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GuidesEmployee experienceWhat is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace?

What is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace?

Last updated

25 June 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Lara Leganger

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Employees are the most important asset of any business, and they should feel safe, comfortable, and engaged at work. By embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principles, you will have happier employees, lower staff turnover, and better business outcomes.

Get up to speed with this essential concept in business and understand why organizations should make it a priority. Discover some actionable steps toward DEI you can take today.

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

DEI is an umbrella term that relates to the actions taken to sustain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace environment. Diversity, equity, and inclusion describe policies and practices that support the equal participation and inclusion of different groups of individuals.

What is workplace diversity?

Diversity in the workplace is defined as the representation of people from different cultural backgrounds, and identities, no matter their:

  • Age

  • Ethnic group

  • Sexual orientation

  • Gender

  • Religion

  • Marital status

In a diverse workplace, a variety of cultural and social characteristics exist together. Organizations, therefore, need to foster a culture that recognizes and respects all differences.

What is workplace equity?

Workplace equity ensures everyone within an organization has equal access to opportunities. It is about solving imbalance by providing every employee with equal chances to succeed.

What is workplace inclusion?

Workplace inclusion is the practice of ensuring that all employees feel like they belong. It refers to how well the different groups' presence and perspectives are welcomed and integrated into the workplace.

In an inclusive workplace, every employee feels involved and supported, regardless of who they are.

What is the difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Although the three terms diversity, equity, and inclusion are often lumped together and used interchangeably, they mean three different things.

Diversity means a varying range of groups, for example, the presence of differences within a given setting. Diversity refers to different cultural backgrounds, identities, ages, and more.

Equity refers to the fair treatment of these groups, regardless of how they identify. It may include equal access to opportunities for all people. Equity also aims to eliminate all barriers preventing individuals from participating in workplace opportunities.

Inclusion is the engagement of all the members of a group. It promotes a sense of belonging and makes people feel valued and welcomed in all work environments. Inclusivity allows employees to be themselves without being judged by others.

Why is DEI in the workplace important?

DEI is essential in creating and maintaining a thriving workplace. Promoting a heterogenous workplace where different individuals can work together toward a common goal is essential.

By ensuring DEI in your organization, you will create a diverse workforce of people who share equal opportunities and feel included and valued. DEI in the workplace fosters creativity and innovation. It also champions an understanding of the different perspectives of others.

Employees will share their unique perspectives and experiences, leading to greater innovation. A DEI approach also incentivizes employees to be committed to their jobs.

What other benefits can organizations gain from inclusion and diversity?

We’ve seen that a DEI approach motivates employees and helps everyone feel included. Here are six other benefits of DEI:

It helps attract an extensive talent pool

Due to high competition, attracting top talent is a challenge most businesses face. DEI allows organizations to tap into a vast pool of talent.

Prospective employees are more willing to work in organizations that champion diversity and inclusivity. Therefore, implementing DEI practices can create an environment that attracts top talent from various backgrounds.

Better financial performance

Diverse teams perform better and are likely to bring in higher financial returns. With DEI in place, employees are more satisfied with their jobs and are more committed to meeting the company's targets. As a result, your company's financial performance will improve.

Diverse teams will also identify new products or services that can help your company meet ever-changing customer needs. With this approach, the organization will make more sales and surpass its financial targets.

Improves decision-making

In a homogenous workplace environment, nobody challenges the top management's decisions, and everyone agrees with them. In diverse workplace environments, employees can voice their concerns and ensure better decisions are made.

There is also a far wider variety of skills and experience in more diverse organizations, bringing fresh perspectives and solutions. This results in better problem-solving and decision-making.

Fosters a sense of belonging

Employees want to associate themselves with organizations that reflect their values. Creating a work environment where people from diverse backgrounds are heard and seen will create a better sense of belonging. They will feel more comfortable working toward a common goal.

These employees look forward to going to work and have pride in the work they do. By contrast, in a homogenous culture, employees tend to conform to set standards and are less likely to be themselves for fear of being rejected.

Lower staff turnover rates and higher retention

For any business, employee turnover is a significant factor affecting an organization's success and growth. However, with DEI practices in place, employees are likely to stay. When employees feel their thoughts, ideas, feelings, and contributions are welcomed, they’re less likely to quit, so the company's retention rates are improved.

Enhances productivity

A workplace that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusivity encourages employees to contribute authentically. When employees are actively engaged, there are fewer onsite errors and higher productivity. Engaged employees are more dedicated to ensuring the growth and success of the business.

In addition, diverse teams are more innovative and productive. When employees feel included, they are more likely to be happy and satisfied. Employee well-being has a ripple effect on improving team morale, job satisfaction, and performance at every business level.

How can organizations foster an inclusive workplace? 

Implementing DEI practices in the workplace is a daunting task that requires adequate planning and collaboration with the necessary stakeholders.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all technique for rolling out successful DEI practices, the following tips may help your organization foster an inclusive workplace.

Roll out DEI training programs

Diversity and inclusion training programs can help employees understand cultural differences at work. To successfully foster an inclusive workplace, train employees on the importance of embracing inclusivity. For effective outcomes, leaders should clearly communicate why the training is required and what follows.

Be flexible regarding cultural and religious holidays

Another way to foster greater inclusivity is to be aware of cultural and religious holidays. As a business owner, respect these days and schedule flexible workdays to allow employees to celebrate the holidays that matter to them.

Gather employee feedback on DEI practices

Although DEI can be an uncomfortable subject, encourage employees to talk about it. You could ask via a survey how they feel about inclusivity in the workplace. Ask if they have ever faced cases of discrimination or bias within the workplace. With the survey feedback, you, as a leader, can take immediate action and address any discrimination issues.

Schedule regular DEI check-ins

Business leaders should schedule checkpoints to track the progress of DEI initiatives. Employers can assess organizational policies and determine whether their processes enable inclusivity in the workplace. With results from regular check-ins, the organization can reshape its policies and move toward a more inclusive work environment.

Building awareness of unconscious bias

Everyone is inclined to implicit personal bias. The first step to fostering an inclusive workplace is understanding bias and building awareness around it. Diversity and inclusivity training will break down these biases and ensure everyone feels welcomed.

Another way to address bias is to encourage employees to analyze their personal biases and assumptions. This will help them to understand the common pitfalls and know how to better address them.

Other best practices to ensure diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace include:

  • Being fair and transparent during the hiring process

  • Promoting safe pathways to report harassment and discrimination

  • Fostering belonging by recognizing employees' unique perspectives

  • Setting up thresholds for the representation of minority groups in the workforce

  • Celebrating employees' milestones

  • Staying up to date with DEI initiatives


What is an example of DEI?

A DEI example is using inclusive language in the workplace. Inclusive language directly addresses employees and reflects individuality. This includes avoiding the use of team acronyms and terms like ‘guys.’

What is the difference between D&I and DEI?

The additional 'E' represents equity. D&I approaches have made a conscious decision to exclude equity.

What are DEI and DEIB? 

DEI is an acronym that stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEIB is DEI with the additional 'B', representing the principle of belonging.

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