs since the beginning of the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in May (2020).”

It is unclear to tell the future of DEI in organizations, but with the current increased hate crimes against Asian Americans, organizations are likelier to expand DEI in the future.

Besides that, organizations that invest in DEI have a financial incentive that motivates them. According to a 2015 article by McKinsey & Company, firms that rank highly for racial and ethnic diversity are most likely to have financial returns above industry medians. Firms are, therefore, looking to expand their DEI investments to enjoy these benefits.

Workplace inclusivity and equity have taken steps forwards, but there need to be more improvements in these DEI programs. According to a survey done by hr. Research, 59 percent of DEI programs are in their mature stages, with 10 percent underdeveloped, and only 11 percent are at the expert level.

The survey also revealed that only 31 percent of firms ranked their DEI programs as very effective. Despite this, 69 percent of HR professionals say their workforce is more diverse than two years ago. Unfortunately, only 58 percent of HR professionals said their workforce reflects the demographics of today’s marketplace.

In the future, the survey recommended that firms looking to improve their DEI programs should determine how best to gauge organizational pay equity, actively seek opportunities that will drive innovation that encourages diversity.

Additionally, firms should create a code of conduct for dealing with racism, assess their digital DEI offering, use unconscious bias training as a starting point, strip bias out of systems and processes, educate, and empower leaders, and by adding DEI on all their employees’ agendas—by making DEI work more accessible to everyone.

The events of 2020 might have thrown numerous curveballs at organizations, but research has shown that firms that embrace DEI strategy outperform their peers.  Firms that have had a DEI culture are likely to rebound at a faster rate from this pandemic. There is no doubt that a lot more should be done in DEI, but note-worthy strides have been made this year with more DEI hires.

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