In 2022, the emphasis on implementing DEI policies and practices within organisations is more prevalent than ever before, with DEI being a stated value or priority for 76% of organisations. Yet many employees still consider their organisation to be lacking in their efforts to increase and appreciate diversity, equity and inclusion, with 33% of employees reporting that they feel diversity is a barrier to employee progression in their workplace. One explanation for this disconnect between company ideals and employee experience could be due to organisations not effectively communicating with their employees regarding the DEI efforts being made. According to PwC’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Survey, 74% of business leaders believe their organisation regularly makes available information about DEI, but only 54% of employees believe the same.
This is a crucial issue for organisations to address for a multitude of reasons. If workplace leadership and executives believe they are effectively communicating about DEI, but employees feel differently, policies and practices will not be implemented to their full potential. Employees may be left feeling unsupported or as if DEI is not a priority within the organisation, leading to further issues. Furthermore, ensuring your employees are knowledgeable about DEI policies and practices in place at your organisation can have economic benefits. Sharing your diversity and inclusion initiatives with your employees allows them to act as employee ambassadors, enabling your employees to externally share information on how you support diversity and help you attract talent.
What can lead or contribute to ineffective communication?
Considering the scale of this issue and the harm it can cause to both employees and organisations alike, it is not only beneficial, but necessary for organisations to understand how this problem arises, and what can be done to ensure it doesn’t continue.
“Your organisation doesn’t transparently share data surrounding DEI.”
While many organisations understand that driving sustainable change requires effective monitoring efforts surrounding the progress of DEI initiatives, this data is rarely made available to employees or the public. Companies may feel that publishing data which does not show significant progress in an area of DEI opens them up to risk or criticism, and therefore chose not to publicise it. However, this only perpetuates the problem, as it hides the true scope of work left to be done regarding DEI in a workplace.
Solution: Consider whether your organisation has effectively shared data regarding the progress and efficacy of DEI initiatives with your employees, regardless of whether you worry it may be seen as “unflattering.” Transparency is key to effective communication and change in the workplace, and employees will feel more coan organisation’s leadership.
“Your organisation’s DEI initiatives do not reflect your employees’ wants and needs.”
This issue may be indicative of employees’ viewpoints not having been adequately considered in regards to DEI policy. If employees are unaware of DEI policies and practices in place in your organisation, it may be a sign that those policies are not as effective or beneficial for employees as they could be. While DEI policies may have been suggested and implemented with good intentions, employees may not be practically benefiting from it in their daily lives, and therefore are unaware of the policies in place.
Solution: Work to create a safe and supportive environment for employees at all levels of your organisation to feel comfortable giving feedback and making suggestions regarding DEI practices and policies. By continually seeking out and valuing your employees’ feedback on DEI policies, your company can ensure that your time and resources are being spent supporting DEI initiatives that have real impact on those in your organisation.
“The majority of your organisation’s DEI initiatives are presented as isolated events.”
Are your company’s DEI initiatives mostly expressed in isolated events or conversations, as opposed to being executed as part of an ongoing, sustainable DEI roadmap? If a majority of an organisation’s DEI practices and policies are seen as “one-offs,” employees may feel that DEI is not a subject of open, ongoing discussion in their organisation, and communication may feel intimidating to initiate.
Solution: Evaluate whether DEI initiatives in your workplace are expressed and communicated as parts of an ongoing, sustainable roadmap, rather than as isolated events.
“Your organisation’s DEI initiatives are not equally applied throughout levels of your organisation.”
A lack of perception among employees regarding DEI efforts in their workplace can also occur when DEI practices and policies are concentrated around leadership levels, as opposed to throughout the organisation. For example, if concentrated efforts are being made to seek out and support diverse candidates for leadership roles, but not for middle or lower-level positions, many employees may be left unaware that any efforts have been made.
Solution: Assess whether DEI initiatives in your organisation are being applied throughout all levels of employment, and consult with employees from all levels of your organisation as to how effectively DEI policies are being implemented and are making noticeable impacts. Use this feedback to evaluate if different policies may need prioritising in every level of employment to have the most practical benefits for all employees.
The first and most crucial step to address this issue should always be to consult with your employees. Implement an easy, anonymous way for employees to share feedback and suggestions on DEI, and emphasise that their contributions will aid the organisation in working to ensure all employees are comfortable and supported at work. Take time to evaluate whether you have adequately listened to a range of employee perspectives to inform your DEI roadmap; what DEI policies and practices are having the most practical, day-to-day benefits for employees; and the best ways to ensure a culture of communication and conversation regarding DEI is felt by all in the workplace.