Ready or not, it’s 2022. When it comes to convincing employees and candidates that your company promotes an inclusive culture, one-time donations and celebrity partnerships aren’t going to cut it.
In fact, a recent survey by JUST Capital found that while 69% of employers believe they have a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program with clearly defined DEI goals, only 49% of employees agree. That’s a 20% margin for hypocrisy, communication misfires, and more than a little cognitive dissonance within your teams.
And that’s not all. The survey also found that one in four employees report that they are ‘not sure’ how much progress their organization has made. Not exactly, the “strong stance” most employers claim to take.
The data is clear. While many companies have been talking the talk, not so many have been walking the walk when it comes to soup-to-nuts implementation of DEI policies.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the emerging equity and inclusion trends in workplace DEI initiatives and share some key steps for how leadership and hiring teams at growing businesses can set goals, and move from talk to action.
DEI Trend #1 — Go hybrid or go home (literally)
Let’s start with the elephant in the Zoom, um we mean, room.
The past couple of years have proven that working from home (WFH) isn’t just a fad, but a real possibility for driving business forward while giving employees the flexible work options they crave.
A McKinsey global survey of 5,000 employees found that nearly 75% of them would like to work from home at least two days per week. And when a Goldman Sachs employee asked a group of professionals if they would choose to work from home over a $30,000 pay increase, a whopping 64% of them said they’d pass on the extra cash to keep their WFH perks.
Employees have had a lot of time to rethink their careers. For those who have spent the time learning and working remotely, they would gladly switch companies before going back to a rigid office environment.
But this trend isn’t just about retaining the people you have. It also applies to companies that want to hire new talent too. As CEO of Worksheet Master, Jonah Phillips put it:
“Companies that are supportive of all-remote working options have access to a much broader and more diverse pool of talent than companies that require in-person work of all employees.”
So how should this look in practice? Let’s take a look at how Salesforce has supported its employees via its new hybrid workplace policy.
Improve DEI Case Study: Salesforce’s Success From Anywhere
To ensure employees stay on top of their game, Salesforce introduced the Success From Anywhere and Flex Team Agreements program.
Both programs made it possible for team members to decide how, when and where they work. Employees had the option of fully remote or office-based work.
With only 30% of their desks being used on average, Salesforce redesigned its offices to free up more social spaces. They added more booths, communal tables and focus pods to create extra space for connection and collaboration.
Way to go, Salesforce!🎉
So far, the cloud-based software company has gotten some pretty inspiring results. Individual and team productivity has increased by 16% and 13% respectively. The number of emails sent has reduced by 46% as teams opt for more real-time collaboration.
How to set employees up for success with hybrid work
- Give your team options. If you can, let employees choose between office-based and full remote work. For those that have to be in the office, create flexible plans that allow them to work from home on certain days.
- Measure productivity based on output, not hours. Rather than limiting your view to the number of hours logged in the physical or even virtual workspace, look at the overall impact on the quality of service, deliverables, and the company’s bottom line.
- Allocate time for in-person collaboration. For example, scheduling a simple brainstorming session on days when the majority of the team is expected to be in the office is a great way to keep human connections strong, even in a hybrid setup.
DEI Trend #2 — Employees will push for DEI, but they shouldn’t have to.
In its DEI Training Forecasts for 2022, CEO of Chicago-based CareerBuilder, Sue Arthur, told SHRM that job seekers will start to focus more on joining companies that actively initiate and implement DEI policies.
This goes to show how crucial it is for DEI to be front and center in your recruitment and hiring strategy. Derek Belch, CEO and co-founder of Strivr echoed Arthur’s emphasis on action, and added that he believes there will also be a push for better management.
“There will be no excuse for bad management in 2022, as employees will push for better management training. Horror stories from front-line workers have spotlighted a major problem that has been dragging down retention rates: bad managers,” he says.
“Improving management behaviors and preparing employees to de-escalate conflicts with customers has become critical to not just improving customer experience, but also employee morale and retention," explains Derek.
Companies like Asana are way ahead of the employee push. Let’s see what they’ve been doing to promote DEI.
Improve DEI Case Study: Asana’s mission to Build, Recruit, Thrive
Asana is building on a three part strategy — build, recruit, thrive — that is specifically designed to make the company a more diverse and inclusive place to work.
So far, they’ve adopted policies like:
- Pay equity analysis by gender identity and race/ethnicity conducted by an outside vendor twice per year to ensure equitable compensation across all levels.
- Dedicated outreach for early career programs to talent from underrepresented communities with a focus on HBCUs, university clubs and women’s colleges.
- DIB onboarding curriculum for new employees and quarterly AMA sessions with the Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.
How to help employees thrive
- Start implementing DEI policies before employees have to ask for them.
- Actively ask for employee feedback to make sure you aren’t just blindly following trends.
