Why diversity, equity, and belonging matter to workplace experience

The impact of unconscious bias on hiring, and how to counteract it as a force for greater diversity and inclusion.
How benchmarking your company culture and employee experience can help you make measurable improvements.
Real-world solutions for how to put diversity, equity, and belonging into practice to attract and retain top talent.

The experience our workplaces create for us as employees has a significant impact on every aspect of the business, from recruitment to retention. But a person’s workplace experience is highly relative, and contingent on how comfortable they feel to perform, contribute, and advance.

And why does this matter anyway?

A Deloitte survey revealed that although competitive pay and positive company cultures are most likely to attract both millennials and Gen Z job seekers, these demographics also want to work for—and will be most loyal to—companies that actively and intentionally foster diversity, equity, and belonging in their workplace experience strategy. What’s more, jobs dedicated to DEB have grown by 20% and executive leaders can now expect to be asked about their company’s DEB efforts as much as their product roadmap.

What do these concepts mean in the context of workplace experience?

Diversity in the workplace involves the practice of conscious cultivation and support of individual differences. This includes but is not limited to diversity in demographics such as age, ethnicity, class, gender and gender expression, physical abilities and qualities, race, sexual orientation, religious status, educational background, geographical location, marital status, parental status, and work experiences.

Equity involves ensuring the fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all. This applies to hiring, recognition and consideration for promotions and leadership, and salary negotiations, among other things.

Belonging refers to how people feel they belong with your company, in all aspects of your workplace experience––from onboarding to team structures, meeting and interpersonal dynamics, and career development.

Diversity, equity, and belonging are thus vitally important components to building your workplace experience strategy. A workplace experience strategy encompasses everything in a physical office space––from the office layout to decor––to the less tangible, more evocative qualities of how a space makes people feel.

A workplace experience strategy with diversity, equity and belonging in mind goes beyond lighting and temperature considerations, for example, blending the ingredients needed to meet business goals, facilitate productive work environments, and create positive employee experiences.

The common denominator here is the intentional design of a workplace where employees can thrive, feel comfortable and safe to bring their full selves to work, and feel like they belong.

Creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce also makes good business sense, positively impacting your bottom line. Diverse leadership teams boost innovation. Research by McKinsey shows that more gender-diverse companies do 15% better financially and companies with greater ethnic and racial diversity have 35% greater financial returns. According to the Boston Consulting Group, companies with more diverse management, experience 19% higher innovation revenue compared with companies with below-average leadership diversity.

More gender-diverse companies do 15% better financially

Illustration of packages in an office

Companies with greater ethnic and racial diversity have 35% greater financial returns.

In this practical ebook, we explore ideas from workplace experience thought leaders about what thriving, diverse, and innovative workplaces look and feel like, and what makes them tick. Spoiler alert: it’s the people.

In each section, we dig into a different aspect of how to challenge the status quo in all aspects of the contemporary workplace, and transform your company into a truly diverse and inclusive business. We cover the following:

Illustration of three people
  1. How treating employees like customers plays a key role in incentivizing people to join your company and to stay.
  2. How benchmarking your company culture and employee experience can help you make measurable improvements.
  3. The importance of diversifying your recruiting, pipeline, and onboarding practices to create a customer-centered work culture and build high-performing teams.
  4. How accessibility in crisis communication benefits workplace security and your customers.
  5. The impact of unconscious bias on hiring, and how to counteract it as a force for greater diversity and inclusion.
  6. Closing the gap between your company’s public persona and recruitment marketing and the internal reality.
  7. How putting diversity, equity, and belonging into practice can attract and retain top talent.

This ebook goes beyond virtue signaling, which is commonly defined as the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate a person’s or company’s position on a particular issue. While virtue signaling isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can be a surface-level effort that doesn’t necessarily translate into meaningful action that supports the community or cause that a brand is looking to align with. For example, a company could post on social media about supporting a certain community as a way to curry the favor of that community by aligning the company brand with the priorities and values of that community. Where virtue signaling falls flat is when companies don’t follow through on demonstrably supporting that community beyond words.

