Lever, a leading talent acquisition company, recently published a report (available for download) on the gap between the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work many organizations are doing and their employees’ perceptions of that work.  Lever surveyed 513 HR decision-makers and 1,100 employees and uncovered helpful insight for every organization embarking on DEI work.

Lots of Policy Changes – But a Big Communication Gap!

Lever reported that inclusion plans are becoming more formalized, with 51% of companies formalizing a DEI strategy and 47% creating or reviewing their DEI policies. In addition, 44% of employees surveyed made actionable changes to their hiring policies. This is great news! Lever’s report, however, found that employees are often unaware of these formalized plans.

Companies report that they communicate their effort to some degree. After all, 64% added their DEI efforts to their home page, 52% offered consistent training on DEI to employees, and 51% shared their DEI efforts in company-wide channels.  And yet, there seems to be a gap in employee perception of the DEI work employers say they are doing.

Even with these inclusion and communication efforts, 24% of employees say that their company hasn’t done anything this year to improve DEI, and this number is even higher at companies with fewer than 20 employees and among those working in professional or financial services.”

To drive home this point, Lever reported that 52% of companies introduced measures to ensure employee pay is equal across titles or positions in the last year. Yet just 24% of employees knew of these actions at their organization. In addition, nearly a third (31%) of companies began using gender-inclusive language in their employee handbooks; only 18% of employees recognized that their company had done so.

There’s also a gap in the level of communication needed around DEI Initiatives. While employees are most concerned about improving communication around ongoing and future DEI plans (34%), employers are most concerned about adopting more diverse hiring plans (50%) and internal alignment around what DEI means for the organization (52%).

“Misalignment in communication and action led a quarter of employees to believe their company had not done anything to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace in the last year.”

One of the risks in the communication gap is that employees may be missing out on participating in the more inclusive offerings of their employer. Over a quarter (27%) of the companies surveyed introduced or expanded inclusive benefits and perks, but only 9% of employees reported knowing about it at their organization.

The Lesson

This survey reveals that employees often are not aware of their company’s DEI efforts. Leaders need to share updates and solicit feedback from their teams more intentionally to bridge this gap. Often, you need to tell people things more than once – and in different ways – for them to remember. This underscores the need for a well-planned communication strategy about DEI initiatives, as well as the ongoing value of integrating DEI into the company culture so that advancements are a regular part of conversations. When the entire company is aware of DEI efforts and progress, more employees can champion those initiatives and get involved – and that helps promote retention.

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