“An employer that pledges to not discriminate against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.”
Whether on a job description or career page, this is a familiar phrase showing an organization’s commitment to equal opportunity. What does this statement really mean and how does it relate to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)?
The importance of DE&I has been catapulted into the national spotlight as inequities persist and employers feel a tremendous responsibility to create work environments where everyone feels welcomed. This requires understanding the laws, listening to your team, reflecting on what you’ve learned and taking action. The pay-off for equal opportunity employers that focus on DE&I is clear: employees feel valued, safe, empowered and are more invested in helping organizations succeed.
Let’s start by understanding how these intertwined concepts work together but are different. An equal opportunity employer means respecting equality, diversity, and inclusion norms. While connected, each term has a distinct role in creating the company of tomorrow:
- Equal Opportunity Employer: American Civil Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate against employees or potential employees based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Equal employment opportunity (EEO) rights are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- Diversity: valuing the unique attributes and characteristics of every individual. Gender, race, age, sexuality, disability, education and class are all factors of a diverse workforce. This list isn’t static; it should evolve as our understanding evolves
- Inclusion: feeling a sense of belonging in the workplace and that your voice is heard and respected
- Equity: recognizing certain groups are subject to advantages/disadvantages when developing processes and programs. Rather than blanket policies, equity-led businesses consider disadvantages, so everyone has the same chance of succeeding
Employees increasingly expect their employer to take a clear stance on DE&I and develop new initiatives. It can feel daunting to enact this kind of change across your company. From employee engagement and financial performance to company reputation, the benefits of a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy can be far-reaching and meaningful.
- Varied talents, experiences and perspectives help teams better tackle business challenges. They come up with more creative and inventive solutions. In fact, they are six times more likely to be innovative and agile.1
- Organizations with an inclusive culture are twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial goals.1
- Millennials and Gen-Z will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and they want to work for companies that are DE&I leaders.
Now is the time to take a critical look at your policies with a DE&I lens and create an action plan. Identify any areas of concern such as diverse representation in upper management, pay equity and hiring trends that don’t support your DE&I goals. Create a diverse employee panel to discuss your findings and brainstorm policy changes that can promote DE&I in your workplace. Identify opportunities to bring awareness and engage co-workers in the importance of DE&I training. Once deployed, be sure to measure programs. DE&I is not a one and done initiative, it requires an ongoing commitment to review and adjust efforts as needed.
MidwestHR is a leading Certified Professional Employer Organization (CPEO) in Illinois. For over 20 years, clients have outsourced their HR functions to our team of trusted experts. Leaders can stay focused on growing the business knowing we’re handling any payroll, benefits, retirement questions, employee training, DE&I policy development, help with hiring and so much more. Give us a call at 630-836-3000 and learn how we can help you shape a resilient organization filled with diverse voices and equally diverse solutions.