Harnessing the Power of DEI: Strategies and tactics that drive better talent outcomes and lasting cultural change

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The War for Talent

Harnessing the Power of DEI: Strategies and tactics that drive better talent outcomes and lasting cultural change

4 min read May 01, 2022

Satisfaction, loyalty and the link to DEI: employers that back authentic commitment with meaningful action realize better talent management outcomes

EMPLOYERS LEADING IN DEI

  • Boost employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity 
  • Gain an edge in talent attract and retention 
  • Back strong commitment with meaningful action 
  • Embed DEI principles within the employee experience and inclusive cultures

There are few hotter topics in society and business than diversity, equity and inclusion. Today’s workforce is informed and passionate about DEI and several employers have made bold, high-profile commitments in support. The surge of interest and activity has been fueled both by recent societal events and an increasingly heterogeneous workforce with diverging needs. Plus, more employers now acknowledge their role in meeting those needs. 

Because employees expect sincere commitment and tangible action, forward-looking employers adopt a holistic approach that links DEI to the core organizational purpose and goes beyond standalone, HR-led programs. The goal is to embed DEI deeply within the work environment and culture through active C-suite leadership and the full participation of employees. In contrast, employers that merely “check the box” on DEI risk demotivating and even losing workers. 

MetLife’s 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Study demonstrates the importance of benefits in promoting DEI and showing that employers value all of their workers. For instance, benefits that promote holistic well-being for all employees are by their nature inclusive. The payoff for embracing DEI – including higher satisfaction, loyalty and productivity – shows that employers can do well by doing good. 

The commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion only tells me that we're trying to be the best business we can be.

How employees think about DEI

In the eyes of many employees, employers are not as inclusive as they could be or as management thinks they are. 

My organization's work culture is open, inclusive, and supportive

82
%

Employers that agree

61
%

Employees who agree

Bridging this perception gap is critical for employers, because employees are more focused on DEI when evaluating new roles. 

Even during my interview process, I'd ask, ‘what are we doing for diversity, equity, and inclusion as a company?’ The answer was, 'That's something that we're still working through
DEI – a must-have for attracting and retaining talent
DEI is a must have initiative for employers to attract talent. It has risen significantly YoY with significant increases for specific cohorts including: LGBTQIA+, Gen Z

When it comes to DEI, workers clearly expect employers to “walk the walk” and go beyond statements of support. Historically underrepresented groups of workers have been especially interested in seeing action from their employers.

Employee expectations for DEI action:

65% of employees expect their employer to take action to promote DEI

Employees with a disability
LGBTQIA+
Hispanic
Generation Z
Black
Asian
Women
Employees with a disability
84%
LGBTQIA+
83%
Hispanic
81%
Generation Z
80%
Black
75%
Asian
69%
Women
64%

While some organizations made bold DEI commitments and substantial investments in recent years, others are in earlier stages of the journey. It’s worth noting that employees don’t expect employers to be perfect when it comes to DEI, just sincere in matching action to commitment.

How DEI benefits organizations

While DEI is a complex issue requiring considerable management attention, the potential upside more than rewards the necessary investment and effort. It starts with increased job satisfaction and higher loyalty, both of which are imperative given the tight labor market and falling satisfaction rates among people of color, women, younger workers and lower-income employees, as our study revealed.

If we don't have that inclusive culture, then we're going to lose opportunities to bring in good people. So, it's a wise business decision, first and foremost.
Employees who are satisfied with their employers’ DEI actions
Employees who are satisfied with their employers DEI actions are significantly more likely to stay with their organization, be more satisfied with their job and be more productive at work. This varies among different demographics however significant differences for LGBTQIA+, Black, Hispanic and Asian employees.

Recommended actions: how employers can move the needle on DEI

DEI has varying impacts across the workforce: some employees appreciate their organization’s efforts, while others remain skeptical and may even feel threatened by large-scale change. Only by embedding DEI into the culture and employee experience can employers address these sensitivities and – most importantly – drive lasting change.

Because of the far-reaching impacts, DEI strategies should be planned and coordinated at the enterprise level. But they must also actively engage employees at every level of the organization. Thus, change efforts must be gauged to address both individual behaviors and organizational systems, particularly in five key areas: 

Leadership accountability:

High-profile, senior-level advocacy for a purpose-led DEI vision should be supported by metrics, incentives and reporting structures so leaders “live the values.” Equipping and empowering middle management (e.g., through inclusivity and conflict management training) reinforces the day-to-day relevance and importance of DEI. Similarly, leadership development and diverse sponsorship programs can promote diversity at the executive level.

Leadershipneedstostop

Human connectivity:

Community-building activities foster social connections among workers. While DEI strategies should go beyond affinity groups, such programs provide a solid foundation on which to build inclusive cultures.

Inclusive policies:

DEI leaders embrace transparency in hiring and representation goals and practices, especially at the management level. They also adopt inclusive and empathetic HR policies that speak to the diverse needs of the entire workforce. Practically, that means culturally sensitive guidelines for scheduling, holidays, PTO, and dress-codes, as well as policies that ensure accessibility for workers with disabilities. 

My employer has made sure to hire a diverse assortment of people. That speaks volumes to me.

Open communications:

To identify and address the issues that matter to workers, employers can create spaces for open and ongoing dialogue. Ideally, they will capture employee inputs through informal, anonymous forums and discussion platforms. C-suite communications can relate DEI to the organizational mission and define the value of DEI to individual employees and the organization as a whole.

Attractive benefits:

A portfolio of benefits designed to promote holistic well-being for the entire workforce sends the message that the organization cares about its workers. Large employers may dedicate benefits “ambassadors” to key employee groups to ensure their unique needs are understood and addressed.

Learnhowyourorganization

Employee Benefit Trends S

All data sources from the 20th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.