Is your DEI program missing this key element?

If employers aren't actively informing their workforces about DEI progress, true progress could be out of reach, a new survey finds.
By: | August 25, 2021 • 3 min read

When it comes to perception of workplace diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, employees and employers appear to be in very different places, according to a recent survey.

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The State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts: Progress, Priorities and Opportunities, from recruiting software company Lever, found that while nearly all employers (97%) said they had introduced new DEI measures in the last year, 24% of employees surveyed believe their employer actually has not introduced any new measures.

So, what’s causing the substantial gap?

“While the survey provides an optimistic outlook on organization’s commitment to DEI, it also uncovers an important reality: Employees aren’t aware of their company’s efforts,” says Annie Lin, vice president of people at Lever, which partnered with Zogby Analytics for the online survey, which polled 513 HR decision-makers and 1,010 employed adults.

See also: Why working women need a ‘culture of inclusion’ right now

And meaningful change to close the chasm on perception will take time, measurable data and, importantly, better communication, Lin says.

Currently, communication efforts around DEI represent a barrier for employers and employees. For example, while 64% of companies have added information about DEI program to their organizations’ website homepages, less than one-third of employees noticed their company doing this. Also, 51% of employers report sharing DEI updates through company-wide channels, but just 24% of employees report that this happened at their organization.

Perceptions also vary depending on the type of equity measure introduced. For instance, in the last year, 52% of employers introduced measures to ensure employee pay is equal across titles or positions, but less than one-quarter of employees reported this happening at their organization. About one-third of organizations started using gender-inclusive language in their employee handbooks, a shift that only resonated with 18% of employees. And, about 27% of employers introduced or expanded inclusive benefits and perks, but just 9% of employees reported their employer took this step.

“As DEI efforts continue to become a higher priority for more companies—a very positive trend—leaders will also need to share updates with, and solicit feedback from, their teams more intentionally,” Lin says.

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For example, she says, Lever has implemented regular and open lines of communication with its employee resource groups, incorporated DEI into company-wide OKRs and regularly includes DEI as a topic for check-ins with leadership teams.

“It is disingenuous to talk about DEI without action,” Lin says. “And it is also a missed opportunity to take action on DEI without talking about it—employees often have great ideas and feedback to share on DEI initiatives, including whether or not they’re actually having the intended impact day-to-day.”


Diversity, equity and inclusion will be the focus of a track at the upcoming HR Technology Conference, Sept. 28-Oct. 1 in Las Vegas. Click here to register.

Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.