What has the power to increase innovation, improve profits, and retain employees—but is still not prioritized by businesses?
We’ll give you a hint: it’s not ping pong tables and pizza parties.
If you guessed DEI teams and workplace culture—congrats! You’re right, and we’ll pretend there’s not a page-spanning title giving it away up top.
So, given these benefits, why is it that companies still don’t prioritize building DEI teams and workplaces?
Why is it that hiring for C-suite DEI officers has stalled since 2023?
It appears that DEI initiatives has taken a back seat since its 2020 rise, in which all eyes were on businesses to build diverse teams.
- 45% of American workers experienced discrimination and/or harassment in the past year.
- 46% of LGBTQ+ workers reported receiving unfair treatment at some point in their careers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- 50% of women experienced micro-aggressions and 14% experienced harassment in the last year.
- 78% of older workers reported witnessing or experiencing age discrimination.
…letting DEI fall by the wayside just isn’t good enough.
In this article, we’ll look at how you can build and maintain a DEI workplace—where your entire team feels comfortable bringing their authentic selves and unique perspectives to the table.
He’s shared his strategies and best practices for hiring and retaining a DEI workplace, as well as some thoughts on the future of DEI.
What is a DEI culture?
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) culture refers to an organizational environment that recognizes, embraces, and promotes diversity in the workplace.
It does this through equitable treatment that fosters an inclusive atmosphere for everyone.
Here’s a breakdown of the three components of DEI:
- Diversity: refers to the presence and representation of individuals from various backgrounds, including race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender identity, and more.
- Equity: means fair treatment, support, and opportunities for all individuals while addressing and accommodating the needs of diverse groups.
- Inclusion: involves creating an environment where all individuals feel included, valued, and able to contribute their unique perspectives to the organization.
DEI in workplace culture began as a reflection of broader changes in society.
Its reported origins go back to the civil rights movement in 1960s America, with early DEI efforts being informed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1963 Equal Pay Act, and the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
When early workplace diversity initiatives first evolved, they were mostly compliance-based with a focus on the representation of minorities—but simply having a diverse workforce isn’t enough.
Inclusion emphasizes creating an environment where diverse individuals feel valued, integrated, and empowered to contribute.
While inclusion is certainly a leap forward, there’s still the question of equity and ensuring that everyone receives fair treatment.
Modern DEI isn’t just about providing equal opportunities, but breaking down the systemic barriers faced by minorities in the workplace in order to address them.
So, what does having a truly diverse workforce entail? For decision-makers building a DEI culture, it means acknowledging and supporting these areas of diversity:
- Sexual orientation
- Race and ethnicity
- Geographical location
- Religion and spirituality
- Parental and marital status
- Gender identity and expression
Apart from contributing to building a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable world, a major benefit of a DEI culture is that you cultivate an environment that allows for unique decision-making with a tapestry of diverse perspectives.
This benefits businesses in multiple ways, for example:
- Diverse teams outperform individual decision-making by up to 87%. (Source)
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. (Source)
- A strong sense of belonging among employees results in a 50% lower risk of turnover and a 56% increase in job performance. (Source)
So, how do businesses recruit and retain DEI teams?
Let’s take a look.
How to recruit a DEI talent force
Building a diverse workforce starts with your hiring processes. Depending on your existing policy, you may have to revisit, revamp, or restructure major touch points during the process.
We spoke with Seb Ibarra, People Operations Manager at Kodify, about how businesses can build inclusive recruitment processes that encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.
Start with employer branding to develop a diverse DEI candidate pool
Recruiting for a DEI workforce starts with developing a diverse candidate pool. You need to encourage applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures.
But how do you become a magnet for these employees?
It’s all about your employer branding. You want to show you’re embracing employees of all backgrounds with arms wide open.
That means eliminating biases and ensuring diverse talent feels comfortable to apply.
Seb adds to this:
“Developing a diverse pool starts with the hiring manager defining their ideal candidate in terms of skill. The next step is creating a job ad with the right type of employer branding to attract talent.“
Remember that your employer branding is a key player in attracting a DEI talent pool.
Establishing DEI as one of your company’s core values and highlighting your commitment from the get-go is essential.
- Showcase your DEI stories, initiatives, and data
- Highlight the work you do with DEI organizations or associations
- Ensure your marketing includes diverse perspectives, visuals, and stories
- Share the internal programs you run to support DEI, such as mentorship programs and employee resource groups (ERGs)
When you’re set on your strategy for attracting diverse talent, you’re ready to move on to one of the most important recruitment elements: the job description.
Write accessible, and inclusive job descriptions
JDs paint a unique picture of your company and how the open role fits into the business—which is why transparency at this recruitment touchpoint is so essential for building diverse teams.
When it comes to hiring diverse talent, first impressions do matter. Seb explains:
“Think of a JD as marketing, but for the job role. Are you being impartial? Are you using unbiased language that welcomes all types of people?
Have you got all the important details in the ad so anyone feels comfortable applying?”
Some key things you want in your job descriptions are:
Inclusive and non-biased language: gender-neutral language that’s free from cultural biases.
- Do: “The successful candidate will be a strong salesperson, responsible for managing a diverse team, and will possess strong communication skills.”
