The importance of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace


Companies face growing requirements to monitor and report on their progress towards increasing diversity and inclusion within their workforces. However, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in business should be about much more than regulatory compliance. Today, a diverse and inclusive workplace is central to ensuring that employees feel engaged, have a sense of belonging and therefore perform effectively. This means it is business-critical to promote diversity and inclusion within your organisation.

Learn how diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) impacts your business, DEI meaning, the benefits it brings and how you can establish and promote DEI through regular feedback from employees, candidates and partners.

What is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are three closely linked values used to underpin organisational frameworks that support all types and groups of individuals within the workforce, ensuring everyone is treated fairly and is able to participate in fully within the organisation, without any discrimination. Many countries have introduced regulations to monitor organisational progress around DEI at work. For example, in the UK companies have to report on the differences between what they pay women and men (the gender pay gap).


A diverse workforce is made up of people from multiple groups. Diversity covers factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, and mental and physical disabilities. It is important to understand that while some differences between groups may be simple to spot (such as age or gender), others, such as sexual orientation or neurodiversity may be less obvious. Diversity should also cover the range of approaches people have – companies should look for diversity in how their employees think, plan and make decisions.


Equity is all about treating everyone fairly, while taking into account their background and experiences, adjusting their treatment accordingly to ensure equal chances for all. For example, while a company may open its internship programme to candidates from all backgrounds, if it does not pay a fair wage, this is not equitable to those from less privileged groups, who cannot afford to work for little or no salary.


An inclusive organisation is one where everyone feels a sense of safety, belonging and participation and believes that their voices will be heard, and their views taken into consideration. Building an inclusive culture is a key part of successful employee engagement, with workers having the psychological safety to share their thoughts and to show and practice their beliefs without fear of discrimination or sanction.

Why is DEI so important?

DEI is not a new topic, beginning in the Affirmative Action policies of President Kennedy in the 1960s designed to remove discrimination in the workplace. At its heart are aims around acting fairly, and giving everyone equal opportunities, making it a moral as well as compliance imperative.

On top of being the right thing to do, DEI also brings business benefits. For example, research by McKinsey has found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. Organisations in the top quartile for ethic and cultural diversity also outperformed those in the bottom quartile by 36 percent in profitability

As well as helping employees, a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce delivers these advantages to businesses:

  • The ability to attract and retain top talent, especially younger generations, such as Gen Z and Millennials. According to a study by Glassdoor, 76% percent of job seekers care about a company being ethnically diverse and inclusive when evaluating potential jobs. McKinsey research found that 39% of respondents turned down a job offer because of a perceived lack of inclusion at an organisation.
  • Access to a diverse range of experiences and perspectives. This delivers a more informed, comprehensive approach to decision-making, replacing potential herd mentalities if all employees share the same background.
  • The opportunity to better meet customer needs. The majority of organisations target a diverse customer base – a diverse workforce brings deep understanding of their needs, enabling products and services to be tailored to their requirements, and therefore increasing sales and customer loyalty.
  • Greater teamwork and collaboration. Research shows that diverse workforces are more collaborative, with better functioning and more productive teams
  • Improves employee engagement. A sense of belonging drives higher performance increases retention, lowers absences, and unlocks discretionary effort from staff.
  • Ability to target wider opportunities. More diverse companies are able to more easily enter new markets and expand internationally through a better understanding of cultural and other nuances.
  • Ensures a social licence to operate. Stakeholders, including customers, employees and investors increasingly demand that companies are more diverse, often as part of wider Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies. Demonstrating diversity therefore reinforces an organisation’s social licence to operate.


How can companies ensure and optimise DEI in the workplace?

Working with senior management, HR has a key role to play in defining DEI programmes and creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace. Company DEI initiatives need to be part of policies across the employee lifecycle, from hiring onwards and covering culture, policies, and management.

Successful DEI HR programmes embrace these four steps:

1   Understand the current picture

HR teams need to begin by understanding the demographics of their workforce – something that they increasingly must report on, especially around areas such as the senior representation and relative pay of women and ethic minorities. When collecting this information, it is vital to clearly explain why it is being sought in order to remove any fears that employees may have. If relevant, targets can be set to increase representation, provided this is achieved fairly and equitably. Metrics can involve monitoring the percentage of new hires from different groups, the overall makeup of the workforce, attrition by group, engagement, diversity in leadership and employee NPS.

2   Listen to employee feedback

HR may have ideas on how to improve DEI, but it is vital that actions are based on real issues, rather than assumptions. Running employee feedback surveys provides quantitative and qualitative insight, such as around whether certain departments have a greater need to become more diverse than others, as well as uncovering potential issues and areas for improvement. Surveys need to be repeated regularly to show progress against DEI goals, accurately measuring initiatives on an ongoing basis.

Only those who are able to uncover and understand cultural and behavioural insights and their implications can identify actionable steps and thus ensure that diversity and inclusion are effectively promoted. It is therefore important that feedback helps HR teams better understand (and change) company culture. By gaining insight into employee attitudes and behaviours this can show where cultural transformation and training is required to support company DEI objectives.

3   Identify problems and find solutions

Once meaningful insights have been gained, you can break down specific problem areas and focus on taking the necessary steps to improve across every employee touchpoint. Examples of DEI in the workplace may include:

  • Updating hiring processes to ensure that they are non-discriminatory (such as through blind CVs, widening recruitment channels, standardising job descriptions and training for interviewers).
  • Focusing on cultural change to build an inclusive, open culture
  • Increasing training for managers to give them a deeper understanding of diversity requirements when working with their teams
  • Implementing fair and transparent processes for advancement, such as leadership training programmes and mentoring
  • Adapting the workplace to meet the needs of groups with disabilities
  • Ensuring policies around home/office working, career breaks, and working hours are flexible to attract and retain groups such as carers and the less physically able
  • Making internal communications more inclusive, while championing a diverse range of employees


In this way, HR teams can ensure that every touchpoint in the company supports their overall diversity and inclusion initiatives.

4   Implement continuous listening

Corporate DEI programmes are ongoing and need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Businesses therefore need to collect employee engagement feedback through continuous listening, enabling all staff to share their experiences on an ongoing basis. This enables HR teams to identify key moments in the employee journey, ensuring they are optimised to create an inclusive employee experience that meets the needs of every group by promoting DEI in the workplace.

Start optimising DEI in your company

How Tivian helps you

With our DEI solution, we make it easy for you to prioritise understanding and improving your corporate culture and the values associated with DEI, making critical elements visible and measurable and implementing relevant actions to drive change.

With our employee experience solutions, you can find out what influences the satisfaction and commitment of your employees. This doesn’t just benefit your employees, but also helps the entire company. By creating a working environment that continuously measures and improves the employee experience, you increase overall performance, driving greater business success.

Tivian’s award-winning solution is now helping a wide range of companies improve their DEI programs. See for yourself how the solution can help your organisation in a free demo.