Groups of people, identified on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disabilities, religion, or other characteristics, have been unfairly marginalized over time in many organizations, societies, and nations. The effects of such discrimination and unfair treatment include causing employees to feel that they are not wanted, and that they will not be treated fairly. This reduces motivation, increases employee turnover, and lowers productivity. The effects are not necessarily caused intentionally, but they harm business results.
If the effects and the causes of marginalization are identified by management, and if appropriate actions are taken, organizational performance can be improved.
What is DEI?
DEI refers to systematic identification and methodical correction of the causes of poor organizational performance through managerial action, policy, and training to address:
- Diversity – employees from a variety of backgrounds–people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, religions, and more at all levels in an organization, including the leadership level.
- Equity – fairness and justice, particularly referring to compensation and whether people are being paid or treated fairly.
- Inclusion– ensuring that people feel like they belong, and whether they feel heard or valued in an organization.
DEI initiatives focus on three main areas: training, organizational policies and practices, as well as organizational culture. Within those areas there must be initiatives focusing on policies, practices, and culture to correct inequities within an organization. There must also be initiatives addressing discriminatory hiring practices, pay inequity, or rectifying issues that cause poor employee retention rates among marginalized groups.
DEI training is meant to encourage people to be more aware and reflective about inequities and discrimination on an individual level.
Identifying where to begin DEI initiatives
No two DEI initiatives will be the same. Each initiative must match the organization’s size, the nature of its business or mission, and its character. DEI initiatives will change as the organization grows or as its strategic mission or its workforce change.
Larger or more complex businesses may need to start with help from a consulting organization, while business units may independently adopt their own initiative.