Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives gain traction every year.
Without a solid DEI program, your organization could face discrimination lawsuits and earn the reputation as an uncaring employer. You could face high employee turnover and broken relationships with clients and customers.
Taking steps towards DEI makes your company more ethical by providing a safe, welcoming workplace where employees’ differences are celebrated, not disparaged.
Even better news?
Ethical companies are proven to reap higher profits than their competitors. A study by Ethisphere shows that ethical companies outperform comparable companies by 7.1 percentage points.
i-Sight’s own research found that 40 per cent of honorees on the World’s Most Ethical Companies list made more than double the profits of their competitors.
So, you want to attract and retain the best employees with diverse perspectives, boost your business, and prevent lawsuits and incidents.
To help you out, i-Sight has dug into 9 emerging trends you’ll want to keep on your radar for next year.
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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 3 million women have left the labor force in the U.S. alone. Between layoffs and responsibilities for caring for family members, women left the workforce in droves, and many still have not returned.
As a result, one of 2022’s biggest DEI trends will be bringing women back into the workforce.
“Given the disparate toll the pandemic took on working mothers, I think 2022 DEI initiatives will bring greater emphasis on recruiting and providing growth opportunities to women who are returning to work after taking time off,” says Kelli Mason, co-founder and Chief People Officer at JobSage.
After being out of work for nearly two years, these women might be hesitant to leave their families or to re-enter an office environment again. In addition, their priorities and must-haves for jobs could have changed.
“A lot of people had a lot of time to think about what direction they wanted to take after they came out of the pandemic,” says Valerie Mekki, who was laid off in April 2020.
To make your organization enticing to women re-entering the workforce, provide a safe and flexible environment. Take these steps to get started:
- Offer flexible work hours to accommodate child transportation and care
- Continue COVID-19 office safety protocols (so they won’t fear spreading the virus to family members)
- Provide paid sick leave, vacation, and personal paid time off
- Allow remote work at least part of the time to accommodate family responsibilities and shorten commute
- Offer other employee perks that increase employee satisfaction (e.g. office snacks, health and fitness credit, professional development budget, etc.)
More than ever before, job seekers are looking for an employer that values DEI. Whether they belong to a marginalized group or not, candidates want to work for a welcoming, safe workplace.
To show potential employees that DEI is a top priority for your organization, start by posting a well-crafted DEI statement on your website and in job postings. Rather than writing a statement full of “legalese,” use language that matches your branding, mission, and values. It should also be brief, positive, and specific.
For example, Workday’s diversity statement reads:
“Our approach to diversity is simple: it’s about embracing everyone. From cultivating a culture where all employees can bring their best selves to work to deploying diversity initiatives that support all, we’re doing what it takes to build a more equitable workplace and world.”
“Diversity, equity and inclusion are more than words on a page. They are values core to our beliefs. We have made a promise to our communities, our customers and each other to increase our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Creating a culture of equity is not just the right thing to do, it is a non-negotiable priority. We know fostering diversity and inclusion empowers each of us to reach our full potential and creates a joyful and welcoming environment for everyone. We believe Indigo has a unique platform and responsibility to influence and enact positive change. We strive to use our platform for good – to intentionally amplify the voices and stories of our diverse communities.”
In order to attract the best candidates, you have to also provide real examples of DEI initiatives.
“Candidates can see through the mess,” says diversity & inclusion marketing consultant Michelle Ngome. Add examples of how you’ve incorporated DEI into “leadership, employee engagement, marketing, and community engagement” on your website, and be able to explain them in interviews with candidates.
Don’t just use DEI to attract new employees; create and communicate initiatives that make your current employees want to stick around, too.
One survey found that 78 per cent of workers want their employer to prioritize DEI, but nearly a quarter think that their employer is “not doing enough” to create a diverse, inclusive workplace.
According to Robin Rosenberg, founder of the civility training program Live in Their World, you should first be “focusing on equity in compensation.” If employees don’t feel they’re receiving equal pay for equal work, they’re likely to look for a position elsewhere. They might also hit you with a discrimination lawsuit, which will cost more time, money, and reputation damage than doing the right thing and paying equitably.
Next, create equity and inclusion in professional development opportunities, says Rosenberg. Without equal chances to upskill, employees could fall behind, missing out on promotions or even keeping up with best practices.
To see if your approach to PD is equitable and inclusive, ask yourself:
- Do you choose the same employees to go to every conference or trade show?
- Is your training and PD budget allocated equally among employees?