Instead, this ebook offers real-world solutions for how you can put diversity, equity, and belonging commitments and change into practice.

1. The employee is the new customer

When you close your eyes and picture the ideal office, what do you imagine? Perhaps you’re envisioning a spacious environment with lots of natural light and plants, break-out spaces for collaboration, updated tech, and a kitchen with tasty snacks. You come to work feeling energized and motivated. You enjoy collaborating with your team and feel supported by your manager. You feel a sense of belonging.

Every business should hold the customer in high esteem. But today’s companies also need to apply that same thinking to their employees, and envision their workplace experience as a way to do so. A sense of belonging is relative, and influenced by a multitude of factors, including but certainly not limited to:

  1. Being adequately recognized and appropriately compensated for your work and contributions.
  2. Having access to and support for career growth and professional development resources.
  3. Feeling comfortable speaking up (and feeling heard) in meetings, voicing your opinions, expressing dissent, and in your interpersonal relationships at work.
  4. Seeing or having role models from minority communities in the workplace, leadership roles, or having access to them as mentors.
  5. The absence of microaggressions, which are what Columbia University professor Derald Wing Sue describes as “every day slights, indignities, put downs, and insults that minorities experience in their day to day interactions with individuals [who may or may not be] unaware that they have engaged in an offensive act or made an offensive statement.” These interactions are typically related to a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status. As the modifier “micro” might suggest, microaggressions can be barely detectable to most people but insidious: they can negatively affect employee performance, confidence, and morale.

Diversity, equity, and belonging efforts in the workplace aim to make sure that a sense of belonging––and the company’s culture––is cultivated by and for all employees. Increasingly, companies are waking up to the fact that workplace experience matters to the business and makes a real difference to the people working there.

Having a positive workplace experience creates a competitive differentiator for companies to compete for and win top talent.

Treating employees like customers—that is, catering to their needs and creating a comfortable, safe environment where they feel they belong—helps incentivize people to join your company…and to stay.

What exactly is workplace experience?

As noted in the introduction, your facilities are an office’s physical space and all the things that run it. This is the operational backbone of a business and includes the electrical and plumbing systems, the furniture, the paint on the walls, and janitorial and catering teams, for example.

Workplace experience, on the other hand, is more about how employees experience and feel in a space. A positive workplace experience helps employees feel happy, more productive, more engaged, and motivated. With this in mind, workplace experience has a lot to do with customer service and hospitality, which is why it can be helpful to think of employees as customers. A company’s culture is not a homogenous entity; there are multiple communities within a workplace with different needs and desires, and it takes different approaches to make them feel like they belong. Think of your workplace as an ecosystem: there’s the sun, which could be considered your workplace as a whole, and these communities and people are separate planets––all orbiting the sun together.

This is where workplace experience comes in.

Help everyone feel welcome

“I think the first thing we do is create a community where you can feel belonging,” says Flash Coughlin, Head of Workplace at Envoy. It’s this sense of community that informs his decisions about office layout and seating. Workplace experience teams can do a lot to help employees feel more included, such as:

  1. Ensuring ADA accommodations throughout the workplace
  2. Adding all-gender restrooms and changing spaces
  3. Creating intentional spaces like a meditation room where people can step out of the community open floor plan and focus on themselves and their personal wellness
  4. Encouraging spaces for the self-formation of employee resource groups and supporting those efforts with dedicated resources such as space, events, and programming
  5. Work cross-functionally across teams to implement a mentorship program that pairs employees with internal leaders to coach and provide career growth advice.

There’s more to workplace amenities than foosball

At many tech startups, ping pong tables and beer on tap have become standard issue. And while some employees enjoy these amenities, you shouldn't assume all of your employees will value these perks. Instead of basing your workplace experience strategy around the typical amenities, look at how to craft a workplace experience that is more inclusive—one that will help people cater to many communities, not just the majority, because there are lots of different communities orbiting within one workplace.

