6 Takeaways from HR Research Institute’s Recent ‘Future of DEI’ Study

DEI is an ever-changing, growing and evolving field. What works for one organization doesn’t always work for another. And no matter what you do, someone is always figuring out a better way to recruit and retain, bolstering both representation and inclusion.

So how does one truly know what works and what doesn’t? Who’s doing a good job and where is there room for improvement? Placement on our DiversityInc Top 50 list in one good barometer. For another good analysis of the current status of DEI in the country — and where it’s going in the future — it’s also helpful to look at ongoing studies, like the recent research from The HR Research Institute. In this report compiled from interviews with hundreds of HR professionals, researchers sought to analyze the nation’s overall DEI landscape, how developed and effective different organizations’ DEI initiatives really were, how much time and funding was expended on these programs and how a company’s use of training, incentives, communication practices and metrics related to overall DEI success. Here’s a look at the conclusion of the study:

How the Review Was Conducted

The HR Research Institute’s study ran during the first two months of 2022. During this time, HR professionals working in all areas of DEI from around the world were asked to take a survey detailing the ins and outs of their company’s diversity programs. Professionals from all sizes of businesses were able to participate, including those with fewer than 50 employees all the way up to those with more than 20,000. A total of 367 HR professionals took part in at least some portion of the survey.

Six Key Takeaways from the Research:

1. Most DEI initiatives remain ineffective

According to the study, just 9% of those surveyed would rate their company’s DEI programs as “highly effective.”

2. Only 1 in 5 HR professionals would rate their DEI program as “expert” level

While 44 of the individuals surveyed said DEI played a key role in their company’s strategic planning, and just over 30 added that it was a “key framework” to their business strategy, 78% of HR professionals polled admitted their DEI program had not yet reached “expert” or “advanced” status.

3. Total pay equity is still a long way off for many organizations

More than half of the men and women the HR Research Institute spoke to admitted that equitable pay was not yet happening across their organizations, and fewer than 10% said it was even a top priority among their leadership teams. Surprisingly, 14% of individuals taking the survey admitted they don’t make an effort to measure pay equity between different groups at all. Just under 1 in 3 individuals confirmed their companies were working to understand pay equity gaps within their staffing and 2 in 3 were not.

 4. DEI metrics and training remain vastly underutilized

While 69% of companies involved in the study had performed some sort of unconscious bias training for their employees, most individuals the group spoke to confirmed that in their opinion, DEI metrics and training were still vastly underutilized. Sixty percent of companies don’t impose any sort of DEI training on their employees, and 56% limited their training to compliance-related issues.

5. Despite some hiring advances, most companies still have a long way to go

Just under half of those surveyed confirmed that their workplace was more diverse now than it was two years prior. Yet when asked to describe the racial and gender makeup of their leadership teams, 57% confirmed that ethnic and racial minorities still comprised less than 20 percent of that group.

6. Benefits that draw in diverse employees are often ignored

Despite being a proven attraction for a number of diverse groups, company benefits including flexible work options, paid parental leave and domestic partner benefits are still rarely being implemented across the board within organizations either large or small. In fact, 18% of those interviewed by the HR Research Institute said they only offer the benefits required by state and federal laws.

Becoming a “High Performer”

The HR Research Institute classifies organizations with effective DEI programs and initiatives as “high performers” and calls groups who have described the health of their DEI program as “undeveloped,” “beginning,” “intermediate” and “low” performers.

Based on this distinction, the group has identified a few key practices that help these organizations to succeed in the DEI realm while their counterparts struggle. Among the most important of these characteristics:

  • Companies with successful DEI programs tend to have support from the top down. This executive leadership is key for helping to increase accountability, reduce corporate resistance, increase training and resources, and improve overall development of successful initiatives and metrics.
  • “High performing” companies tend to have the broadest definition of diversity, including recognition not just of race and gender but also sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, neurodiversity, living arrangements, religion, family status and more. In other words, the more welcoming you make your organization for the largest number of people possible, the more likely you are to be successful in your efforts overall.
  • Companies with successful DEI programs tend to incorporate these efforts into their overall strategic plans and business objectives most often. According to the HR Research Institute’s report, “DEI high performers are more likely than DEI low performers to more often agree or strongly agree that DEI plays a role in strategic planning (80% vs. 35%). DEI high performers are also more likely than low performers to agree that DEI initiatives are quite visible to their workforce (78% vs. 31%).”
  • Finally, companies with the best performing DEI programs were also the most likely to communicate the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion to their workforce as a whole, to employ a variety of training and communication initiatives among their workers and to also utilize initiatives that improve DEI within leadership ranks — all further proving that the more DEI efforts are mandated and focused on, the more likely they are to succeed in the end.

For more helpful tips on creating and maintaining a high-level, effective and functioning DEI program within your organization, subscribe to the DiversityInc Best Practices newsletter.

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