Like other Purpose initiatives, companies were quick to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and declare their commitment to the ideal of a fair and equitable workplace—but in a struggle to quantify goals, progress and strategies, many ended up just treading water with no clear direction. But this elusion may finally be giving way to focus.
New research from hiring and retention advisory Salary.com reveals a solid corporate commitment still in place, and also reveals a telling path to achievement: 41 percent of survey respondents say that DEI progress has become a measurable objective for their organization’s leadership team. There is also acknowledgement of the many positive business outcomes that DEI can achieve, with HR pros crediting it for improved employee engagement/satisfaction and greater access to talent.
Leadership accountability and measurable goals demonstrate that U.S. companies are committed to DEI, though the survey also sheds light on areas where companies’ actions are lagging their intentions.
The survey also demonstrates that there is much progress to be made, despite DEI gaining strong footing in over half of U.S. companies. Still a nascent business process, only a third of organizations have a DEI budget and less than half have someone designated to DEI. Of those, 41 percent have been in the role for 1-2 years. The survey was designed to assess the current state of DEI and received 600+ responses from HR professionals across the U.S. representing 20 industries.
Measurable goals for DEI
For organizations where there is accountability for DEI success, the top two measurable goals are increasing DEI education and assessing pay equity. The rise of pay equity assessments is indicative of the many states that have enacted pay transparency and equal pay legislation, and the rising number that have legislation pending.
The value of a diverse workforce
There is significant value being placed on a diverse workforce, with a third of organizations reporting they have conducted a diversity audit. Achieving a diverse workforce is a complicated process, and the vast majority of survey respondents are leveraging technology to realize diversity:
- 89 percent using it to enhance recruiting processes
- 77 percent for the creation of job descriptions
- 65 percent for pay equity
In addition to technology, more than a third of HR pros are building a diverse recruitment pipeline via partnerships with HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), minority professional and MBA organizations/associations.
Two steps forward, one step back
“Given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on affirmative action, some retrenchment around DEI can be expected,” said Lenna Turner, head of DEI for Salary.com, in a news release. “Yet, this survey makes clear that most HR practitioners appreciate that DEI principles can positively impact innovation, employee morale, customer satisfaction and the bottom line. As often happens with transformative change, corporate actions are lagging their intentions. But there are also many corporate leaders who are boldly leading the way and I am confident that other organizations will follow. To be competitive, they will have no choice.”
Challenges and benefits of DEI
A lack of time and resources was by far the biggest challenge cited by HR professionals in advancing their DEI efforts, followed by access to sufficient budget, employee participation and leadership accountability and buy-in. Most measure their progress by the number of diverse employees. In the “other” category respondents listed: reduction of any presented pay equity concerns, as well as employee engagement and racial equity surveys.
Salary.com conducted the survey in the spring of 2023 and aggregated the data of 621 participants. The statistics and observations are based on the data submitted by all participants and are audited for quality assurance. Data was collected from survey participants representing 20 industries, including business services, financial services, manufacturing, retail and wholesale, government, and nonprofits. The results represent organization sizes with 0-250 to over 10,000+ FTEs.