Use these 5 practical insights to inform your 2022 DEI strategy
Ting Wingfield of United Mind observed that it will take a year for employees and the market to start accepting—even 2021—to define clear DEI goals and take action. By 2022, the grace period will expire.
For the past two years, we have been focusing on real participation in diversity, fairness and inclusion (DEI) both inside and outside the workplace. Although many organizations have made progress, most organizations still have gaps and loopholes, and there are considerable risks in the battle for talent.
As the spotlight on DEI as a business strategy continues to shine, how can leaders advance and adjust their strategy in 2022? Based on United Minds’ research on employees’ perceptions of workplace DEI and the expanding role of the Chief Diversity Officer, here are our top five predictions and recommendations.
Report on the progress of DEI commitments
After the murder of George Floyd, the company promised to promote DEI within its own organization, many of which were later accused of lacking specific plans to promote accountability and transform workplace culture. Employees and the market begin to accept that it will take a year—or even 2021—to define clear DEI goals and take action. By 2022, the grace period will expire.
Organizations should now review their commitments to quantify progress and plan for transparent updates. Leaders should celebrate success and be prepared to acknowledge internal and external shortcomings. Our research shows that this is a huge area of opportunity: 87% of DEI leaders agree that performance exceeds expectations, and only 41% of employees strongly agree that they are receiving updates on DEI progress. This is also the moment when the organization realizes that advancing DE&I is a journey. Remember to define and communicate the next set of commitments—incremental goals and extended goals.
The leverage of talent recruitment strategy
Coming out of the pandemic, employees are rethinking the most important things—and are not afraid of taking risks or resigning in pursuit of goals. Our research shows that 79% of employees believe that a diverse, fair, and inclusive organization will attract high-quality talent, and 71% of employees agree that it is important to work in organizations that value DEI. As the battle for talent continues, organizations must prepare and plan to stand out from the competition.
Leaders should focus on authentically communicating their experiences inside and outside the workplace with employees through formal (investigations, focus groups) and informal (candid dialogue, authorized managers) mechanisms. They should also conduct peer analysis to understand the employers that truly make them unique. This information can provide a credible narrative that reflects the company's values and can be used to attract talent through the company's own platform, LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
Community center reservation
We found that 100% of DE&I leaders believe that employee resource groups (ERG) and affinity groups benefit employees. This makes sense, considering that employees participating in ERG are more satisfied with their experience, and although they are more likely to suffer unfair treatment, they are more likely to stay at work.
Leaders should increase contact with these key groups by soliciting investment in business and personnel strategies, and in responding to social unrest. Participation in ERG should also be protected by allocating annual or monthly working hours to employees and providing ERG leaders with additional compensation and changing job descriptions.
Involve employees in DEI
In the turmoil of 2020, we have seen a significant increase in the number of companies that organize meetings to discuss race. Employees find there is space to talk honestly about their own experiences and the organization benefits from the great value of real-time input that employees feel and identify potential problems.
Eighteen months later, DEI leaders listed employee engagement as the biggest company-wide challenge that hindered the advancement of DEI work—but it was also an opportunity. When companies seek to involve employees in defining the future of work, DEI should play a central role. In 2022 and beyond, organizations should continue to prioritize "safe space" discussions and other methods of two-way dialogue that promote inclusive and fair themes.
Ready to take a stand
We cannot begin to predict social events that may affect the workplace in the future, but it should be clear now that once they happen, the company may be forced to speak out. In fact, our research shows that expressing opinions on social issues and related legislation is the first activity of DEI leaders in the 2022 plan. Companies must consider how their position aligns with their values, and that inaction and/or inconsistency in what they say and do may damage their reputation and even affect the bottom line.
Consistency in how companies deal with increasingly complex issues is the key to a higher reputation, and developing a framework for how to deal with these issues is essential to quickly determine a well-thought-out, consistent response. The framework should include a decision tree designed to form responses to emerging issues. Key issues may include:
Does this conform to our values?
Will it affect our employees, customers, and the communities we serve?
Are we confident to "walk" on this issue?
Answering these questions will also help the organization clarify to stakeholders (especially their employees and legislators) the reasons for their decisions and prepare them to defend their positions if necessary.
Ultimately, in 2022 and beyond, the transparency, participation, and accountability that DEI promises will remain the key to attracting diversified channels, retaining top talent, and increasing customer loyalty. As the organization advances in its DEI journey, it is important for employees and external stakeholders to see the ongoing investment, and it is important that they are invited to participate.
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