Trends in Employee Perspectives of DEI
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Trends in Employee Perspectives on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in their Organization
White Paper by MSM Global Consulting
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) play a pivotal role in molding organizational culture and propelling progress. Regardless of the size or type of business, research overwhelmingly confirms that organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion outperform those that don’t in a variety of ways. They cultivate more innovation and problem solving, increase retention and employee engagement, garner more positive reputations among consumers and the public, and even increase the potential for financial performance.
Although every organization is distinct in its culture, history, demographics and mission, our research has identified trends across industries and sectors in terms of employee perspectives of their employers’ commitment to DEI and success in creating thriving organizational cultures for everyone.
MSM Global has been a consulting partner to dozens of organizations to support systemic change and development to build more diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures. We regularly conduct organizational DEI assessments to gather critical information on how employees view their organization’s commitment and culture and provide data-driven recommendations to our clients on practical ways to address gaps and make progress toward DEI.
This white paper provides an insightful exploration of MSM Global’s findings of organizational issues related to DEI based on survey data gathered from our clients since 2020. The data is drawn from responses from over 3,400 respondents representing organizations of varying size, sector, and industry. The survey questions use a five-point Likert Scale to gather insights from employees on their level of agreement or satisfaction with the state of DEI in their organization, plus open-ended questions to gather further insights and perspectives from respondents.
The following analysis offers a holistic view of DEI and its influence on workplace dynamics, unveiling key trends and spotlighting areas that require attention and enhancement.
Employees are committed to DEI and believe in their organizations.
By and large, employees indicate they would recommend the organization to people in their identity group (average rating: 4.15). They express pride in working for the organization (average rating: 4.34) and confidence in the potential for their organization’s progress due to DEI initiatives (average rating: 3.96).
Employees indicate they personally are open to learning more about DEI (average rating: 4.43) and are committed to supporting DEI in their organization (average rating: 4.62). However, employees expressed some skepticism about the organization’s DEI commitment (average rating: 2.30), emphasizing the need for significant improvement when it comes to organizational action to drive DEI.
Support for diversity does not translate to representation.
Although employees generally believe their leaders support DEI (immediate supervisors average rating: 4.00, department managers average rating: 3.94, and executive leadership average rating: 3.93), they do not see adequate representation of diversity across their organization. Employees specifically see significant challenges in terms of representation of racial and ethnic diversity within their organizations (average rating 2.79), signaling a pressing need for improvement. Although the perceptions are somewhat more favorable concerning sexual identity diversity (average rating: 3.74) and gender diversity (average rating: 3.36) these results indicate a pressing need for improvement in representation of historically marginalized and minoritized identities.
Employees have mixed views of the workplace environment.
Employees typically express a sense of belonging in their organization (average rating: 4.00) and feel there is positive interaction among employees from diverse backgrounds (average rating: 4.03) However, fewer employees feel comfortable discussing diversity related topics (average rating: 3.77), voicing contrary opinions (average rating: 3.57) or believe they have adequate input into decisions (average rating: 3.49).
Experiences of discrimination and harassment are low, but more subtle acts of exclusion persist.
Generally, employees report low levels of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. However, a higher number reported hearing people make jokes about identity groups and have experienced subtle acts of exclusion. In narrative comments, trends consistently show people experiencing or observing others engaging in microaggressions. Some common examples include:
Infantilizing or discrediting the contributions of younger employees
Gendered stereotypes against women and non-binary individuals
Offensive or off-color jokes and comments about minoritized identities
Consistent mispronunciation of non-Anglo sounding names
Organizations do not provide adequate development opportunities for diverse employees.
Employees indicated a discernible need for their organizations to encourage diverse employees to seek higher positions (average rating: 3.34) and provide clear career development paths for employees to advance (average rating 2.91). Employees also indicated room for improvement in terms of work being delegated fairly (average rating: 3.66) and equitable treatment of diverse employees (average rating: 3.79).
Accommodations for Employees Need Improvement
Employees’ views regarding accommodations for employees with disabilities (average rating: 3.47), religious observances/holidays (average rating: 3.74), and caregiving obligations (average rating: 3.59) indicate room for improvement. These trends indicate opportunities to enhance the overall workplace experience for individuals whose needs are often marginalized or ignored.
Based on these data trends, we strongly urge all organizations to explore and prioritize the following actions to drive systemic and sustainable improvement for DEI:
- Enhance representation, particularly for racially minoritized identities, women, and members of the LGBTQIA+ population.
- Develop and implement targeted recruitment strategies to attract a more diverse talent pool.
- Foster mentorship programs to nurture underrepresented individuals and promote their career growth.
- Forge partnerships with diversity-focused organizations and educational institutions to expand outreach.
- Strengthen support for DEI at all levels of the organization, starting with leadership. Formalize DEI policies and initiatives, with visible leadership commitment and involvement. Develop comprehensive training programs to educate employees on the value of diversity and inclusion. Establish clear reporting channels for concerns related to diversity, discrimination, or harassment.
- Foster inclusive workplace environments by embedding DEI practices into day-to-day interactions and decisions. Invest in diversity training and inclusion workshops to promote open dialogue and cultural competence. Encourage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to provide platforms for shared experiences and collaboration. Continuously monitor workplace culture and solicit feedback to ensure inclusivity.
- Advance professional development for traditionally marginalized groups. Establish mentorship and sponsorship programs to support the career advancement of underrepresented employees. Promote leadership development opportunities and ensure transparent pathways to higher positions. Regularly assess and address biases in hiring, promotion, and performance evaluation processes.
- Expand policies and practices to ensure meaningful accommodations. Conduct accessibility audits to identify and address physical and digital barriers. Offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate diverse needs, such as caregiving or religious observances. Provide guidance to supervisors on how to build inclusive work environments for people with disabilities, caregiving obligations, and religious accommodation needs, to go beyond compliance of the law and be a true employer of choice for people with diverse accessibility needs.
- Commit to DEI initiatives for the long term. Implement regular DEI training and education programs to ensure a well-informed workforce. Set specific DEI metrics and goals to track progress and hold leadership accountable. Engage with external DEI networks, partnerships, and best practices to stay at the forefront of inclusivity efforts.
- Address skepticism and build confidence among all constituencies. Communicate transparently about DEI goals, actions, and progress to address skepticism. Conduct regular listening sessions and surveys to gauge employee sentiment and respond to concerns. Recognize and celebrate successes in DEI initiatives to boost confidence in the organization’s commitment.
By actively embracing these recommendations, organizations can evolve into more inclusive and equitable environments where every individual feels valued, empowered, and encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. This holistic approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion will not only enhance workplace satisfaction but also drive innovation and foster long-term organizational success.