As Coughlin says, “Every workplace manager should be thinking about how they create the spaces that feed the different needs of the different types of employees you have.” How do you know what kind of workplace experience is really important to your employees? Ask them, and they’ll tell you what their needs are. How do you go about asking? Here are some great questions to get you started to help understand your employees’ differing needs.

  1. What challenges are you facing that prevent you from doing your best work?
  2. How are you feeling about the current meeting room and space offerings?
  3. What’s one thing that the company could change about how you feel at work today?

2. Benchmark your company culture

Companies with positive cultures cultivate emotional, mental, and behavioral well-being, and produce higher levels of satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. According to Harvard Business Review, health care cost at high-pressure companies are nearly 50% greater than at other organizations. What’s more, research by the Queens School of Business and by Gallup reveals that organizations with low employee engagement scores experienced:

In contrast, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications. In this section, we explore what a toxic workplace culture looks like, and how you can create a positive work culture where people are inspired and feel their best throughout their day.

Root out toxic workplace cultures

The presence of toxic workplace cultures––workplaces with high-stress environments and a lack of accountability that contribute to employees feeling burned out and ultimately pushed out––poses a significant barrier to building healthy, productive workplaces. Why? People may be afraid to speak up—or have done so, but haven’t seen any response or action—and thus these kinds of companies often experience high employee turnover.

By understanding the dynamics that contribute to creating toxic workplaces, you can make a better plan to proactively address and avoid them.

Stress in the workplace

Sarah Deane, founder of effect UX, helps organizations translate complex data and extensive research into actionable strategies to improve workplace cultures. Deane describes high-stress environments as “super reactive.” She says, “When we’re in that mode, not only are we less aware, we’re less open. When you’re really stressed out, you might snap at someone, or maybe have a more extreme response than you would have otherwise. These behaviors can impact teams and collaboration.”

Lack of accountability

In an environment where people aren’t taking accountability––not just for their actions but for their responses, the choices they’re making, and even the language they use––you end up playing what Deane refers to as the “blame game.” “This creates an environment where people are fearful,” Deane says, “where the blame is passed not only from individual to individual, but team to team, throughout the whole organization. This cultivates mistrust and it works against an open workplace environment.”

Fear of speaking up

“A healthy workplace,” Deane says, “is one where people feel free to share their opinions and ideas without fear.” That means without fear of blowback from management, or fear of coworkers taking credit for your ideas.

Turn workplace experience insights into meaningful change

Many companies run an annual employee experience survey, gathering data about their workplace culture. By collecting anonymous data on gender, race, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, and country of origin, you can learn if employees from different groups have a different lived experience of working at your company. For example, if male employees tend to feel empowered to speak up in meetings and female employees don’t, then you have an inclusion problem that needs to be addressed.

Collecting data is just the first step. Companies then need to use these insights to enact meaningful change. It’s one thing to establish core values, but if they aren’t implemented in a clear way that your workforce can engage with, then those initiatives will not succeed. Similarly, on an individual level, if you can’t bring your full self to work, then you’re not going to perform well. For example, if a core value is that you encourage innovation, be clear about opening up what kind of innovation you’re talking about––and by whom. Innovation doesn’t just show up in an engineering department, for example; champion all the ways innovation could manifest across teams, processes, and people. Your office manager could share that your visitor management system needs to offer self-identification for visitor pronouns, for example, based on their experience being the first point of contact for visitors. For Lynee Luque, VP & Head of People, Envoy, core values are truly an anchor for a company’s culture––and a prime opportunity to start putting DEB ideas into direct action.

It’s a starting point. Core value statements are the first step, but we’re evolving to translate these statements into practices and behaviors that let us know that people are living up to our values. [Developing the core values] wasn’t a process owned just by the People team. You don’t build culture in a silo. Everything we create is a process that includes everyone here.

VP & Head of People at Envoy

Invest in employee career development and professional growth opportunities––and make sure your employees know about them

Career development and growth opportunities are hugely important to foster a sense of professional well-being and belonging for employees. Companies need to offer employees access to learning opportunities, mentorships, new roles, and career paths.