- Do some employees have to miss out on training or conferences because of finances/family responsibilities/health conditions?
If employees don’t have equal access to PD opportunities, they might leave your organization for an employer that’s more equitable in this area.
Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has allowed employees to request accommodations to make their workplaces and jobs accessible to them. However, in 2022, employers shouldn’t just do the bare minimum required to comply with this law.
Organizational performance expert Dr. Raman K. Attri suggests going beyond accommodations and non-discrimination to creating “customized position[s] or role[s] based on the profile of a PWD [person with a disability] who applied.”
“Hiring managers and recruitment managers should jointly make a genuine effort to find (or design) the correct job role where success is accelerated due to their prior skills or experience. When you do so,” he explains, “disability does not become a hindrance but becomes an asset to [employees with disabilities’] jobs.”
When you receive an application from a differently-abled candidate, Attri recommends taking these steps to make your hiring process more inclusive:
- Assess the resume and cover letter for relevant skill sets.
- Consider how their work experiences could be applied to your organization.
- Interview the candidate to uncover talents that were not mentioned in their application.
- If their skills and experience would be an asset to your organization, tailor a role to their strengths, rather than changing an existing role to accommodate them.
While not every organization will be able to do this, the least you can do is change your mindset.
PWDs are not employees who are a burden or a potential compliance lapse or lawsuit waiting to happen. They bring unique perspectives and strengths to the table. Focusing on their inclusion is a benefit to your company, not an inconvenience.
In 2020, most companies were forced to quickly embrace remote work to protect their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, organizations have chosen a wide variety of approaches to the workplace, including return to the office, full-time remote work, and hybrid models.
If your organization has embraced a remote-first work model, “consider if everyone in [your] team can work from home or not,” says Noel Andrews, founder and CEO of Jobrack. Also, “think about whether everyone has access to technology to complete their work.”
Lack of access to a reliable (or any) internet connection, electronic devices, and a quiet, ergonomic workspace could lead employees to resign or candidates to not apply if your company works remotely full time.
On the other hand, a hybrid or office-first model can promote inequity in different ways. Employees with caregiving responsibilities or who have moved away from the office for financial reasons might not be able to come into the workplace as often.
Alexandra Samuel and Tara Robertson suggest analyzing your company’s work model for DEI issues. Consider:
- Does coming into the office set up a path to promotions, higher pay, or more praise?
- Are employees discouraged from working remotely by their managers, even though it’s an option by policy?
- Do managers ask their employees to come into the office last-minute (which could conflict with caregiving responsibilities)?
- Are employees of a certain gender or ethnic group monitored more closely when working remotely (using technology) than others?
- Do employees feel safer when working remotely because they experience less harassment or discrimination?
Offering both remote and in-person work options will be one of this year’s top DEI trends, as it is the only way to ensure every employee feels both safe and productive.
“It is vital to train your employees as a part of the DEI at the workplace,” says Steve Anevski, CEO of and Co-Founder of Upshift. “Employee belonging, engagement, and psychological safety are impacted by unconscious bias and microaggressions addressed through training.”
DEI training will continue to be one of the top DEI trends because it’s the easiest way to communicate what to do (and not do) in the workplace. You can model real-life scenarios for employees to help them understand their biases, learn how to step in when they see harassing behavior, and see the value in diversity.
But how do you ensure your DEI training program is successful?
Jennifer Lewi, CAE and Danielle Duran Baron, CAE recommend taking these steps when developing or revamping your module:
- Incorporate different approaches to teaching the material to accommodate various learning styles, education levels, and job functions.
- Determine objectives of the training and build the module around those.
- Gather ideas for the training from employees in different departments.
- Initiate multiple touch-points beyond annual training, such as webinars, newsletters, and in-office programming related to DEI topics.
- Encourage employees to contribute ideas and personal stories to inspire or include in the training and other DEI initiatives.
- Evaluate the training yearly and rework with new ideas and best practices.
In addition, Jaime Klein, CEO of Inspire Human Resources, says that “DEI is about more than what you should not do. Training must also incorporate proactive elements for behavior at every level of the organization.”
“It is important to consider alignment, definitions, metrics, and plans for bringing lessons learned outside of the training room,” she continues. To amp up your company’s DEI training, Klein says, focus on:
- “Understanding systemic racism
- Exploring individual and company lenses
- Identifying implicit biases and microaggressions
- Creating an action plan with metrics to truly advance DEI beyond the training”
Not sure which DEI metrics to use to measure your program? Try these:
- Supplier diversity
- Number of complaints, grievances, and lawsuits filed by marginalized employees
- Employee ratings on a 1-5 scale for statements such as “I feel like I belong at my company” and “I feel safe expressing my opinion”
- Compensation data comparing pay and financial rewards for marginalized and non-marginalized employees
- Number of applicants for open positions from marginalized groups
- Average length of tenure for marginalized employees
You can find more suggestions in this full list from Include-Empower.com.
