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DEI vs. DEIB in the Workplace: What’s the Difference?

May 5, 2022| Reading time: 10min

BY Ivori Johnson

Director of DEIB

Move over, DEI. There’s a new sheriff in town. 

Introducing: DEIB.

Companies have prioritized diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) over the years, and that focus continues to be an important topic for employers and employees alike. Diverse organizations are seeing gains in revenue, better team decisions, and employee engagement (a whopping 83% of employees are more likely to be engaged at inclusive companies). 

But DEI leaders are now calling for the word “belonging” to join the acronym. Why the rebrand? Read below to explore the shift and determine if your company should adjust accordingly.

The Foundation: What Does DEI Look Like at Work?

You know what DEI stands for. However, it’s important to break apart the acronym and ask pertinent questions to ensure it’s present in your company’s initiatives and decision-making processes.

  • Diversity: Who is in the room?
  • Equality: Do my employees have equal access to opportunities? Are my employees facing social changes based on their social identity groups? 
  • Inclusion: What choices are we making and actions are we taking to make others feel included? 

Your answers will set the foundation needed to take action. Companies that are successful with their DEI initiatives not only ask the important questions above, but also set and monitor goals around the following objectives:

  • Establishing a Dedicated DEI Team: Specialized DEI teams set goals, hold leaders accountable, and ensure DEI is woven into all business decisions.
  • Creating Objective Career Frameworks: Career frameworks give visibility to where employees sit in the company and how they professionally progress, therefore mitigating any biased promotions.
  • Puting Leadership at the Forefront of DEI: Leaders have the authority and influence to promote real cultural change. Make sure they’re not only doing the work, but are also representative of the diverse workforce you wish to attract.
  • Enacting Salary Transparency: Salary transparency ensures your employees are compensated fairly, builds trust, and helps retention.
  • Driving Action with DEI Data: Collecting –and using– DEI metrics to make data-based decisions helps build transparency and accountability across your organization.

As a result of these efforts, companies are seeing positive outcomes. So why the shift to DEIB? 

Joan Williams, a professor in work-life law at the University of California, Hastings, explains: “DEI used to be considered a nice-to-have, but now it’s considered a must-have. But whether that’s a difference that delivers organizational change is still up in the air.” 

And that organizational change is what DEIB seeks to conquer. 

What is DEIB?

DEIB stands for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, but if you want to get technical, it should actually read DEI = B. That’s because DEI is the formula (and steps taken) to create the desired result of belonging. 

However, you can’t just work on DEI and expect the B to follow and stay. That, too, requires intentionality, goal-setting, and monitoring. 

But is belonging really that important when it comes to work? To quote Jane from Pride and Prejudice: “Yes, yes…a thousand times, yes!”

A culture of belonging can not only lead to happier, more engaged employees, but can also result in a company-wide benefit: retaining your people and attracting a superior workforce.

The Importance of DEIB in the Workplace

Eight billion dollars. That’s how much U.S. businesses spend on DEI training each year. And still, up to 75% of employees don’t feel personal benefit from them. Why?

One reason is because training alone won’t combat workplace bias. You also need allotted time for workshopping and action planning to help address biases and promote an intentionally inclusive environment. Furthermore, leadership should model and drive DEIB initiatives, using collected DEIB data to ensure decisions are data-driven. 

What this all leads to is the effect of belonging. Instead of pumping employees with knowledge from training, you need to make sure policies are in place and constantly reevaluated. Instead of hiring to solely target underrepresented groups, look at your practices holistically and see what a diverse workforce can bring to the table. Moreover, see what your company can offer to a diverse set of people.

That’s one piece of advice Holly Danko, Chief People Officer at Union, offers when companies want to embed DEIB into their company culture. She says, “At the end of the day, DEI isn’t just about diversity numbers. It’s about answering questions like: Are you creating an inclusive culture for people of all backgrounds? Are you treating everyone equitably?”

This intentionality is so critical when it comes to establishing a sense of belonging for employees. And what’s more, prioritizing DEIB doesn’t just benefit your people, but also your company as a whole.

DEIB Honors the Multiplicity of Social Identities

Have you ever been to a party where the guests naturally divvy up by gender? It can be excruciating, especially when you don’t have anything in common with the people in your room.

The same feelings occur when leaders see their people as only members of their larger demographic group and fail to see the multiplicity of their social identities. 

This practice has two unfortunate consequences. The first, Gabrielle Novacek of Boston Consulting Group explains, is that placing people into demographic categories creates a “majority-versus-minority mindset.” When leaders ignore employees’ intersectionality of identities, they alienate a huge chunk of people that could benefit from your DEIB practices. It may cause further division and lack of engagement amongst your people.

The second is that when apparent, visible, or single differences are focused on, employees no longer feel like their unique identity is acknowledged. Alternatively, when belonging is prioritized, people are empowered to show up to work and present their natural selves, therefore experiencing a direct result of true inclusion.

Solid DEIB practices also help leaders recognize that social identities aren’t set in stone. In fact, it’s rare when they actually are. Instead, the employee journey– and your people’s needs– change over time. It’s leadership’s job to respond to these new factors to help their employees evolve with the company. In turn, your employees will have a more enjoyable employee experience that will result in long-term benefits for themselves as well as the organization. 

DEIB helps leaders meet and address their employees’ needs throughout the employee journey by recognizing that social identities are fluid.

DEIB Helps Attract and Retain Employees

It’s no surprise that people want to work –and stay– at a company at which they feel a sense of belonging. When employees feel connected, they experience more work satisfaction, a greater sense of well-being, and better physical and mental health. For that reason, “excluded employees have a 50% higher rate of turnover than employees who feel they belong, costing organizations about $10 million annually per 10,000 employees,” Forbes notes.

Even more, companies that focus on belonging are also able to be competitive in the talent acquisition market. In fact, two out of three job candidates seek companies that have diverse workforces. 

But what many leaders fail to realize is that recruiting diverse employees is only step one. The other, more important step is creating supportive, inclusive, personalized spaces for all your people. And as mentioned above, constantly reevaluating your people’s professional, social, and emotional needs will help you create a culture that provides a sense of community and belonging. In turn, your people will feel supported and valued, leading to stronger performance and increased retention rates. 

Specifically, Adriana Roche, Chief People Officer at MURAL, prioritized the employee experience in order to attract and retain the best talent. Her team created a 30-60-90-day plan program to help with onboarding and expectations “to help employees ramp up quickly and ensure they feel like they belong.” 

The result of this engaging and supportive process? MURAL’s headcount quintupled in just eighteen months. 

DEIB is the Way of the Future

It’s no longer enough to just invite someone to the table. You have to create a culture of belonging so that anyone sitting next to you can speak and feel like their input is valued. By doing so, you’re not only investing in your employees and their wellbeing, but also the future of your company.

Interested in collecting and understanding your DEIB data to drive action?

A Comprehensive Guide to DEI Reporting

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