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2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Progress Report and Trend Alert

POSTED ON 
March 1, 2022

Few moments changed the DEI landscape like George Floyd’s brutal murder in 2020.  

In response to urgent calls for justice, corporations across the globe were forced to acknowledge years of systemic injustice – and to pledge to do something about it. Social media statements were made, Chief Diversity Officers were hired, and DEI consultants – like myself – suddenly found ourselves with a ton of interested buyers.  

But as anyone working in the DEI space knows, change in corporate America is rarely radical. The challenges to building an equitable workplace are complex. While companies are trying to move the needle, they’re sometimes doing so ineffectively, without a clear understanding of the overall DEI landscape.  

So, almost two years since that awful day in May 2020, where are we now? 

Without data, it’s hard to have a good answer about progress. Culture Amp’s 2022 DEI Landscape Report aims to fill this gap. After conducting an employee experience survey and compiling data from more than 2,100 companies that sought feedback on their DEI initiatives from more than 1.1 million employees across the globe, Culture Amp’s report has some good news – and some totally unsurprising news. 

Since I’m a DEI and communications expert who focuses primarily on racial equity, Culture Amp’s insights on race were most interesting to me. Read on for 5 key insights, 5 learnings, and 5 opportunities to chart our course forward!  

@linkList;Jump to a section or read on:;5 Takeaways on the State of DEI;5 Ways Companies Responded in 2021;5 Ways Companies Should Respond in 2022

5 Takeaways on the State of DEI   

1. COMPANIES ARE REALLY TRYING 

2020 was a year of reckoning – and companies really did wake up. When HR and DEI practitioners were asked whether they believe their organizations are building a diverse and inclusive culture, 85% of respondents agreed. Even more meaningfully, 71% of HR and DEI practitioners agreed that their organizations are doing more than just the bare minimum required for compliance by auditing promotion processes and supporting ERGs, for example. 

2. BLACK EMPLOYEES ARE EXPERIENCING GAINS 

The surge in social activism due to the Black Lives Matter movement has had a positive impact on Black employees’ perception of their experience. Though Black employees still report concerns around career advancement and belonging, their overall experience has improved more than any other racial group in 2021. In particular, Black employees’ response to “People from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed at [Company]” went up 9% from 2020 to 2021. 

3. BARRIERS STILL EXIST FOR ASIAN EMPLOYEES 

Although Asian employees feel like their opinions are valued and that they can voice contrary opinions, they don’t see their perspectives being included in decisions made by leadership (where they are often underrepresented).  

Asian employees’ response to “Perspectives like mine are included in the decision-making at [Company]” went down 3% from 2020 to 2021, pointing to the presence of what cross-cultural expert, Jane Hyun, calls “the bamboo ceiling.” The bamboo ceiling refers to the barriers that exclude Asians and Asian-Americans from executive positions on the basis of subjective factors like “lack of leadership potential” and “lack of communication skills.” 

4. THE LATINE EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE HAS WORSENED 

Compared to their peers, Latine employees gave less favorable responses to a wide variety of employee engagement questions. In particular, their response to “When I share my opinion, it’s valued” went down almost 5% from 2020 to 2021.  

While there is no single reason for this decline, the absence of a prominent movement to support the Latine community (like Black Lives Matter) may be contributing to less organizational action around Latine employees. 

5. WHITE EMPLOYEES TEND TO BELIEVE THE SYSTEM IS FINE

Meanwhile, white employees are most likely to believe existing processes are fine, especially in the areas that need the most improvement – equitable compensation and career pathing. Their response to “I believe my total compensation is fair, relative to similar roles at other companies” went up by more than 4% from 2020 to 2021. And their response to “People from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed at [Company]” went up by more than 5% from 2020 to 2021.  

While the data may not be surprising, it's still a cause for concern, as white employees are most likely to be in positions of power. If they don’t believe inequities exist, they're not likely to work to rectify them, reinforcing systemic issues.

5 Ways Companies Responded in 2021   

While companies took many actions to address calls for racial and social justice, five stand out for their good intentions but ineffective impact. 

1. HIRING FOR DEI ROLES

According to Axios, 80% of full-time DEI practitioners were hired in the last year alone, indicating a real organizational investment in effecting change. But competing priorities, tight resources, and – most importantly – the absence of a team to execute strategic change hampered DEI efforts from taking root.  

