In 2023, 93% of business executives say that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is more important today than it was three years ago. Yet, in our Talent Index (Seventh Edition) research, we found that a quarter of workers (25%) feel discriminated against by their employer in some way.
There’s a clear gap between how inclusive organizational leaders think their companies are and how effective their DE&I programs actually are in practice.
Even if your organization is already making great strides towards creating a more diverse and inclusive work environment, how do you know if what you’re doing is enough? And do you know how equitable practices can not only improve employee wellbeing, but can also positively impact the bottom line of your business?
Today’s talent wants to work for inclusive organizations
Attracting, engaging and retaining talent with the right skills is a challenge for many organizations. An important part of that is listening to employees (and candidates) to understand what is most important to them in an employer.
For younger talent especially, having a strong focus on DE&I is imperative. A survey from the job board Monster.com reports that 83% of Gen Z respondents said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer.
And for these young workers, DE&I goes beyond gender, sexuality, race and age. It’s also about different points of view being recognized and respected in the workplace.
In fact, a survey by Qualtrics shows that most workers (not just Gen Z) want to work for companies whose values align with their own. 54% of respondents said that they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that shares their values, and 56% said they wouldn’t even consider working for a company they disagreed with.
And In our Talent Index research, 20% of our survey respondents said “fitting in” with the company’s vision, culture, and values is in the top four most important things they look for in an employer.
The evidence is overwhelming – a diverse, inclusive and equitable work environment is crucial for businesses who want to attract, engage and retain talent.
Age discrimination is the most common in the workplace
Through our Talent Index research, we discovered that age discrimination is the most common in the workplace – with race and gender closely behind. Out of the 25% of respondents who said they felt discriminated against by their employer, 27% said they felt this way was because of their age.
When you break this response down by age group, those over the age of 65 were most likely to experience age discrimination (75%) followed by those between the ages of 55-64 (46%). But, even a significant percentage of 18-24-year-olds expressed that they felt discriminated against due to their age (28%).
While the reasons behind age discrimination tend to vary depending on the age group, in the end, it’s a serious problem and it can do an incredible amount of emotional damage to the employee, but also the employer’s reputation.
In an equitable work environment, older employees are just as valuable as younger employees – no matter how close they are to retirement. And younger employees should not be discounted because of a “lack of career and life experience”.
Discounting employees on account of their age likely means that your organization is missing out on untapped potential. Employees of all ages and experience levels should have the opportunity to develop and could then fill critical skills gaps. Employees with more experience (perhaps older employees) can often mentor those that are still early in their careers, allowing skills to be shared and transferred. This type of skills-based approach creates value for the entire business.
If you claim to (or want to) have truly equitable processes, you must consider diversity and inclusion from many angles – age, gender, race, sexuality and social class.
Equitable and inclusive processes influence employee wellbeing (and the bottom line)
Most businesses acknowledge that both DE&I and employee wellness are important – yet too many are treating them as completely separate initiatives, despite being connected at the core. According to Gallup, those who try to improve these efforts independently of each other, are likely getting them both wrong.
Any wellbeing initiatives your organization offers must be equitable in nature – meaning they are not exclusive to certain groups and they are easily accessible and offered fairly. If you haven’t already, now is the time to take a hard look at your wellness programs internally, and determine if they are inclusive.
Also, decide how you will monitor your efforts to ensure your processes remain as fair as possible. As the world changes over time, employees’ needs will change along with it, so it’s important to track your progress against DE&I targets. But the most important thing to remember is to listen to your employees, and make them feel heard, understood and cared for.
Increased employee wellbeing and happiness are not the only benefits of DE&I. Studies show that diverse and inclusive companies tend to perform better than the competition. In fact, racially diverse organizations tend to perform up to 35% better than their less diverse competitors. And companies with strong gender diversity are 25% more likely to outperform their competitors. When you make diversity a strategic priority, it has the potential to positively impact the bottom line and fuel overall organizational growth.
There are many moving parts of a truly equitable workplace. And business leaders must do their part to upskill and educate managers to be able to have conversations about DE&I and to be able to spot issues as they arise.
A diverse and inclusive environment is not only a key aspect of employee wellbeing and job satisfaction, but it can also help set the business apart from competitors in the marketplace, and can help attract and engage top talent with the skills your organization needs.