- Don’t: “The successful candidate will be a strong salesman capable of leading and communicating effectively with his team.”
Highlight DEI commitment: If diversity is one of your company values, then let candidates know you’re educated on what diversity means.
- Do: “We are committed to creating a diverse working environment. All qualified candidates will receive consideration of employment without regard to race, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, age, or veteran status.”
- Don’t: “We hire the best, regardless of background.”
Focus on essential criteria: Steer clear of deterring quality candidates because of preferred criteria or personality types.
- Don’t: “Highly energetic, extroverted individual with proficiency in full-stack web development.”
Sebastian shares his tips for ensuring your job descriptions are unbiased:
“Nowadays, the best way to write unbiased job descriptions is with an AI tool. For example, Textio removes bias from content to help you hire the right people and appear approachable to all diverse communities.
Other than that, peer reviewing is another great way to make sure your own unconscious bias isn’t impeding the job ad or the hiring process.”
Standardize screening and selection
Once you’ve attracted a diverse talent pool, you’re ready to find the best fit for the role.
During screening and selection, go for a standardized approach. This means asking candidates the same questions, making it easy to benchmark their talents and drawbacks against each other.
Questions focusing on skills and experience, anonymized resume reviews, and implementing a standardized scoring system are just some ways to ensure you’re being objective.
This helps avoid unconscious bias from infiltrating the employee recruitment process.
Seb emphasizes the power of good old-fashioned fairness as a guiding star for screening:
“Once you have a diverse pool, the job opportunity has been given fairly. From then on, it’s up to the candidates to prove themselves worthy for the role.
However, you can facilitate unbiased screening by ensuring your questions and/or tasks are relevant to the role, not exclusionary in any way, and just fair all around.”
You can also consider using an assessment platform to help with this process.
These platforms—which are especially popular for technical recruitment—help ensure you’re hiring based on skills and expertise, not on unjustified preconceptions.
For example, Codility’s CodeCheck helps you anonymously evaluate engineering skills during the interview stage.
The fair, accurate, and job-relevant tasks are created by assessment specialists to assess coding skills, style, and computational thinking to help you hire the best candidate for the job.
However, revamping recruitment for hiring DEI teams is only half the battle. Once you’ve built diverse workforces, how do you keep them?
Coming right up.
How to retain your DEI workforce
Once you’ve hired DEI talent, you need to ensure you’re fostering a culture that sets them up for success.
Failing to do so will land you back at the drawing board—or job board, in this case.
Here are three of Seb’s strategies for successful DEI employee retention.
Encourage leadership engagement with DEI initiatives
Leaders are the individuals setting the tone for all things work culture. Executives’ attitudes, values, and behaviors trickle down through an organization, reaching everyone in the company.
Seb seconds that, stating that “leaders play the most crucial role in DEI culture—they are the ones that set the status quo. Ultimately, people will either get on board or get out.”
Leaders must align decision-making with DEI goals, stay accountable, and continually show up for minorities.
You can ensure they’re equipped and motivated to do this by providing the resources and training they need to get up to speed.
Bringing in a DEI consultant to build your leadership’s knowledge is a great way to educate leaders and highlight your commitment to DEI.
For example, We Create Space is a queer-led DEI consultancy that specializes in creating programs for improving and supporting DEI in the workplace.
They have ample experience creating Allyship Programs focused on educating and empowering allies—like many of your leaders and senior management.
They also have some great free resources to check out.
Getting support for a DEI culture from your leaders is a crucial step towards a solid DEI foundation from which further initiatives can flourish.
Facilitate DEI discussion and initiatives between team members
If your company prioritizes providing fair opportunities for all, you’ll want to open up the lines of communication between team members.
Scheduling workshops dedicated to DEI topics involving leadership and forming Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are just some examples.
Discussion sets the stage for a safe space where employees can brainstorm ways to facilitate DEI in company culture while aligning with the overall company vision—as we heard from Seb:
“Openly speaking about these issues and challenges and discussing with employees the ways they can be tackled is a good place to start.
Involving people is crucial, maybe even setting up micro-groups with leaders to deliver the message to the masses.“
Ensure equitable career development opportunities
Folks from underrepresented groups often face systemic barriers that keep them from advancement.
Seb reflects on this as the most crucial issue that minorities face in the workplace:
“The most prominent challenge is having access to the same opportunities as others with the same skill set.“
To break down this barrier, companies need to provide employees with development opportunities—including learning opportunities and mentorship, for example.
It’s these numbers that need to change to ensure you’re providing equal opportunities to employees throughout their careers.
Modern businesses prioritize DEI in the workplace
DEI is here to stay. It’s not a ‘hot topic’ that comes and goes—it’s a crucial aspect of creating a happy, healthy work environment for all.
In fact, 96% of large employers view DEI as one of the most impactful social initiatives—and it’s easy to see why.
We hope these tips and insights have helped illuminate your path to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace and the improved productivity, higher profits, and increased innovation that it can bring.
We’ll leave you with Sebastian’s thoughts on the future of DEI:
“The future of this topic depends somewhat on government regulations and the culture and politics of where you operate. But, as long as we’re focused on it, the future is bright!“
We agree, do you?