DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) has not only become one of the hottest business buzzwords in recent years, it’s also become a contributor to sales and employee retention. More of our clients are investing in DEI programs, whether to cultivate happier and healthier employees, bring more varied perspectives and experiences, or demonstrate their commitment to fair business practices. But sometimes they are not thoroughly weaving those programs into their fabric in authentic, tangible ways.
A focus on DEI cannot be taken as just a ‘tick-box exercise’ for organizations. It should be fundamentally embedded in an organization’s DNA to attract and retain difference-making employees.
Great employees can and will pack up their talents, skills, and knowledge and head for the door when a more fitting opportunity arises. Fostering feelings of value and belonging can help stem the tide of staff turnover.
On the customer side, while buyers may not avoid a brand if it doesn’t demonstrate inclusion, they are more likely to appreciate, trust, engage with, and purchase from brands that do.
40% of employees are at least somewhat likely to leave their current job in the next 3 to 6 months. More than half don’t feel valued by their organizations or managers or don’t feel a sense of belonging at work. And Younger Millennials & Gen Z employees are even more driven by their desire for companies that support their well-being, including their desire to embrace their personal identity.
Creating a sense of inclusion, belonging, and connection is critical to employee attraction and retention. If we take a journey-based point of view, here’s how DEI plays out across a typical employee lifecycle from their perspective:
- Discover: Is how I heard about the opportunity accessible to all?
- Select: Is the hiring process equitable and inclusive?
- Develop: Does everyone have similar opportunities to grow and advance?
- Stay: Am I working in an inclusive culture that engages people from all backgrounds?
Fifty-seven percent of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities in their actions. Almost 60% of consumers say they prefer to buy from brands that stand for diversity and inclusion. This connection is even more vital for Millennial and Generation Z buyers, who are members of the most racially and ethnically diverse populations, and expect brands to reflect that.
Connecting with your buyers and understanding their wants, needs, and behaviors means embracing their diversity and reflecting what you know of them (personalization is an excellent step to forming these kinds of connections!) For customers, here’s how DEI can impact purchase decisions from their perspective:
- Discover: How does this brand project itself and its products/services? Does that align with my expectations?
- Select: Is the brand authentic, inclusive, and reflective of my identity?
- Purchase: Am I treated well and similarly to others like me through the buying process?
- Remain Loyal: Do I believe the brand values me, its employees, and society?
Implications for Research
Undertaking research initiatives with a DEI focus has some different considerations than typical employee and customer research. Not only is DEI expertise necessary, but special care needs to be taken for the following:
- Privacy. People have strong, personal feelings about DEI. Ensuring privacy in interactions is critical to collecting valuable insights. We do not allow our clients to monitor the interview sessions, and sessions are manually recorded by a note taker rather than recorded and transcribed, so all data is anonymized.
- Participant Selection. To ensure a complete picture of the DEI experience, participation from all departments, levels, and regions is strongly needed. Screening for race, ethnicity, gender identity, age, ability, and other factors may be required to create a holistic, inclusive perspective.
- Corporate Data Access. Access to HR and financial systems may be required to identify structural insights if anonymized data sets do not provide sufficient insights. These systems typically include sensitive corporate data and PII, so additional security reviews and process definitions may be required.
- Output Sensitivity. Our analysis may expose sensitive corporate insights. We recommend clients share outputs in carefully monitored ways to ensure a proper understanding of the data and implications.
While these kinds of initiatives require organizational commitment, we can answer many important organizational questions that can help retain employees and customers.
We can learn about employee sentiment, including the current state of DEI initiatives and whether employees are aligned with the goals and practices undertaken by your organization. That current-state employee perspective can help us understand whether employees believe they are working in the environments in which they want to continue working.
Customer sentiment is another critical set of insights. To ensure alignment with their perspectives and interactions align with their expectations, this data also allows us to determine the business impact of alignment and how you compare to the competition.
Leveraging these insights and the information we gather from analyzing systems, we can start charting a course forward to embed an inclusive culture that will meet (and hopefully exceed!) expectations internally and externally. From here, we can build a roadmap and business case that ensures investment and ongoing monitoring against DEI goals.