DEI Initiatives: Best Practices for Engaging Employees

Leverage your DEI strategy to drive employee engagement and recruitment.

Embracing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives has become a priority for most businesses, particularly in the last few years. However, some companies have pulled back on DEI efforts in 2023 in the wake of internal and external backlash, and a slowing economy. But the good news is, there are still many organizations still investing in diversity programs.

Numerous studies have found that implementing diversity initiatives to address such topics as race, ethnicity, genders, sexual orientations, experiences, education, and personalities improves business performance by 25% to 45%. In fact, according to a Quantum Workplace Study, employees who believe their company is doing well in the areas of DEI tend to be more engaged than employees who don’t think their companies are doing well. And, from a recruitment perspective, about 53% of U.S. workers say a company’s DEI initiatives play a key role in their decision about where to work.

At Padilla, we’ve implemented our own DEI initiatives and have made progress recruiting more diverse talent and fostering a more inclusive work environment. We also include DEI efforts as part of our corporate responsibility program. Many of those programs are featured in our most recent Report to Our Community. Not only are these community efforts simply the right thing to do and instrumental to our values and culture, but they also help support our recruitment and retention efforts.

A study conducted by a group of college communication and PR professors found that employees who worked for companies that talked more about their commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment also were more engaged in their work.

Increasingly, we are talking to more and more companies about DEI communications. They recognize the importance of DEI to their bottom line – as well as its impact on their recruiting and retention efforts, corporate reputation and employee engagement. However, some companies continue to struggle with finding the right approach to developing internal DEI initiatives.

There’s tremendous opportunity to leverage DEI efforts to increase engagement (and so much more!), but to be truly effective, the walk and the talk MUST align. A commitment to DEI can be a powerful differentiator, but success requires four key elements:

  1. Cultural Alignment: Understand how DEI fits into your current culture. Identify gaps and opportunities to ensure your company is walking the talk and put programs and initiatives in place to act upon them.
  2. Thoughtful Storytelling: Craft a compelling, consistent story (backed by proof points) to engage employees and stakeholders, and to help showcase the company’s efforts internally and externally. Highlight outcomes, not good intentions.
  3. Transparency: While it’s important to celebrate success, it’s equally important to communicate opportunity. Be honest with your employees about where you can do better, and how you plan to get there.
  4. Integration: Collaborate to ensure the employee value proposition, recruitment brand, and internal and external communications accurately reflect and tell the story of the company’s commitment to DEI.

Most importantly, never stop making progress in DEI initiatives. Keeping an open mind is crucial to continuous improvement and maintaining a safe space for employees. Encouraging them to be proud of who they are speaks volumes and helps to drive employee engagement, recruitment and your bottom line.

This post was updated from February 2020, originally written by Julie McCracken.

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