75%: Percentage of American professionals who said their organization enhanced its DEI programming following the racial unrest of 2020
Over the last year, following the deaths of a number of Black Americans at the hands of police, conversations around racial inequality and social justice have exploded, prompting many companies to revisit their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. From using AI to drive inclusion to bolstering a commitment to transparency, DEI has solidified its spot on the priority list of most HR leaders in recent months. And, according to new research, that work is yielding results.
A new survey from Korn Ferry found that 75% of business professionals who responded said their organization had enhanced its DEI efforts following the racial unrest of 2020. Those programs were relatively well-perceived by respondents: 62% rated them as very or somewhat effective. Twenty-four percent said their companies’ DEI initiatives were somewhat ineffective, and 14% reported them not effective at all. More than half (54%) of survey participants said their respective organization had seen its talent pool diversify in the last year.
What it means for HR leaders
While the numbers were promising, La Tonya Woodson, Korn Ferry senior manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, notes that an authentic commitment to DEI must transcend simple action items like a one-day seminar, quarterly event or annual compliance course.
“DEI has to be the core of the organization’s culture and interwoven through the lens of DEI, and it should be evident both internally and externally,” Woodson says. That includes everything from recruiting, hiring, onboarding and development to marketing, communication, performance management, compensation, benefits and more.
To ensure DEI initiatives are sustainable and effective, DEI needs to be explicitly written into company mission, vision and values. Similarly, strong buy-in from the top of the organization and modeling by business leaders of DEI also communicates that it’s an organizational commitment, not merely a business function. Employee resource groups can also be essential partners for organizations looking to extend the reach of their DEI teams, Woodson adds.
The move to expand beyond traditional “diversity and inclusion” language to include equity is also important for long-term sustainability.
“At Korn Ferry, we now refer to our practice as DE&I because equity–meeting people where they are–needs to be addressed. Different demographics have different needs, and what may work for one group doesn’t necessarily work for another group,” she says. “While it’s important to have an overall consistent approach, it’s also important to best understand what each group needs and then find ways to address those needs and eliminate any barriers to opportunities and access.”
“It’s critical,” Woodson adds, “that HR work with company leadership to find meaningful, authentic ways to include DEI into the very core of what the company stands for.”