How to enhance accountability and ability in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts

One of the most difficult things to do in every aspect of life is to put words into action — and, when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the business environment, the task becomes even more complicated. Why does this happen? If we have the best intentions to make a change, shouldn’t it be easier to carry out practices to make our company a truly inclusive place where people are set up to thrive?

The quick answer is that changing an organization, from the employee chart to the ideology and values, is not that simple — but it is definitely not impossible, and it’s a task that every single day becomes more important for leaders.

DEIB has not only taken on a higher importance in the recent years—rightfully— in every shareholders’ meeting, corporate document or roadmap presented to the public, and, as an all-encompassing program, it’s inescapable in any future project built by a modern corporation. According to data from a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study, over 70% of 1,700 surveyed companies all over the world have increased their DEIB efforts—and this is true especially for developing countries.

However, there’s more to the story than it seems: in this post we will take an in-depth look at the numbers behind the basics of a DEIB program, which will give us a little more insight into how we are doing as a society, and further, how we can enable our plans to improve accountability and execution in this important aspect within our company.

To give us an idea of ​​where we’re standing, let’s start with the key part of the situation: designing and implementing a DEIB plan not only makes you a more inclusive, empathetic and  efficient company, but evidence suggests it also positively impacts your bottom line. The same HBR study concluded that, when looking at six dimensions of diversity (migration, industry, career path, gender, education & age), surveyed companies had “both 19% points higher innovation revenues, and 9% points higher EBIT margins, on average. All six dimensions had statistically significant correlations with innovation, both individually and collectively.”

But — even if those are very encouraging financial metrics — let’s move over to what matters most within DEIB: people.

Over the past few years, and especially since the covid-19 pandemic, more companies announced that they are in the process of reassessing their relationship with their employees, and also reviewing how representative of the real world their workforce is. However, only a few companies have truly gotten involved to the point of making any significant changes, as a SHRM report found that 76% of US companies have no diversity and inclusion goals, whatsoever.

And it gets even worse, because as we’ve seen in other aspects of the future of work, like remote work and flexible hours, there is a big disconnect between what employees really want from their companies when it comes to DEIB efforts, and what they are actually doing. In a QuestionPro Workforce survey, we found that 77% of the employees of the companies surveyed believe that a DEIB plan is strategic and essential for their organization, an amount that almost triples the small 27% of companies in the US that already have an ongoing plan and public objectives.

This is not to say that there have been no improvements in the diversity and inclusion of some areas of HR, since corporate processes such as hiring, recruitment and retention of minority employees, as well as the placement of new diverse talent in better paid positions (especially within middle management) have lately increased with encouraging rates—thanks to timely actions and a change of mentality.

However, key points remain to be implemented, like promoting said talent to more strategic positions — or the C-suite —, integrating them into succession planning, or even rating them fairly and equitably in reviews. In fact, one of the groups most affected in these aspects continues to be the one that is traditionally downplayed by the corporate gears: women of color.

So it comes as no surprise that a Gartner study reveals that 88% of 113 HR leaders surveyed “felt their organization has not been impactful in increasing diverse representation.” This shows yet another problem in inclusion efforts, since according to a recent analysis by HBR, that focused on “who is in charge of meeting the DEIB objectives,” shows that there is a lot of confusion from top to bottom, on whether it is mostly HR, high-ranking decision makers, department managers or even the CEO.

What is there to be done, then? There’s a clear path for companies to get from where they currently are from words to actions. First off, as SHRM suggests, a company must establish and communicate which core metrics will be emphasized in their DEIB plans, “such as the share of minorities among new recruits, training programs and employee turnover; employee metrics from surveys; and progress metrics on the rollout of specific programs and initiatives.”

From there, there a few strategies that, if implemented wisely, might help accelerate the process for a company in a way that’s clear, transparent and effective:

  • Set goals, targets and strategic objectives that are well understood by the entirety of your organization.
  • Be honest and transparent about current levels of racial representation within your company, whether you’ve made strides in the area, or not.
  • Make a public pledge that’s easily findable in your website, press materials, PR strategy and onboarding process.
  • Track progress, and set tasks and reviews for when milestones are reached. These can be highlighted across the management levels, all the way to the front lines.
  • Develop incentives for leaders to practice inclusive leadership and penalties for when they don’t meet those goals.

Once you’ve successfully implemented these actions and start seeing progress you’ll be ready for the next step of your DEIB strategy. Ability focuses a lot more on what you already have — a healthy balance on your organizational chart, diverse leaders, a thriving workforce, a growing sense of belonging and fulfilled employees — and not on what you’re working to get. 

Ready to create a workplace culture where everyone can reach their full potential? Learn more about how to get ongoing feedback from your employees and start taking action to make a positive impact in your organization with QuestionPro Workforce.