2. DEI-RELATED TRAININGS

According to Culture Amp, 54% of organizations offer unconscious bias training as the primary method of DEI-related learning & development.  

But as the Harvard Business Review and others have pointed out, the jury is still out on whether unconscious bias training actually works, with some experts suggesting that it can even increase employee backlash from dominant groups. 

3. CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Companies are taking note of the need to move beyond representation goals through hiring by focusing on career development. 40% of Culture Amp survey respondents noted that their organization had clear processes in place for career advancement.  

But this isn’t a number to celebrate; it indicates that the majority of companies either lack this clarity or make promotion decisions based on bias or perceived favoritism. 

4. DEI DATA-GATHERING

Organizations generally understand that, to make progress against goals, they need to collect DEI-related data. 83% of Culture Amp’s surveyed organizations reported that they are collecting data, as allowed by local laws.  

But few organizations are collecting data beyond those related to visible characteristics of identity, such as ethnicity/race, gender identity, and age. And, when they are collecting more robust data, they are failing to share it with key stakeholders in their organizations – only 34% of surveyed organizations share DEI metrics with all leaders, from executives to middle managers. 

5. DEI COMMUNICATIONS (OUR FAVORITE!)

Companies are wading into the internal and external waters of DEI communications due to increased pressure from employees, customers, and stakeholders. 63% of surveyed organizations are hosting employee discussions on DEI, such as town halls and focus groups; and 47% of organizations have communicated their DEI perspective to external audiences.  

But while companies seem happy to let employees talk about DEI, they are far more wary of making commitments, internally or externally. 40% of surveyed organizations do not have a DEI mission statement, and 23% reported not having any perspective on DEI to share with external stakeholders! 

5 Ways Companies Should Respond in 2022

Addressing organizational gaps in diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t easy, but it needs to be strategic. Though the reasons for haphazard DEI initiatives can vary – lack of leadership investment, lack of resources and time, or even lack of knowledge around best practices – we can and should change our approach! 

1. STAFF DEI EFFORTS

If you’ve recently hired for a major DEI role, don’t overlook the need to support this person and help them succeed in their work. If you don’t have the resources to bring in more staff, it’s totally OK to hire external DEI consultants and thought partners to help you create and execute a strategic DEI plan and any communications around it. (And check out our list for 10 DEI Experts Who Can Help Your Company Today!) 

2. CREATE A DEI LEARNING JOURNEY

Brilliant Ink recently rolled out a DEI learning journey (created by yours truly!), and that’s because we know that DEI learning needs to be continuous to be effective. As the Culture Amp report suggests, “[A] single DEI training is not sufficient… Organizations should offer an ongoing curriculum focused on DEI-related topics.” 

3. DEFINE CAREER DEVELOPMENT PATHWAYS 

Increasing representation cannot be the only goal of a strategic DEI plan. Employee development is key to elevating equity in your organization.  

With a clear development pathway, supported by a direct manager and a skip level manager, employees from historically-excluded groups will see a path toward leadership positions – creating stronger feelings of organizational belonging. 

4. COLLECT AND SHARE DEI-RELATED DATA WIDELY

Data drives more effective decision-making, and no DEI strategic plan can be executed without effective data collection.  

If local laws allow, aim to collect more robust data around “invisible” characteristics of identity, such as sexual identity and disability status, and share results with all leaders. Direct managers have an enormous impact on an employee’s experience, and they need to know the data too! 

5. COMMIT TO DEI, AND COMMUNICATE IT BOLDLY

Risk-aversion is understandable, but most employees want companies to walk the walk. More than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers (76%) report that diversity is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers (Glassdoor’s 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Workplace Survey).  

If you haven’t already, think through your organization’s position on DEI and craft a mission statement that can be shared internally and externally. And be sure to back it up with dedicated resourcing. 

DEI IS A JOURNEY – LET’S KEEP GOING!

No matter how well-meaning your organization’s intentions are, you must take adequate steps to strategize, execute, and measure your DEI efforts to drive meaningful change. While hiring for DEI roles, offering trainings, and gathering data are important, we can move the needle more meaningfully by staffing DEI efforts, charting a DEI learning journey, and communicating our mission – all while backing it up with data!

As we head toward the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, we must ensure that we understand how the DEI landscape is evolving – and how we can best support our diverse employees in their journey to realizing true equity. 

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest! 

Farida Habeeb, Ph.D.
SENIOR STRATEGIST

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