More Than 80% of Organizations Have Taken Action on DEI Initiatives in 2021

Employer Actions and Employee Perspectives included in WorldatWork’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Survey

September 28, 2021

Scottsdale, Arizona — WorldatWork’s “Trends in DEI Practices and Policies” shows an across-the-board increase in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) actions.

More than eight in 10 (83%) of the 656 responding organizations say they have been taking action on DEI initiatives in 2021, a 13 percentage-point increase from 2020. Of those 83%, 29% said they took their first action on DEI initiatives during the past 12 months. Nearly all (97%) of those DEI-active organizations have an established DEI strategy (56%) or are actively working on one (41%).

One question asked about activity in 11 DEI areas with respondents indicating a “high level” of increased activity in seven of those areas from 2020 to 2021.

The impact of those DEI actions can be seen in responses from employees. The WorldatWork study also included a survey of 303 full-time business professionals via the Schlesinger Group panel online. The numbers from those employees included:

  • 85% believe their employer prioritizes DEI a good or great deal in the workplace.
  • 74% feel that their employer is putting the right amount of effort into these initiatives.
  • 64% of employees believe DEI is very or extremely important
  • 83% agree or strongly agree with the statement “I feel comfortable talking about my background and cultural experiences with my colleagues.”
  • 85% either agree or strongly agree that “I feel included and respected at my organization.”

The overwhelming employee agreement with those last two statements represent two key goals for a successful DEI program — the ability to honestly talk about diverse backgrounds and the feeling of inclusion and respect.

“Such an endorsement by employees is very positive,” said Deirdre Macbeth, Content Director, at WorldatWork. “It shows organizations are not just saying the right thing but actually doing the right thing.

“We are seeing organizations take action in variety of areas to address workplace equity — policies toward inclusion, training programs in place, equitable career advancement and development opportunities, expanding benefits offerings (for a diverse workforce) and performance management with metrics for managers tied to DEI initiatives.”

Sample Findings:

  • More than half (57%) of organizations have metrics in place to measure DEI results with another 36% considering or evaluating the use of DEI metrics.
  • About nine in 10 of the organizations utilizing DEI metrics are tracking workforce representation (91%) and recruiting (89%).
  • The most important metric among those measuring it is inclusive policies statistics (63%).
  • HR policies (74%) was where the most DEI activities occurred at organizations in the past 12 months followed by development/performance management (62%); compensation (45%); recognition (33%); benefits (29%); and recruiting (6%).

About the Study

WorldatWork invited its broader membership and customer base to participate in an electronic survey on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in workplaces. A total of 656 responses were received, representing organizations of different sizes and across multiple industries. WorldatWork also obtained responses from 303 full-time business professionals via the Schlesinger Group panel online. The sample was sourced primarily based on gender, age and political identification. Email invitations were sent directly to participants on June 28, 2021, and results were collected during a 24-day period. Sample sizes vary by question. A weight was applied to party affiliation on the employee sample to ensure representation.

About WorldatWork

WorldatWork is the leading global nonprofit organization for professionals engaged in the critically important practice of total rewards. We serve those who are responsible for cultivating inspired, engaged, productive and committed workers in effective and rewarding workplaces. We guide them in the design and delivery of total rewards programs with our education and certification; idea exchange; thought leadership; knowledge creation; information sharing; research; advocacy; and networking.

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