But just creating these growth opportunities isn’t enough to create meaningful change. Companies need to have structures in place to actively define, engage with, and track an employee’s goals.

You have to empower your employees with the information so they can make the right choices for themselves, that’s where companies sometimes fall short.

For example, employees can’t benefit from learning opportunities like education credits if they aren’t aware of them. “You have to empower your employees with the information so they can make the right choices for themselves,” Deane says. “That’s where companies sometimes fall short. They tend to forget about the rollout and the communications around it.”

Managers also have a key role to play in their direct reports’ career development. “A manager has to support and value their employees in their growth journey,” Deane says, “and they should be able to connect you to these opportunities—even when they are not in their direct area of expertise. I had a brilliant boss once and he said that a good manager grows you and a great one knows when to let you go.”

3. Diversify your recruitment, pipeline, and onboarding practices

Employers naturally want to recruit from the best talent pool. However, when employees refer their friends, family, and former coworkers, companies are more likely to hire more people who look and think like their existing employees. A 2017 study by PayScale, found that referrals disproportionately benefit white men. Controlling for other factors, female and minority applicants are much less likely to get a referral than their white male counterparts. White women are 12% less likely, men of color are 26% less likely, and women of color are 35% less likely to receive a referral.

Hiring a diverse team is crucial to business success and being a truly customer-centric workplace. In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8%. In order to make this a reality, companies need to rethink their hiring practices, diversify the talent pipeline, and reexamine their onboarding practices.

Recruit with diversity as a goal

“Diversity and inclusion is, and should be, top of mind for everyone right now,” says Adam Cockell, Founder and CEO, ATeam Technologies, a consultancy focused on workplace diversity and inclusion.

Companies that have a more diverse workforce are statistically higher-performing work cultures. They outperform their competitors because they have a diversity of thought and perspective. Think about it this way: if your company has an employee population that is representative of more diverse backgrounds, they will have a better understanding of and can better serve your diverse customers. In fact, it’s not uncommon practice for potential customers—not to mention potential employees—to do some research into the makeup of a company’s leadership team, board, and workforce. What they discover through this process informs whether they decide to be a customer, or apply to work there.

Companies like Lever have gone so far as to detail their diversity and inclusion journey, publishing statistics at each stage of their growth to demonstrate how they are actively making their company more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

When you are being more inclusive in what you put out to the world, I think you can actually access more business opportunities, reach new audiences, and find new connections as far as the business case goes for diversity.

Founder and CEO at ATeam Technologies

Rework your job descriptions

Your job descriptions are enormously important in attracting top-performing, diverse candidates. By making thoughtful wording adjustments and challenging how you define what’s really required to do the job well, you can entice a wider applicant pool and have more qualified candidates to choose from.

Avoid gendered language

Are your job descriptions inadvertently signalling a gender preference and subtly dissuading people of a different gender from applying? Gendered language in job descriptions can limit your applicant pool. For example, if you have gendered words like “outspoken,” “ninja,” or “aggressive” in your job description, female candidates are statistically less likely to apply. Similarly, male candidates might be discouraged from applying to a position that’s described with gender-charged words like “compassionate,” “loyal,” or “supportive.”

Of course women can be outspoken and men can certainly be compassionate and loyal (even these pairings rely on binary definitions of gender). But if our own unconscious bias makes it harder for us to see ourselves in these job descriptions then we are less likely to apply. (Learn more about unconscious bias in section 5.) There are online tools that identify gendered language in your job descriptions so you can cast a wider net.

Rethink job requirements

Cockell also recommends challenging what’s really important to do the job well. “How many people at your company already have college degrees?” Cockell asks. “Do you need the next person to absolutely have a college degree?” If not, don’t list “college degree” as a requirement for employment. Other job requirements to consider being flexible on or not accounting for include:

  1. Prioritizing internship experience. Many internships are unpaid, which requires a certain level of privilege for people to have access to and be able to commit to.
  2. Work experience in the area of focus for the role the candidate is applying for. There are many transferable skills that someone can possess.
  3. The presence of a criminal record history.

