Assessing a Company’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
By Ruby Swann
Uncovering the True Colors of Corporate Diversity Programs
A recent survey noted that 76% of job seekers report that diversity is an important value when evaluating companies (Glassdoor Team, 2021). Despite this importance to workers, a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) report from a global leadership consulting firm found an 18% decrease in leader support of DEI efforts (DDI, 2023).
Career development professionals can help clients land rewarding jobs with employers who support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) by helping these job seekers assess the company’s level of commitment. Here are six elements clients should consider when assessing whether an employer is committed to diversity. This information is based on my work experience as a DEIB leader.
Six Elements of Corporate DEIB Commitment
1. Strategic Plan: A strong commitment to DEIB requires a well-thought-out strategic plan that aligns with the company's values. This written strategy should encompass a vision, mission, guiding principles, and fundamental areas of focus. An effective strategy should not only have a goal to close the gaps with diverse representation, but also include the following four pillars:
- The Workforce Pillar relates to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce by recruiting, hiring, retaining, developing, and promoting employees from all identities, backgrounds, and cultures to ensure equitable representation.
- The Workplace Pillar pertains to creating a culture where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their best. This encompasses removing systemic barriers and creating policies and practices that prevent discrimination, harassment, and bias, as well as providing access to growth, compensation, perks, and benefits.
- The Marketplace Pillar focuses on ensuring that the organization’s products, services, and business practices are inclusive and responsive to the diverse needs and preferences of its customers and clients.
- The Community Pillar expands the organization’s commitment to DEIB beyond its internal operations. It involves interacting with the broader community in meaningful ways, such as supporting local initiatives, and promoting social responsibility efforts that positively impact marginalized groups.
Additionally, the strategy should outline relevant programs, goals, and metrics for each pillar, providing a clear roadmap to measure the effectiveness of the DEIB initiatives.
2. Dedicated Resources: For effective DEIB work, a company must allocate sufficient full-time resources to lead and execute the strategy. Competing demands can hinder progress, so it is essential to have dedicated personnel. Additional resources may also be necessary for other functions such as recruiting, training, and data analysis, depending on factors including company revenue and the number of employees.
3. Diverse Leadership: A company's commitment to DEIB is also reflected in the composition of its leadership team. Ideally, the percentage of women and people of color on the leadership team should mirror the workforce demographics. Representation matters, and seeing individuals who look like them at all levels of the organization fosters a sense of inclusion and belonging. Diverse leadership should also extend to the Board of Directors. Building a diverse leadership team is not about tokenism and hiring women and people of color just to have diversity. It is about casting a wider recruiting net to attract qualified diverse candidates.
4. Transparent DEIB Commitment: Companies committed to DEIB should proudly showcase their efforts on external platforms such as websites, annual reports, industry conferences, and sustainability reports. Recruiting websites should emphasize a focus on hiring and retaining a diverse workforce. These platforms should feature elements of the DEIB strategy, such as the mission, community partnerships, diverse employee representation, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and DEIB recognition.
5. Employee Training: The company should pay for in-house training that is offered to both managers and non-managers. The training should align with the DEIB strategy and goals, including topics such as unconscious bias, understanding, and preventing micro-behaviors, allyship, and cultural awareness.
6. Culture Recognition: Companies that value DEIB should regularly highlight commonly recognized cultural holidays/events, both internally and externally. These acknowledgments demonstrate ongoing support, raise awareness, and help promote cultural competence. Internal communications, such as emails, newsletters, intranet, and chat groups, should inform employees about cultural highlights. External audiences should receive information through company websites and social media platforms. Recognized cultural holidays/events may include Black History Month, Women's History Month, and Pride Month, among others.
Helping Clients Assess the Presence of these Elements within a Company
The following resources can help clients determine whether these six elements are present in a current or potential employer.
- The National Diversity Council (NDC) conducts an annual assessment of the Best US Companies for Diversity. The NDC Index is an assessment of a company’s commitment, and scores are displayed on their website. The NDC Index recognizes companies with a score of 90 or higher as the Best US Companies for Diversity (NDC Index, 2023).
- Clients should look for information the employer shares externally on its annual report, website, and job postings, such as a mission statement, diversity hiring goals, and its support for underserved communities.
- However, in my professional experience, one of the most effective ways to assess DEIB commitment is to hold informational interviews with current employees. Clients can ask questions such as:
- Is there someone dedicated full-time to DEIB?
- Do they have a strategic plan that is shared with employees?
- How well is the organization fulfilling its DEIB goals?
- Does the organization regularly recognize cultural holidays and events?
- How diverse is the leadership team?
- What DEIB training is offered?
While this list is not exhaustive, it serves as a basis for evaluating a company's level of commitment. Practitioners with clients who value working for a company with a commitment to DEIB can support them during this thorough assessment process.
DDI, (2023). Diversity, equity and inclusion report 2023. https://www.ddiworld.com/glf/diversity-equity-inclusion-report-2023/company-dei-practices
Glassdoor Team, (2021). What job seekers really think about your diversity and inclusion stats. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/diversity/
NCD Index. (2023). 2023 NDC index: Participating companies. https://ndc-index.org/our-participants/2023-participating-companies/
Ruby Swann has 30+ years of experience in the areas of Human Resources, DEI, Recruiting, Talent Management, and Career Development. In 2022, Ruby received her company’s President’s Award for her accomplishments as an HR Business Partner and for the successful launch of the company’s first DEI Strategy. Ruby holds a certification as Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), a Diversity certification from the National Diversity Council and is a certified Career Coach. Through her coaching practice Ruby utilizes her expertise to help clients attain rewarding careers. Ruby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org