The case for investing in DE&I – even during lean times

Portrait of a focused hiring leader

4 mins, 55 secs read time

There was one moment that really stood out in the job interview process for Nia Darville, Greenhouse’s Senior Manager of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Allyship (IDEA) Activations. When Nia first met with hiring manager Jamie Adasi, the Head of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Allyship, Jamie came to the interview with Bantu knots. “It’s a hairstyle that’s worn by a lot of people who look like me, but it might not be accepted in a workplace that doesn’t value cultural inclusion,” said Nia. “When I saw that Jamie was able to be herself and succeed at her job, I was sold.”

Nia recently shared this story in a webinar with Maurice Tuiasosopo Bell, Senior Director of DEIB and People Analytics at Lattice. During their discussion, “Why investing in DE&I is critical during lean times,” Nia and Maurice explored changing perceptions of DE&I, advice for promoting DE&I initiatives and how to engage everyone in your inclusion efforts. Find some highlights below or watch their entire conversation, available on-demand here.

What the data tells us about shifting perceptions of DE&I

Whether you refer to it as D&I, DE&I or IDEA, the practice of creating more inclusive work environments has been through several evolutions over the past few years. Nia said that Greenhouse intentionally chose the IDEA acronym. “Inclusion is actually an output of diversity, equity and allyship. Diversity can be mandated, but inclusion has to be cultivated.”

To dig in further to the changing perceptions of DE&I, Maurice shared a graph of employee attrition data based on Revelio Labs’ research. Looking at the period between January 2020 and July 2022 and the attrition rates for DE&I and non-DE&I roles, some clear trends emerge. “We’re seeing a pattern of divestment in DE&I when there’s tough times,” said Maurice.

But that’s not all the data demonstrates. “There’s stability of attrition for non-DE&I roles, whereas DE&I roles have been fluctuating,” said Maurice.

At the same time, the talent pool has become increasingly discerning. According to Glassdoor, 76% of employees say a diverse workforce is important when evaluating companies and job offers. Nia shared her personal experience of seeing Jamie Adasi, a leader at Greenhouse, being her authentic self and how that motivated Nia to want to join the company.

Maurice and Nia agreed that there’s a growing awareness – both among talent and in society at large – about companies’ commitment (or lack thereof) to DE&I. “There’s a lot of conversation about companies really trying to find their identity and figure out if it was all for show. This is a key moment where people have an opportunity to show this is authentically us – this is not just something that we’re trying to catch a wave around,” said Maurice.

Nia said that letting go of DE&I employees and initiatives during tough economic times can set companies back and create problems in the future. “This is when you’re building your employer brand. Right now we may be seeing a bit of an economic downturn, but one day, competition for talent will come back. In the future the talent will remember how you followed through – or abandoned your DE&I strategies today.”

The majority of job seekers are looking at how you’re handling DE&I during this time. This is when you’re building your employer brand.
– Nia Darville, Senior Manager of IDEA Activations, Greenhouse

A 3-step process for cultivating inclusion

Nia’s focus is on the intersection of employee experience and IDEA. “I want to find out if everyone is having the same experience,” said Nia. If you’re curious about what this looks like in practice, Nia shared her three-step process for cultivating inclusion: Evaluate, Elevate and Evolve. Here’s a quick overview.

Evaluate: “You can’t create your DE&I strategy out of thin air,” said Nia. Start by collecting both quantitative and qualitative data, which you can do in several formats like surveys, focus groups, feedback sessions and forms.

Elevate: This step involves telling the story that your data is writing. “It doesn’t matter if you’re not where you want to be. Everyone needs to know what the state of DE&I is in your org at all times,” said Nia. If you regularly share where you are today and where you’re aiming to be in the future, you create a shared sense of responsibility.

Evolve: “You don’t have to start from scratch,” said Nia. Look at your existing processes and start asking questions. Why do you have that policy? How does it impact different groups? How can you make it more equitable? Sometimes small changes can have a big impact on your inclusion efforts.

Invite your leaders in to increase your chances of success

Successful DE&I programs involve leaders in several ways. At Greenhouse, each employee resource group (ERG) has an executive sponsor who regularly provides feedback on the ERG leader’s progress to their manager. The process ensures executives are invested in ERG success. It’s also a strong value proposition for ERG leaders – they get the time and attention of executives as well as valuable feedback that will help them become better leaders.

Maurice added that psychological safety – a topic that often comes up in discussions of DE&I – goes both ways. “Those who are in power have a responsibility and duty to foster psychologically safe spaces,” said Maurice. At the same time, if you’re the one who is running the DE&I program or initiative, recognize that your leaders might be on their own journey. “You want to create a safe space where they’re not worried about saying the wrong thing.”

Looking for even more actionable advice from Nia and Maurice, including how to demonstrate the value of your work, how to build sustainable DE&I programs and much more? Tune into the full webinar, available on-demand here.

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Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.