Actively encourage diverse applicants

Lastly, add a thoughtful EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) statement at the bottom of the job description encouraging diverse candidates to apply. Here are some examples of how different companies handle EEO statements.

Inclusion goes beyond onboarding

“Access is not inclusion,” Cockell says. There’s a very real gap in tech––and in all kinds of companies and industries––between getting people in the door and making sure attention is paid to their experience of being there.

In the workplace, inclusive onboarding can include telling all new employees about inclusive facilities and policies like all-gender bathrooms, a mother’s room for nursing employees, a meditation and prayer room, parental leave, and your company’s practice of including preferred pronouns in email signatures.

“Internally and externally, inclusivity should be the goal,” Cockell says. “You want your products and your company to be inclusive. The goal is to create a place where everyone––employees and customers––feels included, heard, and understood.”

4. Diverse teams boost accessibility in crisis communication

What if something happened at work but you didn’t know––or worse, what if your company sent out crisis communications, but you couldn’t read it?

Your workplace security plan is only effective if your entire workforce can access it in a way that is best for them—in their preferred language, for example. Unless your plan is intentionally designed to be accessible to everyone, companies risk leaving portions of their workforce out of these vital communications.

Similarly, when your company brings more diverse teams together, you’ll be able to tap into rich insights about how to best communicate with your diverse customers. While this always makes good business sense, it’s especially vital to have a diverse set of stakeholders at the decision-making table when developing communications around a data breach, cybersecurity event, or other crisis.

When your company brings more diverse teams together, you’ll be able to tap into rich insights about how to best communicate with your diverse customers.

Make workplace communications more accessible and effective

“The diversity in workplace culture that we see is expanding, which is a beautiful thing and I’m so grateful for it,” says Jodi Beaubien, Senior Crisis Communication Executive, Data Breach at Symantec. “It’s important to me to see diversity in a workplace because of the ideas. The way that people process information differently can lead to collaboration.”

HR and cultural research teaches us that people hear things differently. When people listen differently and act or process information differently, this leads to a different outcome.

“It’s important to include various individuals within conversations,” Beaubien says, “whether it be in development training materials, coming up with ideas, or designing processes that are company-wide. Including a variety of individuals in that process allows you to represent your workforce and your customer base.” This is also known as cross-functional collaboration, where different stakeholders from different teams and business functions are intentionally brought together to work on solving a particular challenge or create new projects. “When you don’t have diversity in the room, it’s hard to think like the diverse audience would,” Beaubien says.

Computer on desk illustration

“The minute that you have a diverse group creating this content or these policies,” Beaubien says, “you start to have more information about who you’re communicating to and the outcome can be more effective. We are so well-equipped with information about different audiences through research, through these inclusion groups, but it’s another thing to take it a step forward and to include them in the conversation from A to Z.”

5. Counteract unconscious bias

The term unconscious bias refers to mental shortcuts that we form based on patterns that we’ve been exposed to over time. These ideas come from many sources: our culture, friends and family, TV, and movies, to name a few. In a workplace context, unconscious bias shows up in the language we use, the way we relate to each other, and the way we make decisions.

Pin-ya Tseng, a facilitator at diversity and inclusion strategy firm Paradigm, teaches unconscious bias trainings, helping people become aware of these often subtle assumptions.

“The problem with unconscious bias,” Tseng says, “arises when the patterns that we rely on end up being things like cultural stereotypes that are not based in truth and often, when applied, can ultimately disadvantage or harm certain groups.”

In the workplace experience, unconscious bias affects every level of an organization. From recruiting and hiring to employee experience, career development, and management training, addressing this takes time and effort.

How unconscious bias affects our workplace experience

“The conversation in the last decade has moved away from addressing explicit bias or overt discrimination,” Tseng says, “towards uncovering how an organization might be unintentionally inviting bias. As these organizations are trying to build more inclusive workplaces, the data still shows that people from different backgrounds are still having a harder time breaking into these companies, moving up, and obtaining seniority.”

