Why DEIA Programs Are Key to Retaining Employees

Diversity and inclusion make companies better — more profitable, more innovative, and more engaged.

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021 — a mass exit from the workforce that is now known as the Great Resignation. Employees are leaving their employers in droves in search of better work, so employers should strive to improve employee satisfaction. One way to do that is with diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) — to create a sense of belonging and provide employees with a space to share their feelings, thus making a big impact.

The importance of DEIA efforts

It is no secret that high turnover can have a negative impact on an organization. Many companies were already facing issues before the pandemic, and many are now struggling to fill gaps with qualified candidates, much less ones from diverse communities. In a climate where underrepresented job seekers are in high demand (and many will be leaving their current companies if they have not already done so), organizations face a major risk if their diversity numbers worsen or if they do not invest in DEIA when it comes to talent acquisition.

On the flip side, companies that take the time to invest in these efforts can see a significant return on their overall ROI. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), DEIA efforts advance profitability and productivity, foster innovation and creativity, cultivate engagement and promote intellectual growth. By failing to ingrain DEIA efforts, businesses not only miss out on talent but also on the benefits realized by a diverse culture. Employees are less likely to stay in a workplace that does not embrace these practices, and every time an employee leaves, it costs money to hire and train someone new.

What goes into DEIA?

DEIA initiatives provide several advantages for organizations as well as employees, including creating a sense of belonging, increasing talent retention and innovation, and improving the bottom line of the organization. When developing a DEIA strategy, three popular strategies can help: reverse mentoring, sponsorship and employee resource groups (ERGs).

Reverse mentoring

Many are already familiar with the concept of mentorship, but with reverse mentoring, the traditional one-on-one mentorship is flipped. The senior employee becomes the mentee and learns from the more junior employee. Reverse mentoring is best given to those already in leadership positions to provide a new perspective.

Implementing this type of program requires identifying goals and KPIs that can be measured, understanding who will participate and mentors and mentees should be matched and identifying how to track and measure the progress of mentorships. Consider leveraging mentorship software to help get the program off the ground and keep it running smoothly.

Sponsorship

When a mentee wants to further their career, sponsorship may be the best fit. In this scenario, a mentor can use their authority or influence to advance the career of the mentee, facilitating a career move through their connections and seniority in the company. Often, sponsorships develop naturally in the workplace, and the initiative is typically taken by the sponsor who identifies an individual with high potential and helps them move up in their career.

Employee resource groups

ERGs are a safe place where diverse employees can build a sense of community. These are spaces where people can voice concerns and feel heard in the workplace, and they are an excellent resource for building connections.

When creating an ERG, it is important to develop guidelines and structure to help facilitate meetings and manage resources. Make sure to gauge employee interest and define the group’s mission. Maintaining organizational support also requires getting executive buy-in. Many ERGs also offer training and access to resources to help facilitate the group’s mission.

Measuring success

It is important to track the success of DEIA efforts and understand when and how to adjust initiatives. Depending on the size and structure of the organization, consider the following as a great place to start:

  • Demographics across organization levels
  • Retention and participation across ERGs
  • Employee turnover
  • Candidate demographics
  • Employee advancement/promotion rate

Understanding the demographics, for example, might sound like a straightforward metric to track. But according to the Harvard Business Review, knowing how to measure progress when it comes to the inclusion aspect of DEIA can be more challenging. To do so, businesses must look at employee sentiment and feedback. The Gartner Inclusion Index provides companies with a measure of their ability to foster an inclusive workplace by tracking initiatives across several dimensions, including fair treatment, decision making, trust and diversity.

The future is inclusive

In the face of the Great Resignation, DEIA accountability is essential. Prioritizing these efforts is a long-term commitment, but making it an integral part of a company’s culture is essential — and employees are paying attention. A 2022 survey from MIT Sloan Management Review revealed that toxic workplace culture had a significant impact on the Great Resignation. In fact, they found that “a toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is ten times more important than compensation in predicting turnover.”

Whether through creating ERGs or through introducing sponsorship or mentorship programs, employees need to feel connected and valued at their workplace. Diversity and inclusion make companies better — more profitable, more innovative, and more engaged. Candidates looking for a new opportunity will research an organization online, and being able to look across the table and see diversity and inclusion efforts within that organization sends a powerful message.

Derrick Coleman is the Search and Staffing Practice Leader at GHJ. Search and Staffing is GHJ’s recruiting division specializing in the placement of accounting and finance professionals into temporary and permanent positions across a broad range of industries. Additionally, he leads GHJ’s BIPOC Cohort, an employee resource group focused on advancing the careers of professionals who are Black, Indigenous and other people of color.