Remote work hasn’t just opened up the talent pool — it’s split it wide open, changing the way most of us work forever. It's allowed companies the opportunity to recruit from a talented and diverse pool of candidates, for whom location is no longer a barrier. Sometimes though, this can lead global companies to believe they’ve achieved diversity based solely on the demographics of their workforce.
But we know DEIB is so much more than just hiring for diversity. It’s a deeper, ongoing investment to ensure the programmes and processes in place are equitable, inclusive, and effective at cultivating a greater sense of belonging for all employees. This is where leaders need to tread carefully — because inclusion and belonging can manifest very differently across countries and continents. Creating a true sense of connection for all members of a global team requires nuance and intention, but it is possible.
What is DEIB?
DEIB stands for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The original iteration of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) evolved to become Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), and subsequently transformed into DEIB. That’s because no workplace is truly equitable and inclusive if employees from underrepresented groups still don’t feel a sense of belonging. And for a quick recap of the separate elements of DEIB:
- Diversity: This is what sets us apart from each other, and can include our backgrounds, ethnicities, opinions, ideas, and demographic differences. Creating a diverse workforce is vital — but crucially this must also dovetail with making sure that all team members feel included, welcomed, and that their input is valuable.
- Equity: This relates to treating all employees fairly, while at the same time working to break down barriers and inequities. Equity is much more than just equal opportunities because it also recognises that different employees may need different levels of support.
- Inclusion: This covers the environment and culture of a workplace. There may be workplace barriers that impact underrepresented groups, and for true inclusion, these need to be removed. Inclusion can also cover ways to create a community that makes every member of staff feel like they matter.
- Belonging: When employees feel like they belong, they know they’re accepted as a true part of their workplace community. The sense and emotions of ‘how’ they belong will be different for each employee but can include feeling aligned with the company culture, that their ideas or suggestions are welcome, or that their authentic self is accepted.
Why do these acronyms change?
As human societies and cultures evolve, it’s natural and normal for our language to evolve with us. It’s likely that the terminology used to describe DEIB and anti-racism efforts will continue to change, which is an opportunity for People leaders and businesses to adopt and embody, rather than to resist.
When new research, policies, and ideas become accessible and mainstream, institutions can and should respond with an open mind to embrace the ways humans change — and the ways we communicate — to be more inclusive and empowering.
Why is DEIB So Important?
It’s true that most of us understand — on a human level — that creating diverse workplaces that champion true equity and inclusion is the right thing to do. But the business case for DEIB is also strong, simply because hiring diverse talent (and then prioritising belonging, equity, and inclusion) makes a difference in whether a company thrives or fails.
The Why Diversity Matters report from McKinsey found that diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform better than less diverse companies. What’s more, a 2021 Glassdoor survey found that 76% of job seekers want to work for a company that champions diversity.
While all aspects of DEIB matter, belonging has become one of the key factors. Perhaps because it’s a basic need for humans, as identified by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s no surprise then, that the Achievers Workforce Institute found that a strong sense of workplace belonging can positively affect retention, productivity, and employer branding.
Making DEIB Work on a Global Scale
Creating DEIB initiatives for office-based staff in one country can be challenging enough. But now that remote work is the norm, any DEIB strategies also need to consider the cultural differences of the countries and continents their teams are based in.
Dannie Lynn Fountain, HR staffer at Google, DEI expert, and author of Ending Checkbox Diversity, said: “It’s important to recognise that different global communities interact with DEIB initiatives in different ways. Many US-centric initiatives don’t scale well globally, primarily because of the difference in how the US talks about DEIB.”
That means global companies must not only strive for employee engagement and inclusion across the organisation as a whole, but also bear in mind that different offices will probably have different workplace cultures, dynamics, customs, and observances based on their location. One way to account for this is to measure the success of your existing DEIB initiatives before considering how to adapt these to champion inclusivity and belonging, across the globe.
How to Measure Your Existing DEIB Initiatives
Having a DEIB strategy is one thing, but successfully implementing it is another. Many corporate diversity programs end up failing due to a range of factors including executive resistance, diversity fatigue, and a lack of training for middle managers.
While it’s easy enough to track metrics around diversity, sometimes the very personal nature of DEIB in the workplace can mean it’s tempting to allow emotions to lead the charge instead. As DEIB targets become more ambitious, it’s no longer enough to rely on ‘doing the right thing’ or allowing emotions and traditions to stand in the way of real change.
Instead, data is crucial. “Leaders must measure the success of their DEIB initiatives by looking at data across multiple areas of their organisation, including diversity hiring numbers, employee satisfaction surveys, and employee retention rates,” said Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of strategy and growth at Resume Worded. “This can help you determine whether your diversity initiatives are working or if they need to be adjusted.”
The metrics each business chooses to track will vary but should cover a broad range. “We need to measure both diversity and inclusion. A lot of focus so far has been on diversity metrics by gender and race, however, that's just one dimension. If we don't create inclusive cultures where everyone can thrive and belong, we get the revolving door we have today in tech,” said Jossie Haines, CEO and founder of Jossie Haines Consulting.
Consider including metrics like employee ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities alongside voluntary turnover, representation, and performance processes. In addition to regular data collection and analysis around your chosen metrics, anonymous employee experience surveys and focus groups can also help you gain a deeper understanding of whether these initiatives are actually making a difference, or what you can do to improve them.