What can this lack of career mobility be attributed to? One key factor is the still inadequate numbers of having diverse representation in influential positions. While educating your workplace with trainings and workshops is a crucial first step, it’s the follow-up and implementation of targeted initiatives to address your company’s accountability in changing––and enforcing––new processes to ensure unconscious bias isn’t affecting professional development. An example of unconscious bias could be passing on promoting a female employee who has children based on the assumption that she doesn’t want or can’t accept a more leadership role because they don’t have time.

In the absence of diverse leadership:

According to Harvard Business Review, in the absence of diverse leadership women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas; people of color are 24% less likely; and LGBTQAI+ employees are 21% less likely.

“It turns out that when we’re making workplace decisions quickly or without a lot of thought or structure, our unconscious biases actually end up leading us to make less objective and more stereotype-driven decisions,” Tseng says.

Mitigate unconscious bias when reviewing resumes

In Tseng’s unconscious bias trainings, she shares a study about how seeing a name on a resume can lead us to shift our criteria for what is important for that role. In the study, people reviewed two resumes for the role of police chief. One resume had more formal education and the other had more work experience.

“The resume with more education will usually be chosen,” Tseng says. “But if you add a name to the top, that changes the evaluation criteria.” When the resume with less education also had a more masculine-presenting name, people chose that one instead.

In the second part of the study, before people were shown the resumes, researchers asked them, “What is more important for the role of police chief: education or experience?” People said “education” and then were presented with the resumes. Even when the resume with more education had a feminine-presenting name, that was what people chose because they had already pre-established that criteria.

From this study, we learn the importance of deciding in advance what qualities are most important for a role. Additionally, a strong case can be made for reviewing resumes without candidates' names.

Avoid bringing unconscious bias into job interviews

As humans, we tend to feel a greater affinity toward people who are similar to ourselves. This is known as similarity or affinity bias. However, shared interests and backgrounds usually have no bearing on how well someone will do a job. Personal questions like, “What’d you do over the weekend?” “Where do you live?”, or, “Do you have kids?” are all examples of questions that could potentially create affinity bias.

One way to avoid similarity bias is to take note during an interview of the similarities you share with a candidate. Later, when you’re asked to provide feedback on the interview and the candidate, these notes help to identify and differentiate between affinities that you discovered in your conversation that could influence your decision and the skills and experiences this person would bring to the company. Think of this strategy as identifying a ‘culture add’ rather than shoehorning candidates into a ‘culture fit.’

A good general rule of thumb when conducting a job interview is to save more conversational, connection-oriented questions for after the interview. This creates a clear demarcation between the formal interview setting and the informal conversation that follows—and, most importantly, that this interaction won’t have a bearing on the candidate’s evaluation for the role they interviewed for.

6. Why employee experience impacts employer brand

The connection between employee experience and employer brand has never been more important––or more accessible online. Job seekers and customers are increasingly interested in company transparency, and will research what companies say they stand for and how that compares to what actually goes on in their workplace. This applies to the visibility of internal employee experience efforts and to the follow-through of the commitments a company makes publicly to social causes, philanthropy, and community engagement.

“People are making serious investments in deciding to join your company,” says Colleen Finnegan, Senior Manager, Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing at Instacart. “They’re changing their lives, maybe moving their entire families, and or moving cities. They are buying into what the company is, what the company is going to be doing, what the product is, and what the company culture looks like.”

Employee experience and employer brand fuel each other

Given this demand for transparency and accountability, employers need to make sure they fulfill their external brand promise and values when it comes to the internal employee experience. How does your company measure up in going beyond “talking the talk” to “walking the walk?”

Prospective employees choose the company they want to work for as much as the company chooses them. Think about what you would like them to learn when they dig into your employee experience and company brand. Examples of what to showcase include:

  1. Commitment to environmental sustainability
  2. Demonstrated involvement in the local community in which the business operates (think volunteer opportunities or employer-matched donations)
  3. Attention to work-life balance
A great employee experience fuels a great employer brand, and a great employer brand will attract people who thrive, and fuel a positive employee experience. It’s not something that you can fake. Otherwise, you’re going to get this revolving door syndrome of people showing up and being like, ‘Wow, this is not what I was promised at all.’

