Perhaps long overdue, the attention on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace has skyrocketed. Opportunities for DEI-related jobs rose 123% between May and September 2020. Organizations are also addressing DEI in facets such as their employee culture.
The pandemic, politics, and social justice issues “caused widespread societal examination of our how we think, act and conduct ourselves,” says Odessa Jenkins, president of Emtrain. “I like to call this time in our history as ‘The Great Introspection.’ The world is physically changing and so is the workplace. Exhibiting and working towards DEI is now table stakes for any business that wants to attract and retain employees for a thriving brand.”
WorkingNation had the chance to talk with Jenkins at the recent ASU-GSV convention. Her company trains corporate employees to help them develop what she describes as “healthy” workplaces through programs, some of which are DEI-focused. She says DEI training previously accounted for just 10% of its new business. Now, it accounts for half.
Broadly defined, Emtrain defines diversity as all the ways people are different. Those differences shape how the world is seen and how people interact in it. She says DEI is more than just the people (employees, managers, potential hires) but the organization’s structure itself that can create a truly inclusive environment to attract and grow the kind of diverse workforce it wants. She recommends employers do a self-assessment.
“How am I structured to ensure that I’m listening to my employees? What are the tools that I’m providing to new hires to help me learn what their competencies and skills are, because what you think you hired and what a person might be on their first day might be different, right?” she asks. “In a lot of ways, during the interview and onboarding process, you meet someone’s representative. People become their authentic self as they get comfortable in the workplace.”
This, Jenkins says, can lead to inclusivity and diversity across and throughout the organization – from an employee base to the board. Organizations can develop internal collaborations organically and grow communities such as employee resource groups.
Like other key performance indicators, organizations are now measuring their DEI efforts and its impact on finances. At first, that can look like a simple counting of members within a category or community, or the number of employees from a specific demographic. Analysis of this data, she says, can help organizations achieve equity and inclusion in a deliberate, thoughtful way.
“It’s not just what your people look like, but where are you spending your time, your talent and your money, and how is that truly driving you to be more equitable and more inclusive? Because at the end of the day, if you want to make space for true diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of race, of ethnicity, of gender, of identity, of ability,” Jenkins says. “There’s so much when it comes to diversity and what that word truly means. But if you really want to create an environment where diversity lives and stays, then you have to be intentional with your time, your resources, and your talent.”
It’s a worthy investment. Not just a buzzword or trend of the times, studies show that companies led by diverse teams are more profitable than those that aren’t.
“More than in any other time in the history of our world, people of diverse backgrounds are interacting. They are working together, living amongst each other and relying on each other. No business is exempt from the impacts of diversity,” Jenkins says. “The health, growth and value of your business is dependent on how well you adapt to change. Making room for and valuing inclusion and representation is not optional. Businesses who don’t take action, make plans and invest in being inclusive, will be less valuable and competitive.”