Discover the Powerful Link Between DEI & Employee Engagement

How would your development strategy change if you knew that 94% of employees stay longer at companies offering effective learning and development opportunities? That’s about as close to universal as you can get in the HR world, and it also suggests that every company out there should be analyzing their current employee growth paths.

Focusing on development is crucial, especially considering the current climate where maintaining high engagement has never been more challenging. Gallup shows that employee engagement is the lowest it’s been in decades while disengagement is on the rise. 

As an HR leader, how can you attack this challenge of low employee engagement scores?

A graph from Gallup comparing the percent of engaged employees to actively disengaged employees

Via Gallup

Solving the problem begins with getting granular. Even if there is widespread disengagement, it’s unlikely that every employee is facing exactly the same challenges. If you can break the problem down into discrete groups that are facing similar challenges, you can identify shared pain points and create action plans to solve them. One great way to get started is to pay attention to the direct link between DEI and employee engagement.

Harvard Business Review reports that men are more likely to be satisfied with growth and development opportunities than their female colleagues. Meanwhile, people of color must wait longer to reach management and executive levels (if promoted at all) as a consequence of identity-based discrimination.

Also, remember that the gender pay gap still exists. According to Pew Research, women are still making roughly 82% of the salary of their male counterparts. That means that women are not only feeling left behind in growth opportunities, they’re still making substantially less money than their male counterparts. 

These default background conditions provide plenty of fodder for disengagement and dissatisfaction within your organization. At the same time, you have some easy, pre-defined places to look for some quick DEI and employee engagement wins.

Focusing on solutions for diverse talent means a general improvement to your entire organization. When 66% of HR leaders agree career paths within their organizations are not compelling for many employees, having a solution that impacts people on every level is revolutionary. This is one area in which a rising tide truly does lift all boats. 

For modern HR leaders who know the value of improving the work lives of their employees, it’s a guiding light for taking action. But what does this look like in practice? Let’s define this link and explore what you can do.

What is the Link Between DEI and Employee Engagement?

A lack of career development is a very common problem, with the people who feel the most marginalized needing the most support. When you create internal pipelines for diverse talent, you begin to level the playing field. DEI acts as a catalyst for engagement transformation. It’s also a great excuse to finally begin providing the types of programs that your employees have been asking for. DEI programs and Employee Resource Groups often serve as test beds for programs that are ultimately rolled out to the whole organization. For example, Research by Headspace found that over half of all respondents reported that their company’s DEI efforts had a positive effect on their mental health, regardless of their participation in specific programs.

There’s Power in Having Different Perspectives

Imagine a diverse workforce as similar to an orchestra of musicians playing different instruments. Individually, these instruments are beautiful, but it’s only when they come together, that they can play a symphony. The musicians inspire one another, pushing each other to be better, but they also make unique contributions that the other musicians can’t.

This is similar to having a diverse workforce. Diversity brings a variety of experiences, ideas, and perspectives. This diversity can truly invigorate high potential employees, leading to more creative and innovative problem-solving. Employees who are exposed to different ways of thinking can have their potential unlocked in new ways. 

These concepts are proven in results too. Diverse and inclusive organizations work 12% harder and their employees are 19% more likely to stay longer while collaborating 57% more effectively with peers.

Equity Promotes Fairness and Motivation

Opportunity breeds opportunity. Effective equity in action acknowledges that each employee has a different background and allocates the exact resources needed for them to reach an equal standing with other employees. When your talented employees perceive their workplace as equitable, they feel respected and valued, regardless of their background or identity.

This “level playing field” in the workplace ensures that all employees have access to the same opportunities for growth, development, and vertical or horizontal advancement

This sense of fairness can significantly improve employee engagement. People who believe that they have access to the same opportunities as their peers are much more likely to feel a strong sense of loyalty and dedication.

Tip: Try implementing a virtual employee development program – it’s flexible, accessible, and can be more cost-effective.

Inclusion leads to Engagement

Employees who feel included and valued, regardless of their background, are much more likely to be engaged with their work. Inclusion means that every employee’s voice is heard, their contributions are appreciated, and their unique identities are respected. It fosters a sense of belonging and commitment to the organization. 

It was further found that companies prioritizing DEI initiatives were over 2x more likely to see significant increases in revenue last year than others (42% vs. 18%)

Use DEI as a Trojan Horse for Change

Despite estimates that 77% of employees are unengaged at work, a problem that is costs the global economy $8.8 trillion per year, specific “employee engagement departments” don’t exist. Low employee engagement scores aren’t usually found in reports to the board. You’ve likely been asked the question, “Why is employee development important?” from your executives. 

ESG and CSR reports, on the other hand, are carefully scrutinized by executives and resources are being put towards DEI to help push change. This presents an opportunity for HR leaders to think about the realities of how DEI works and its connection to employee engagement. You can utilize the information gathered through DEI resources, such as manager satisfaction notes and engagement scores, and map solutions toward fixing them. 

Then, as those solutions start to show promise, you can promote them to the rest of the organization.

Companies that recruit and develop diversity in gender, ethnicity, age, experience, and race are more likely to outperform their competitors. There’s a reason why employee development practices are strategic!

Foster a Culture of DEI to Increase Employee Engagement

HR leaders must stop measuring and start acting. It’s a new world and we cannot continue to take the same approaches of the past. Modern company culture is rapidly evolving and employees have different expectations than they once had. 

If you’re not meeting those expections head on, you’re not getting the full potential of your team, and you might lose your employees to the competition.

Success is about building a culture that understands the reality of DEI and employee engagement.

Wondering what employee coaching programs your organization can try to get real results?

Book a demo with PILOT today!


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