Senior Manager, Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing at Instacart

Empower your employees

You want to foster diversity and inclusion at your company and elevate the employee experience. You know it will make a tangible difference for your existing employees and help attract (and retain) new employees from a diversity of backgrounds. But where do you begin? Ideas include asking employees what the company could do to support diverse community events and heritage months, providing employees with confidential, no-cost counseling resources, or bringing in an outside trainer to introduce and facilitate workshops on DEB topics like allyship or unconscious bias.

Provide and continuously evolve professional development resources

Happily, there’s a trend of forward momentum with companies starting to invest more in employee experience, brand, and in that connection between the two. It’s one thing to hire the right people, and get a diverse set of folks in the door. It’s another thing to make them feel included, and set them up for success. “It can be something small, like proactively engaging in professional development, like offering to send minority employees to AfroTech or Lesbians Who Tech,” Finnegan says. “It’s important for employees to have the opportunity to go and learn, and to be around people that identify similarly to them––and to see people like them that are in leadership positions, too.”

Encourage the formation of ERGs (employee resource groups) and support them

Invest in employee resource groups (ERGs) and support self-governance. This is a great way to cultivate leadership for underrepresented employees––but it’s equally important not to make them the only mouthpiece for DEB efforts at your company. ERGs are an important factor in consistently fostering belonging. “Make sure the company is recognizing, and funding them to back up what they want to do. Recognizing communities during specific months is important, too. We celebrate Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American Pacific Islander heritage, Latinx heritage, National Bring Your Kids to Work Day, and Pride, among others,” notes Finnegan.

Commit to year-round support of minority employees — not just during heritage months

Of course, while it’s wonderful for companies to support any cause or affinity group during their given month, or day, that support also needs to show up throughout the rest of the year. “There’s lots of ways that you can create space within your company for these communities,” Finnegan says. “You don’t have to have a huge process or initiatives in place. Show your employees that you’re thinking about it. Also, ask them what they want to do.”

Beyond promises: Put diversity, equity, and belonging into practice to foster a sense of belonging in your workplace—and attract and retain top talent

While no change comes without hurdles and growing pains, companies are realizing that investment in diversity, equity, and belonging is a business imperative. Diversity, equity, and belonging are core components of adequately measuring employee engagement. ROI has been a focus for DEB advocates to prove the business benefits of such programs, but the real benefits lie in reducing employee turnover and improving retention.

Employee engagement can be tied to performance, but it has a more significant bearing on whether or not someone feels they actually belong in your workplace. In this case, performance can be seen as an indicator of belonging. Survey data collected by Culture Amp suggests that people who feel they belong perform better, become more willing to challenge themselves, and are more resilient. The ROI is clear: reduction in employee churn, which costs businesses dearly each year, and with such low unemployment rates, will only continue to increase. According to The Work Institute, each employee departure costs about one-third of that worker's annual earnings, including expenses such as recruiter fees, temporary replacement workers, and lost productivity.

According to a McKinsey & Company study, $8 billion is spent on diversity and inclusion trainings in the U.S. every year. While this is a great start, trainings are not enough. The next step is putting these trainings into practice by:

  1. Ensuring that everyone is heard
  2. Making it safe to propose different ideas and dissent
  3. Giving all team members decision-making authority
  4. Sharing credit for success
  5. Giving actionable feedback––and implementing feedback

From treating employees like customers and diversifying recruitment, to mitigating unconscious bias, you can advocate for changes at your company to foster greater diversity and inclusion. If you don’t, your top talent might go elsewhere. A 2017 Deloitte study, found that 23% of respondents had left their organization specifically for a more inclusive one.

23% pie chart
A 2017 Deloitte study found 23% of respondents have left organizations for a more inclusive one.