Avoid signals of virtue; Embrace culture-changing DEI initiatives

Story Highlights

  • Employees want DEI initiatives at work to be more than a sign of virtue
  • Different races, genders and sexual orientations have unique work experiences
  • Leaders must create a culture where DEI strategies put people first

When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, today’s employees want more than press releases and token gestures of support. They want to see real change – systemic and structural changes in the way organizations do business every day.

But what does “real change” mean? And how do organizations know they’ve achieved it? If we want to move the proverbial needle, what does that needle measure and what actually moves it?

Our way of working

Simply measuring objective measures of diversity or equity doesn’t get to the heart of the matter: every employee’s daily encounters and interactions.

We can all experience the same workplace, but that doesn’t mean we all experience the workplace the same way. Recent Gallup analyzes of the workplace show that employees of different races, genders and sexual orientations have surprisingly different work experiences.


Clearly, when it comes to measuring the true success of DEI, leaders need to consider employee perceptions, opinions, and attitudes. Leaders must combine objective DEI metrics with subjective DEI metrics to truly capture the employee experience at the team level.

We can all experience the same workplace, but that doesn’t mean we all experience the workplace the same way.

Subjective measurements may seem difficult to define, but it can be done – using scientifically validated measurements and methods. Specifically, leaders need to identify experiences and beliefs that are closely tied to real-world behavior change, such as improved performance and retention.

Gallup’s new DEI perspective paper, Advancing DEI Initiatives: A Guide for Organizational Leaders, outlines survey elements that capture authentic equity and inclusion within organizations. When these elements are combined with historical and industry benchmarks, as well as other organizational data, the results can provide leaders with a clear window into the diversity, equity and inclusion issues within their organization. They can also help leaders identify targeted practices that are likely to be most effective and improve the results of ongoing DEI initiatives.

From check-off DEI programs to culture transformation

Most organizational leaders now realize that one-off company-wide trainings have significant limitations. Culture is not what happens in a day; this is what happens every day. It’s not peripheral to business performance; it’s the way the job is done.

Similarly, publishing diversity reports and setting ambitious goals are less important than long-term leadership commitment. Measurement is not enough. Leaders must fully integrate DEI into their decision-making in a sustainable way.

Culture is not what happens in a day; this is what happens every day. It’s not peripheral to business performance; it’s the way the job is done.

When Gallup speaks with the CHROs of the world’s largest companies, they mention that the DEI journey is long, full of mistakes, detours, and learning opportunities. It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. It takes champions, in leadership and across the workplace, who are committed to it for the long term.

For this reason, we believe that leadership commitment is the foundation of DEI’s lasting success. The best indicators, the best policies and the “best practices” do not matter without the will of the leaders to meet the challenges.

To build an effective, long-term DEI strategy, leaders must answer the following four questions:

  1. What is your commitment?
  2. What changes are you going to make?
  3. How will you monitor progress?
  4. How will you sustain progress?

There are no quick fixes or easy answers when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. But the rewards are worth it.

Gallup workplace science shows that when employees see people like themselves represented in leadership, they are more likely to trust their leaders. And when they feel respected and included, they are more engaged at work. As a result, they are more productive, creative and satisfied with their organization. A culture that respects diversity, equity and inclusion is ultimately a more successful and healthier organization.

Make DEI a priority in your organization:

Authors)

Ryan Pendell is a workplace science writer at Gallup.

Helen D. Jessen