United Minds / KRC Research DE&I Study

Almost four out of five employees say companies that are diverse, equitable and inclusive have a better shot at attracting high-quality talent, according to a new study from United Minds and KRC Research.

“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: A People Perspective” surveyed more than 1,500 full-time employees at companies in Canada, the US and the UK to gauge how workers view the efforts being made by companies to foster a more welcoming, diverse workplace.

In addition to helping with recruitment, survey respondents said that strong DE&I efforts can help companies boost their performance in several key areas. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) believe that DE&I initiatives improve a company’s bottom line, with 80 percent saying that those initiatives improve a company’s reputation among customers.

However, fewer respondents felt that their companies were making enough progress with DE&I programs. While more than half (57 percent) said they were satisfied with their organization’s approach to DE&I, that number dropped to 48 percent for Hispanic employees and 47 percent for Asian employees.

Also, a significant number of employees said that, prior to last year’s racial unrest, few companies were making a strong push for increased diversity. Overall, 29 percent said they either don’t believe that or aren’t sure if, their organization was taking adequate steps to move the needle on DE&I issues before the events of 2020.

Bad behavior at work is also proving to be surprisingly resilient. One in three respondents said they had experienced and/or witnessed microaggressions. One in three said they have experienced and/or witnessed discrimination or unfair treatment, and one in five has experienced and/or witnessed verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual harassment.

Only a small majority of those surveyed (58 percent) strongly believe that men and women are treated equitably in their workplace, with 53 percent saying that people from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds have an equal chance to succeed, and 56 percent agreeing that racist, sexist and/or discriminatory language is not tolerated.

That state of affairs is reflected in the less-than-enthusiastic attitude that many corporate leaders have taken toward DE&I efforts. Almost four out of ten (39 percent) leaders surveyed agreed that “DE&I initiatives are a waste of organizational time, effort and money.”

The study offers some steps that companies can take to improve the situation. One is making DE&I efforts a “top-down” undertaking, with leaders demonstrating personal commitment to DE&I and modeling inclusive and respectful behavior. Making sure that individual employees feel a sense of belonging is also important, as is creating a positive overall work culture.

By not successfully addressing DE&I issues, the study says, companies are exposing themselves to significant risk. “Allowing bad behavior to go unchecked creates a toxic work environment and opens an organization to potential lawsuits,” it concludes.

The study was conducted as part of Code+ify, a United Minds offering for leaders looking to amplify their DE&I strategy and storytelling while also protecting themselves against risk.