DEI rises in priority globally

A new report suggests that DEI has risen in priority for many organisations globally, with talent as a primary focus and most having a DEI budget.

This is in spite of recent legislative and other changes around the world that have downplayed support for belonging and diversity (DEI).

The study of 2,600 HR professionals and business leaders with influence over DEI in their organisations across 19 countries found DEI priority had increased in the past year for 78% of respondents, with 85% having a DEI budget and 57% having made progress with or already using a strategic approach to DEI. Technology is being used to support DEI initiatives by 94% of organisations.

The study, commissioned by software firm Workday and conducted by Sapio Research, included 150 HR and business leaders in the UK and 50 in Ireland. Other countries included Australia, Canada, Japan, Spain and the US, to name a few. 

“The goal of the report is to help leaders understand how they are currently responding to DEI, driving change and sustaining progress in the shifting landscape,” Workday said.

Workday acknowledged that “negative perceptions around DEI efforts and efficacy have sprung up around certain public and private circles”, which they said had led to media reports around reduction in DEI roles and the restriction of workplace training and development opportunities within some organisations. 

An example is last year’s ruling by the US Supreme Court that effectively prohibits the use of race-based affirmative action in university admissions.

However, the study underscores that attracting talent remains a top DEI driver, with 43% of respondents using it as a tool to attract and recruit a diverse workforce, 41% seeing DEI as helping to improve staff well-being, and attracting and developing talent a driver for 41%. 

In the UK, 52% of respondents said DEI is driven by attracting and recruiting a diverse workforce. In the US, 49% reported that DEI investment is driven by its positive impact on business success and results.

For most organisations, the push for DEI comes from within, the report said, with 66% of respondents saying the main sources of pressure for DEI initiatives are internally. Of those, 42% said their DEI initiatives were driven equally by business leaders and employees. For the 34% of organisations that said they face more external than internal pressure around DEI, the main driver for 76% is a strong employer brand.

While organisational commitment remains high, the research suggests improving the use of benchmarking to create more accountability and to provide an accurate measure of progress, Workday said.

Jonny Briggs, DEI and resourcing director at risk and insurance company Aviva, commented on these needs and how they are managed at his organisation. 

“Our diversity initiatives start at the understanding and data-collection stage. To do this, we aim to gather as much data as employees feel comfortable disclosing on who they feel they are, from more traditional diversity characteristics, such as sexual orientation and ethnicity, to whether an employee is a caregiver, in order to understand diversity in an intersectional manner,” he explained. 

“Having DEI data and insights available at our fingertips has allowed us to make more informed decisions and move towards an even more equitable workplace.”

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