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DEI: What Is It, Why You Need It, and How It Benefits Your Workplace

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It isn’t a buzzword or a fad. It’s a framework of programs, strategies and policies that aims to create a fair and respectful environment that accommodates every employee's needs. If you’re reading this, chances are you want to know how to implement DEI in your workplace or optimize your current DEI work. Read on, to find answers to these questions and get practical best practice tips for your workplace. 

What Is DEI?

Let’s start with the basics of DEI work is and what diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace looks like:

  • Diversity in the workplace is fairly straightforward; it means the acceptance of employees of all backgrounds - race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. 
  • Before we can define equity, it’s important to define equality first, because while they seem like the same thing they’re actually not. Equality in the workplace is the act of providing all employees access to the same resources and opportunities. By comparison, workplace equity recognizes that an employee’s circumstances affect their access to those equal resources. Therefore, employees whose circumstances provide them with less access than another employee, may need support from the employer to be able to benefit from the equal access the employer provides them with. 
  • Inclusion in the workplace is a combination of diversity and equity. Inclusive workplaces ensure that employees from traditionally underrepresented groups (like groups based on gender, race, disability, or age) are treated equally and also provides all employees with equal access to resources and opportunities.  

DEI work does more than just (the important work of) creating a culture of belonging in the workplace. There are plenty of practical applications to implementing DEI frameworks in the workplace: 

  • DEI work helps you and your employees avoid microaggressions

What are microaggressions at work? Microaggressions are everyday, subtle, usually unintentional interaction or behaviour that communicates a bias toward a historically marginalized group. While a macroaggression is systemic oppression - for example, the kidnapping of First Nations children by the state to residential schools - a microaggression is something that people are often not even aware that they’ve committed. 

  • DEI work stops implicit bias, or the unconscious preconceived notions or stereotypes all of us have about different groups of people
  • DEI work helps employers expand hiring practices ensuring that your team represents the world we live in; for example, accessible job postings and work spaces make hiring people with disabilities easier for the employer and applicant

To help you better understand the DEI efforts in your workplace or where to start DEI efforts in your workplace, use a diversity audit tool. DEI audits will help you understand the demographics and culture of your workplace, and help you identify the factors that will help you create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Why You Need DEI and How It Benefits Your Workplace

We need DEI in the workplace because it’s the right thing to do. Period. But it’s also good business. If you ever want to know how to improve workplace culture, look no further than DEI. DEI frameworks will improve:

  • job performance
  • team dynamics
  • productivity and profits; according to McKinsey and Company, the companies with ethnically and culturally diverse workplaces are 43% more likely to experience higher profits compared to the companies in the bottom 25% for gender, racial, and disability diversity, which are 29% less likely to reach above-average profitability.

Continued DEI work will also protect the workplace culture you’ve already fostered. As mentioned above, by implementing DEI in your hiring practices you’re ensuring you’re attracting candidates that align with your company’s priorities. You can protect workplace culture by: 

  • demonstrate your DEI efforts on social media
  • uplift the employees who reflect the kind of candidates you want to hire
  • state your workplace culture in job postings

There are plenty of benefits of DEI in the workplace, but these benefits do nothing if we don’t know how to implement these policies, strategies, and frameworks. Here are 5 DEI best practices to help you get started:

  1. Audit your current practices: know the work landscape you’re working with. 
  2. Educate: we don’t know what others don’t know. Ensure everyone is educated on these topics by providing resources and training. 
  3. Confront biases: everyone has unconscious biases, acknowledging and confronting them in the workplace is necessary to implement DEI. 
  4. Be fair: it goes without saying but treating everyone fairly goes hand in hand with confronting our biases. When we recognize them, we realize how we’ve been holding people to different standards, allowing us to stop, then begin treating employees fairly. 
  5. Audit again: using the new metrics you’ve set from your DEI see how your workplace has improved and what areas have opportunities for improvement. 

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External links are provided as informational resources only and are not necessarily endorsed by Ontario East.


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