How Customers & Talent Are Shaping DE&I Initiatives. Is Your Business Keeping Up?

by Donna Burnett on September 26, 2022 in Hiring


According to PwC’s 2021 Annual Corporate Directors Survey, 52% of current directors believe that diversity goals should be directly connected to incentive plan goals (compensation), a 13-point jump from last year. That shows an increased awareness from an executive level about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) to the business world.

Awareness and structural change are two different matters, but hopeful signs exist. Surprisingly, Wall Street provides a glimmer of progress. For the first time ever, every company listed on the S&P 500 has at least one racially or ethnically diverse director. And starting in August of 2023, companies trading on the exchange must have at least two diverse board members or explain why they are not meeting the diversity objective.

What can local businesses and organizations (profit and non-profit alike) learn from these corporate initiatives? Here’s what we’re seeing.

Where to Start

If you don’t have a robust DE&I initiative (or don’t even whisper a word of DE&I efforts on your company website), candidates may choose to go with other companies that showcase clear advocacy of this core value. From April of 2021-2022, 14% of employees quit because of a non-inclusive community and 34% because of uncaring and uninspiring leaders. Companies that are not actively growing in DE&I awareness may start losing more and more current employees or even client partnerships because of the lack of DE&I focus.

Take Target and Gap, for example (both leading S&P 500 companies). Around 50% of Target’s workforce are people of color and 31% of their board members are Latino. Gap is paving the way in gender diversity as 58% of the VP executives are women, and around 55% of retail workers are people of color.

If not already in place, you can create a team or committee in your business to lead the charge in this area. From monthly internal trainings to finding avenues where you can support and partner with organizations/nonprofits excelling in their DE&I efforts.

Complexity of Customer Expectations

What is the heartbeat of our world’s multicultural markets? Customers. And customers expect personalization. From the array of colors for their next pair of running shoes to the number of customizable choices for a company’s email service, globalized industries (thanks to the internet) are a vending machine of options. The question is, how do you bring that personal touch? You keep the heartbeat pumping by caring about what your customer cares about (you guessed it, they care about DE&I efforts!).

According to a Deloitte Survey, 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities in their actions. Brands that embrace DE&I are more adequately prepared and equipped to foster positive multicultural interactions with their customers because the organization is elevating the people’s voice.

Skill Gaps & Hiring Strategies

Being unaware or unintentional with DE&I issues detaches connection with customers. That’s why talking about your organization’s DE&I values and clearly connecting them with actions you are taking is crucial.

For example, TOMS shoes says they are in the business to improve lives. Then they show how they invest one-third of their profits for grassroot goods, including cash grants and partnerships with community organizations and nonprofits that drive sustainable change for equality.

Can your customers easily connect the dots from what your company says to what your company does? If so, you not only have a greater chance to maintain good rapport with your customers, but you create an inviting environment for potential employees as well.

The Beauty of Diverse Talent & Ideas

Clearly, small and large corporations, as well as the big dogs of Wall Street, are part of the vanguard diversifying their talent. How can small businesses and nonprofit organizations compete? If you have a diverse talent pool of professionals, you inherently encourage a diverse set of ideas. Implementing this may be easier said than done at first, but the outcome is a real game changer for organizations.

Looking at the numbers, diverse companies generate a 2.5 times higher cash-flow per employee and inclusive teams are more productive by over 35%. That’s an attractive stat, but what about DE&I empowers these companies to be more productive? How are they drawing from untapped talent? By creating out-of-the-box solutions.

Take Microsoft for example. They hope to facilitate the inclusion of all employees by incorporating programs like their Neurodiversity Hiring Program, a job-applicant process that encourages neurodiverse applicants to showcase their abilities and talents. This is just one of several initiatives that offer career planning and talent development for employees from various minority groups.

Or take a company like Vertical Harvest. To honor their roots as a community farm, the hydroponic farming company partners with local groups to create individualized programs that best suit those within the community. This includes joining, including high school preemployment opportunities, job coaching for single mothers, and affordable-housing resource advising.

Skill Gaps & Hiring Strategies

Companies must innovate. When you have a diverse group of age, experience, ethnicity in the same room, your organization constructs ideas and initiatives from every possible angle, reducing the likelihood of being blindsided by one-dimensional plans and increasing confidence in decision making. Look for diversity in who you hire and who you choose as leaders in your company to foster the same model for your business.

Your Part in It All

DE&I initiatives are an integral part of global markets, customer expectations, and top talent. The question is, are your initiatives keeping pace? You may be making strides in this area, and if so, you are in good company with outstanding organizations across the nations that are elevating the voices of all people. And perhaps your DE&I efforts could use some more attention, and that realization is a great place to start.

Looking to add diverse and expert talent to your team? Connect with Contact 1 today to learn how we can support you in your hiring efforts.


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