How to Position Your Efforts Effectively
For years, advocates of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace (including InclusionINC) have worked to move past the notion that DEI efforts were mostly for PR purposes or that they were “fluffy,” feel-good objectives with no concrete benefit.
In more recent years, we and other DEI advocates and practitioners have successfully made the case repeatedly that DEI efforts aren’t just a cherry on top of friendly corporate culture. In fact, there’s ample evidence to support the notion that DEI efforts contribute meaningfully and measurably to a company’s bottom line: diverse companies are more creative; they do better at recruitment and retention; and they consistently outperform less diverse companies.
Negative Implications of a Bottom Line Focus
Unfortunately, there’s evidence suggesting that companies touting the business justification for their DEI efforts may be rubbing underrepresented groups the wrong way—suggesting that the company is really only concerned about the bottom line and not the merits of DEI efforts themselves.
“New research reveals that linking diversity to corporate profits may be a turnoff for the underrepresented individuals the organizations are trying to attract,” writes Kim Elsesser in an article for Forbes. “In fact, the use of the business case to justify diversity can result in underrepresented groups anticipating less belonging to organizations, which, in turn, makes them ultimately less likely to want to join the organization.”
Finding the Right Balance
This sentiment poses an interesting conundrum for DEI leaders and the organizations they work for, but it doesn’t have to be an impenetrable quagmire. The reality is that DEI efforts have multiple benefits, and all of them are worth acknowledging.
Employees should be assured that the company does genuinely care about diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core principle. But that doesn’t mean the company can’t also justify time and resources dedicated to DEI efforts by highlighting the very real business benefits these efforts generate.
It’s not an “either, or”—it’s an “and”!
At the end of the day, there are multiple groups of stakeholders who may be interested in DEI efforts—underrepresented groups (and their supporters) and fiscal number crunchers are two of them.
Companies can, and should, be strategic in how they talk to diverse groups about the benefits of DEI efforts. Alternatively, as Elsesser’s article suggests, companies can choose to simply pursue DEI without resorting to explicit justifications that might alienate one group or another.