Diversity and Inclusion Is So Much More Than D&I

The last year and a half have not only exposed our weaknesses and susceptibility to a global health crisis but have highlighted the deep-rooted inequity and discrimination that persists, leading to the social unrest experienced around the world. Many organizations have scrambled to understand the complexity of diversity and inclusion leading them to investigate their current processes and procedures for hiring and managing talent.

For many organizations, this is uncharted territory. Diversity and inclusion have been around for quite a while, but they’ve served as a secondary focus for most organizations and leaders. Now, diversity and inclusion have risen to the top as critical components of the employee experience and workforce engagement. And it’s no longer just about diversity and inclusion, at least when investigated correctly—it has expanded to an overall sense of belonging defined by diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging or better known as DEIB.

Because of the dramatic and rapid rise in importance combined with the evolution of scope, most leaders are struggling to determine where to focus efforts, how to determine accuracy and impact, and how to be confident they are fostering a more inclusive environment for all employees.

As someone who’s studied this topic consistently for 20 plus years, I led the charge with WSA consultants to conduct a global pilot study on inclusion and belonging to truly understand what drives employees’ sense of belonging. We then validated the results using data from multiple WSA clients.

What we found is leaders first need to uncover which discrete groups of employees of various demographics feel less like they belong and the key inputs that have the greatest impact on their sense of inclusion and belonging. Within this formula, leaders should consider top-down drivers, such as company, inclusion, manager inclusion, and equitable processes, as well as bottom-up drivers of belonging like team inclusion, psychological safety, and individual buy-in. Additionally, consider the (often overlooked) drivers that typically influence engagement, such as growth and development, recognition, and trust in leadership–among others.

When these factors are accurately applied and held up by the right science, leaders gain a deeper understanding of the differing experiences various groups of employees may be having across the organization. It empowers leaders to not only gain a clear vision into the true state of belonging across different departments or groups but to understand which factors have the greatest impact on DEIB and to begin acting on improving DEIB.

As icing on the cake, when employees feel like they belong because of a robust DEIB strategy, they have higher levels of engagement, greater financial success, increased innovation, and better attraction and retainment of talent. It’s truly a lever that can make a huge impact on an organization when executed correctly.


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