New Research Presents Practical Steps to Address Workplace Inequity

Author: Victoria Kelleher, HR & Compliance Center Lead Survey Specialist

Date: August 15, 2023

As the upcoming generation occupies a larger portion of the workforce, issues around the topic of diversity will only continue to grow in importance. Not only is Generation Z more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, but members of this generation are also more likely to expect employers to actively work toward cultivating diversity in the workplace.

The recent DIAL Global Diversity Review, co-sponsored by HR & Compliance Center, presents comprehensive data on the practices being used to promote diversity in the workplace today. This report addresses various facets of diversity from gender and ethnicity to socioeconomic status and parenthood. Though each of these has unique considerations, some of the report's recommendations apply across the board. Business leaders can use these suggestions to develop a more strategic approach to diversity, demonstrating a lasting commitment that will help attract and retain top talent.

Detecting the Symptoms of Inequity

A doctor would not rush into a treatment plan before conducting a proper assessment. Serious problems often fly under the radar if a patient goes unheard. Most would agree that it is very difficult to find a solution when you are blissfully unaware that there is a problem - and, for those in a position of authority, this can quickly devolve into a more complex problem or a lawsuit.

Similarly, leaders at any organization cannot expect to improve representation and equity practices without a full audit of marginalized talent segments. One valuable asset that can inform this process is the employee voice. Channels for employee feedback that raise issues to the attention of decisionmakers can ensure that any "symptoms" plaguing the employee experience of those from diverse groups don't get overlooked.

This feedback can be especially useful when it reveals blockers that may be disproportionately holding back employees from diverse groups and causing underrepresentation at higher job levels. The DIAL report recommends that leaders streamline the collection of this information if they are able to identify sites in the job hierarchy where there appears to be a bottleneck in diverse talent mobility.

An organization must have an organized approach to collecting and handling demographic data to effectively identify these bottlenecks. The DIAL report recommends that organizations:

  • Integrate any disparate data files on an organization's demographics so that the same comprehensive diversity data is accessible to the whole team;
  • Analyze the data for job levels at which there seems to be a drop-off of diverse representation when compared to the job levels below; and
  • Gather targeted feedback from diverse talent at these points about obstacles they may be facing that are blocking career progress through focus groups and 1-1 interviews.

Designing DEI Interventions

Every organization has a unique situation, so the problems uncovered when collecting data may require different solutions. Regardless of the specifics, however, leaders should play an active role in setting targets and designing the measures that can be put in place to address issues. Making sure that diverse groups have representation in leadership teams is also an important step to demonstrate how diversity is valued an organization.

When leaders uncover blockers that are disrupting the career progression of employees from diverse groups, they should design initiatives to mentor or coach diverse talent. Managers and leaders should also take the initiative to advocate for diverse employees so that they are considered for opportunities that may not otherwise be accessible to them.

More generally, there are some steps an organization can take to make sure business practices are in line with leading practices. The DIAL report recommends that business leaders do the following:

  • Undertake an Inclusive Leadership Assessment to detect dysfunction or misalignment with leading practices;
  • Ensure that any partners your organization works with in the recruitment process take measures to source candidates from diverse populations;
  • Reevaluate talent practices so that the potential for bias is minimized (e.g., a diverse interview panel to judge job candidates, rather than one person making hiring decisions);
  • Conduct a review of policies, practices, and benefits to identify and adjust those that may be affecting diverse talent differently (e.g., healthcare for domestic partners);
  • Consider adding additional benefits that will help support the needs of some diverse groups (e.g., flexible work to support parents or neurodiverse employees); and
  • Ensure that your organization takes a holistic approach to support employee wellbeing, with policies and practices that can be adjusted to meet the unique individual needs of each employee.

Taking steps to follow these recommendations can make an enormous difference in an organization's progress. On a broader scale, businesses can only benefit from taking strides toward an inclusive culture in which all employees feel valued and supported to perform at their best.