Quick Look: The call for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is reaching new heights as today’s professionals are urging company leaders to take meaningful action. What’s currently viewed as a competitive advantage will soon become a business necessity to appeal to this generation of job seekers. Therefore, employers must design clear, actionable plans and generate ongoing conversations supporting DEI if they want to continue recruiting and retaining top talent.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a popular topic in today’s business landscape. Over the previous few decades, much progress has been made to level the professional playing field — but businesses are recognizing there is still much more to do. Many small and medium-sized business (SMB) employers recognize the need to improve their organization’s approach to DEI. According to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey, 4 out of 5 employers will take steps to promote DEI over the next three years.
However, many business leaders are unsure of exactly what is meant by DEI and have misconceptions surrounding the concept and its application. Here are seven common myths to help SMB employers gain a greater understanding of DEI, its value, and its implication for business.
Myth 1: DEI is a one-time initiative
DEI is not a single line item to check off a list. Instead, it’s a commitment to lasting organizational change. This means re-evaluating many previously overlooked elements of the business, including recruiting, promotions, pay equity, company culture, and long-term strategies to ensure all team members have an equal voice.
Achieving permanent DEI improvement means being open to evaluating every aspect of the company and being willing to make and stick to changes. For small and medium-sized businesses, undertaking this type of evolution may initially seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many tools, support systems, and resources available to help SMB leaders take a thoughtful approach to DEI, including:
• Sophisticated HRIS software featuring DEI tools
• DEI summits, workshops, and training
• Third-party DEI consultants
• Working with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO)
Myth 2: “Equity” is the same as “equality”
“Equity” and “equality” have two distinct meanings and SMB employers should understand the difference.“Equity” is the idea of fairness and impartiality, of providing opportunities for all employees based on individual needs. Unlike across-the-board “equality” efforts, “equity” acknowledges different individuals have unique needs and strives to provide support addressing those specific needs. It usually also includes rebalancing existing systems to mitigate disadvantages experienced by minority groups.
Myth 3: Discrimination is only about gender, race, and age
While these three are among the most obvious factors for potential discrimination, there are many less visible areas where employees may face discrimination. These include marital status, (dis)ability status, whether the employee is a parent, vaccination status, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation. SMB employers should evaluate whether their hiring practices unfairly prioritize (or deprioritize) individuals from particular groups.
Remember, “diversity” does not mean artificially imposing quotas or terminating staff of a particular group to achieve a 50/50 balance. Instead, “diversity” means evaluating whether or not the company is heavily skewed toward (or away from) a particular group and evolving hiring practices to produce a workplace more reflective of the available talent pool.
Even the implication of discrimination can have serious consequences for employers. Like all businesses, SMBs are subject to compliance regulation under the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Act as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA). PEO companies like ExtensisHR help SMBs navigate the complexities of this legislation, ensuring policies and practices remain compliant. Support from HR experts protects employers in the event of litigation.
Myth 4: DEI is limited to recruiting
While efforts to diversify a company’s workforce must happen during the recruiting phase, true DEI involves lasting structural change. The “inclusion” element of DEI refers to the meaningful steps an organization takes to provide equal opportunities for all team members to make their perspectives heard. Inclusion provides space and support for employees to grow. If an organization achieves greater diversity without following up with inclusive policies, the diversity efforts are simply tokenism.
The HR experts at a PEO company can help SMBs adjust recruiting efforts to promote DEI as well as implement new education programs, training, and data management tools to evolve company culture and monitor progress.
Myth 5: Disparities are obvious
Company leaders may not recognize gaps in pay equity or hiring practices without data support. This is why collecting, aggregating, and evaluating company data through the lens of DEI is so important. Sophisticated HRIS software, like HR Knowledge Cloud, may feature DEI-specific analytics tools to provide real-time insight into areas where a company may not be reaching its DEI goals.
The ability to capture and compare detailed data enables SMBs to quickly ascertain where they may be falling short, then craft a pointed strategy for improvement. Ongoing data collection is the only way to accurately evaluate the accomplishment of true change. SMBs without sufficient HR management software in place should consider partnering with a PEO company to gain immediate access to these advanced tools.
Myth 6: SMBs can handle DEI on their own
Some businesses may have adequate in-house HR teams to design and implement robust DEI programs. But for most SMBs, limited resources and budgets make enacting new DEI programs a challenge. Partnering with a PEO company like ExtensisHR provides SMBs access to seasoned HR professionals who can evaluate company policies through the lens of DEI and provide guidance on re-shaping business programs.
PEO companies help SMBs review areas where they may unwittingly undermine DEI efforts or expose the business to compliance violations, including questions on application forms, information evaluated in background checks, recruiting questions and discussion topics, facility and parking accessibility, and performance review processes.
Myth 7: DEI doesn’t really matter
Some business owners may consider DEI to be nothing more than a “feel-good initiative,” but increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion has positive real-world implications. A recent study by McKinsey & Company found “companies exhibiting gender and ethnic diversity are, respectively, 15% and 35% more likely to outperform less diverse peers.” DEI is not a fad – it’s a proven means of increasing organizational flexibility, long-term resilience, and profitability.
Ready to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace? Contact ExtensisHR today and let our human resources experts help.