Employers Claim DEI Success — If Only Their Employees Agreed

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Oct 28, 2021

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has been a focus of the workplace over the past few years, and rightfully so. Last year, DEI-related job openings rose by 55%, and DEI training programs have seen growth rates over the 1,000% mark

While it is promising to see companies take action, it is important to assess both employee and employer sentiments toward DEI to truly gauge progress. Lever’s State of DEI Report reveals that employers and employees do not see eye-to-eye on how much DEI progress companies have made. That is, many employers report positive strides toward creating a diverse workplace, but far fewer employees share the same outlook.

Employer vs. Employee Perception: A Roadblock to DEI Success

Nearly all companies (97%) surveyed thought they’ve introduced new inclusion measures in the past year — yet a quarter of surveyed employees said their employer has not introduced any new measure during that same period. 

What’s more, 52% of companies also stated that they have introduced measures to ensure employee pay is equal across titles or positions. But, once again, just 24% of workers report these actions have taken place at their organization. 

Additionally, 27% of companies stated they introduced or expanded inclusive benefits and perks — but fewer than 1 in 10 employees reported their organization took this action.

The lack of alignment of perceptions is clear. And when it comes to DEI, this lack of alignment can lead to high turnover, disengaged employees, low morale, and other business risks. Alternatively, research shows that highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable. 

What’s Driving the Misalignment?

Two likely drivers for this misalignment are a lack of impactful communication and employees feeling unsafe sharing their real opinions. 

While 51% of employers report sharing DEI through company-wide channels, just 24% of employees report this happening at their organization. Additionally, 64% of companies have added DEI efforts to their home page, but only 29% of employees reported their company doing this. 

The work that employers may be doing on DEI is in many ways going unseen and unheard. 

It’s therefore important that HR professionals and leadership teams who are actually doing hard work that makes a difference when it comes to DEI also do not forget to communicate, communicate, communicate. Repetition is key, as is using multiple communication channels. 

Furthermore, involve employees in creating and implementing your DEI strategy. Make it a collaborative effort. In turn, you will not only generate wider awareness and enthusiasm for these efforts, but you will also get — and hopefully incorporate — more perspectives to check your own blind spots and prioritize the most impactful actions.

Aside from communication, another driver of this misalignment is employees not feeling safe to voice their true DEI concerns. Only 9% of employees say they feel comfortable voicing their DEI concerns to senior management, 29% feel comfortable voicing concerns to their HR team, and 33% feel comfortable voicing concerns to their direct manager. 

This means that employers may, and often do, have a very incomplete or inaccurate view of how things are going and what’s most impactful. 

Leaders can start to ease employees’ concerns around sharing their opinions by being transparent about their goals, showing vulnerability, creating safe forums for employees to share their thoughts, and ultimately taking effective action and following through on feedback. 

If this now makes you question the state of your company’s DEI strategy, this is a good thing. Living in a blurred reality is not beneficial for your business or your employees.