The Benefits of DEIB Analytics
We already know that a successful DEIB strategy relies on strong data collection, and it’s important to combine metrics from a wide range of different areas. By doing so, business leaders have the data they need to create a more inclusive company culture over time.
With more employees and stakeholders taking an active interest in the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals of specific companies, having transparent reporting is also vital so that you can accurately report your progress.
How To Create a More Inclusive Culture Across Different Countries
When it comes to DEIB for multinational companies, there’s never going to be a one-size-suits-all solution. “To create a workforce who truly feel a true sense of inclusion and belonging, DEIB initiatives should first have a central goal or mission,” said Fountain. “Then the execution and communication for that goal should be translated locally — both in language and in approach.”Finding the best way to collect your data and monitor change over time is first on the list.
Choose an effective measurement framework for monitoring your efforts.
Often, the data required to inform your DEIB strategy is siloed across multiple different platforms and processes. That means companies need a significant amount of time to simply collate everything before they can get to the analysis stage. The result is that the all-important data that’s needed to inform your inclusion strategy can sometimes be forgotten, and guesswork is used instead.
Something else that global organisations need to bear in mind is that they need to ensure their DEIB data collection aligns with different legislations for all the countries where they operate. This can become a factor when comparing data across different countries — because the same data isn’t always available. For example, demographic data collection is mandatory for US companies with over 100 employees. But in Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislates that while wage demographic data can be collected, everything else is optional, which means some companies can feel reluctant to ask for additional data.
That’s why it’s vital to find an analytics and reporting system that combines all your data into one easy-to-use dashboard. This helps you see how the representation breakdown of your workforce may have changed over time, discover if your performance programmes and processes are being equitably implemented, and track the sentiment of specific employee groups. Breaking this down into different countries or offices can give even deeper levels of insights into how your initiatives are received on a local level, and identify any disparities. By collecting data and feedback from multiple metrics in one place, it’s far easier to discover insights that can help inform (and improve) your DEIB strategy over time.
Select and adapt your strategies to meet local challenges.
“DEIB is critical especially in multi-national organisations because of the increased likelihood of those who differ from the ‘local majority’,” said Fountain. As a result, creating an inclusive culture across a multinational company requires more effort and intention — but it is possible. The first step is selecting strategies that meet local challenges, and then adapting them to different countries if necessary. Here are some possibilities to get you started.
1. Use language that honors and respects everyone.
“Language is a tool of inclusion and exclusion, based on the prestige language of your workplace and the policies surrounding that language,” said Fountain. “The ‘prestige language’ is the most ‘highly regarded’ or ‘preferred’ language of a workplace in relation to other spoken languages in that office, regardless of whether it is the formal or official language of that workplace or office.
“The people in power in your workplace or environment decide the majority language or dialect, which may not always be the language or dialect that the majority of employees in a specific office speak. This majority language may also be inaccessible to some employees for reasons beyond the spoken word itself, such as the lack of persistent accommodations for sign language or for other individuals [with accessibility accommodations] who prefer to pause and consider before speaking,” said Fountain.
Fountain also mentions that the concept of an ‘accent’ is a personal bias — we all have accents and then tend to recognise any other method of speaking, inflection, and intonation as ‘other’. “In any of these contexts, if you are in the minority, you may be subject to discrimination, ridicule, or harrassment,” she adds. So how can you get around this? Fountain recommends creating policies and strategies that “help achieve inclusion and belonging, which affords diverse individuals the ability to truly belong and participate in office culture.”
2. Recognise diversity holidays across the globe.
Including diversity holidays that hold significance to your global employees can show your commitment to recognise, and honour, the cultures, and identities of your team. The holidays you choose to consider should be led by your employees, but some examples include Chinese New Year, Diwali, Yom Kippur, and LGBTQIA+ History Month.
3. Make the most of employee resource groups, and choose the right training.
Training around DEIB is vital, but rather than rely on traditional unconscious bias training — which can end up having an adverse effect — switch to more effective methods including employee resource groups (ERGs), global mentoring schemes, and voluntary training.
ERGs can give historically underrepresented groups a louder voice, in addition to helping identify how your strategies could be improved to better meet their needs. One example of an ERG is a culture committee. “This can be made up of representatives from each country in the company,” said Tyler-Smith. “Regular meetings can be used to discuss how the company can create more inclusive work environments for employees from all backgrounds.”
Mentorship programmes can also offer a valuable opportunity to foster a sense of belonging. “Senior leaders could mentor new hires to help them acclimate to the company's culture,” Tyler-Smith said. She also notes this program should be specifically designed to not give preferential treatment to any one group.
Combine Intelligent Tools With a Human Approach for Effective Global Teams
Creating a truly inclusive workplace takes time and effort — but it also relies on data collection to help drive lasting improvements and changes to your DEIB business strategy. While global teams need to make more tweaks to their strategy than national companies might, the difference this will make to your employee sentiment can be profound.
We’ve just launched our DEIB Analytics Dashboard, designed to display all the data you need in one place. Now you can make informed decisions as you move towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, where employees from all corners of the world truly feel like they belong. To learn more about building an organisation where everyone can thrive, request a demo.