To make your workplace more welcoming, you need to incorporate DEI initiatives into every aspect of your company, from hiring to pay to culture. Download this free checklist to make sure you’re taking all the necessary steps.
While big organizational changes are key to good DEI, it’s the small things that really make your workplace feel more inclusive.
According to digital strategist Ayaz Nanji, inclusive visuals will be one of 2022’s top graphic design trends. Carry this idea over into the workplace to make it one of the year’s DEI trends as well.
“The default for people . . . images are no longer white, male, and able-bodied,” he explains. “There is more representation for marginalized groups” such as people of color, non-binary people, and differently-abled people.
While Nanji applies this trend to marketing, take this same consideration when creating both internal and external documents. You can start doing this by:
- Showing people of a variety of races, genders, and abilities on your website, social media channels, and sales collateral
- Avoiding language that positions white, male, able-bodied, straight people as the default (e.g. remove words like “normal”, “non-white”, or “manpower”)
- Asking employees how they identify (i.e. pronouns, race) rather than assuming
- Using person-first language (“an Asian person” rather than “an Asian”, or “gay employees” rather than “gays”)
Making these changes to internal documents shows employees that you care about them as individuals, not stereotypes. It also shows that your organization values every person and doesn’t discriminate or consider one group better than another.
Externally, potential customers and clients will see that your company appreciates and celebrates differences. When they know they’re welcome, they’ll be more likely to work with you, or buy from you.
Inclusion consultant and author Jennifer Brown compares DEI challenges to an iceberg where “10% is visible above the waterline. 90% is under the waterline lurking there not visible and yet extremely important,” she says. “What you don’t see can hurt you, can hurt your organizational culture, can hurt your society, what is not brought above the waterline of the iceberg and really looked at and really evaluated fully, with full curiosity, with full openness, with full kind of generosity and a lack of bias.”
“What we are not seeing is continuing to perpetuate the harm, the lack of resources, the lack of empathy, the lack of urgency,” Brown continues.
In other words, all exclusionary, discriminatory behavior is not big and obvious. Often, it lurks in microaggressions, unconscious biases, and systemic discrimination.
These can cause employees belonging to marginalized groups to feel “less than.” As a result, they can’t reach their full potential, which is harmful to them and to your company. They might even leave your organization for a workplace where they feel safer and more valued.
To address those invisible aspects of DEI, evaluate all of your internal policies and procedures. Hiring and performance assessment practices are a good place to start since they are the most likely to be built on outdated, biased ways of thinking.
Additionally, require every employee at every level to complete unconscious bias training. This will help employees understand biases they didn’t even know they had, and how to minimize the impact those biases have on their interactions with coworkers.
“When you’re leading an organization, your people . . . often have the answers you need for true liberation and equity. They know what you need to do, it’s just that you’re not always asking them or listening to them,” says Tracey Gee, leadership development coach and consultant.
When developing or updating your DEI program, you might not know where to even start. That’s where your best (and free) resource comes in handy: your employees.
Ask employees from marginalized groups to complete a survey or join a focus group to learn where your organization is lacking in DEI. Working in your company every day, they might experience exclusion or discrimination in ways you would never have thought.
For example, if you have an open-concept office, an employee with sensory sensitivities could become overwhelmed by the noise of their coworkers.
Or, if you have no senior managers of color, lower-level employees of color might feel like they’ll never be able to climb the ranks within your organization. They might also feel they have no one to turn to who understands their experience if they experience race-based harassment or discrimination.
“Leaders are sitting on a goldmine of insight,” Gee says, “but they haven’t created the practices and safety, to really ask and listen, and then also, obviously, enact changes based on what they learned.”
DEI Trends for 2022
In 2022, DEI is about more than just mandated training programs. DEI trends will center around incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into every policy and process in your organization, from work setting to graphic design.
Analyze your recruitment, hiring, employee retention, training, and even everyday processes through a DEI lens.
Employees and customers now expect more from organizations. Creating a culture of inclusion leads to happy, productive employees and loyal customers. Even better, you’ll reduce your risk of discrimination lawsuits, non-compliance fines, and a bad company reputation.