- Include DEI training in your employee onboarding process. Train managers and executives so they’re better equipped to uphold DEI policies.
- Work with an objective consultant to help ensure your DEI policy is implemented and measured.
DEI Trend #3. — More women will join the tech industry
In the same DEI Training Forecasts for 2022 outlook, Digital Transformation Strategy Director at Frisco, Zeanique L. Barber told SHRM that there will likely be an increase in the number of women joining the tech industry.
And we are so here for gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 💪🏽
"Women in tech in 2022 will likely see a year of an incremental increase (2 percent to 3 percent) of new tech hires, and with the exit of Baby Boomers from the workforce, coupled with the 1 in 4 people quitting their jobs during the Great Resignation, there will also be an incremental increase of women in tech in leadership positions,” she said.
In an article for Forbes, CEO of healthcare tech company Ludi, Gail Peace said that one of the best ways for companies to support women is to support families. In 2021, Gail and her team added parental benefits, including extensive maternity and paternity leave, to Ludi’s overall employee benefits package.
No matter which way you cut it, research from the past two years has shown that working mothers left the workforce in droves during the Covid-19 pandemic. CRO at Lighthouse, Ben Eubanks, told us that this exit has created a devastating gap in the knowledge, innovation and value that companies can create.
So whether you run a tech company or any other kind of company, if you want to make your organization a great place for women, you need to put the right support systems in place to help win them back.
How you can support women at work
- Offer flexible benefits and time off.
- Mentor and sponsor your female-identifying employees.
- Connect women with other industry leaders and experts to make it easier for them to accelerate in their careers.
- Provide parental benefits to support employees and their families.
DEI Trend #4 — Career trajectory will matter more than ever
Last year, CEO of The Muse, Kathryn Minshew told us that employers need to prove that they aren’t engaging with DEI for the sake of it. And one way to do that is to create support systems for diverse talent to thrive.
“Recruiters and managers need to make clear why they're interested in the candidate based on their skills and experience, and communicate what support systems are in place to help that person thrive in their role,” said Kathryn.
As part of this growing trend, President of Wiley Education Services, Todd Zipper told SHRM that he sees companies becoming more strategic about how they use educational benefits to attract diverse talent in 2022.
"In order to fuel their talent pipelines with career-ready individuals, employers will need to shoulder some of the responsibility in training their workforce in the skills and competencies they need…Education benefits are not a new offering, but in 2022 and beyond we [also] will see employers deploying these offerings more strategically”.
Real educational support should go beyond tuition assistance and on-the-job skills training. Employees should be trained in leadership skills to prepare them for managerial and executive roles.
If you really want to stand out in the new talent market, don’t be afraid to actively promote your career development opportunities on diverse job boards.
From there, be sure to use a non-biased, candidate-first applicant tracking system that helps you connect with incoming applicants and share more information about what you can offer them.
How to support employee career development
- Encourage and sponsor employees to take leadership focused training. You can even bring in industry experts to train them.
- Connect employees with mentors from within and outside of your company. This one is especially useful for people from minority groups who may find it hard to access mentorship from higher level executives.
- Show employees that you’re serious about diversity in leadership. Work to improve DEI in executive and managerial positions within your organization.
DEI Trend #5 — No more cutting corners on mental health
In the The State of Employee Health and Well-being 2021 report, the HR Research Institute found that 83% of leaders agree that mental health is among their top five HR priorities.
The survey also found that employees are most likely to suffer from mental health problems due to issues related to work-life balance and heavy workloads. The long-term effects of extended social isolation and stress due to fully remote work are two of the core issues employers will have to be mindful of moving forward.
Some companies have taken up the task, offering solid mental health benefits to employees. For example, Asana offers its employees free therapy, free executive and life coaching, and an employee-only mental health community.
How to support employee mental wellbeing
- Encourage employees to take breaks. By showing employees that you’re ok with them taking time off, you make them feel comfortable enough to ask when they need it.
- As a small or growing business, you might not be able to offer free therapy but you can encourage team members to check in on one another’s wellbeing. The easiest way to do this is to simply lead by example.
- Give your remote team the chance to meet in person. Since social isolation is one of the causes of stress in employees, in-person collaboration gives your team the chance to forge new connections and strengthen bonds.
Employers, lace up. DEI is a long game.
Beyond reading about the latest DEI trends and checking in on what other companies are doing, the most important thing employers can do is to start taking steps that translate to measurable impact within your organization.
It’s safe to say 2021 was the year of commitment, and 2022 should be the year of action and accountability. Job applicants are no longer interested in written statements on your website, they want to see the real-world impact of your DEI policies.
So audit your existing policies, measure your success so far, and map out a clear plan to do better in 2022. And when the road gets long just remember, both your current and future employees are counting on you.