DEIB is a major priority in the workplace in 2024. Do you understand all the terminology? And beyond the DEIB definition, do you understand what each term means in practice, as well as how to implement DEIB initiatives at work?
The DEIB meaning, simply put, is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. These concepts are meant to help create environments where everyone can be their full selves at work — not just without fear of discrimination, but with an expectation of true, intentional inclusion.
To help you fine-tune your approach to DEIB, we’ve broken down key definitions, the difference between DEIB and D&I or DEI, and examples of impactful initiatives to implement in the workplace that will help you attract (and keep) top talent. Most importantly, after reading this guide, you will understand the benefits of DEIB and how to foster it in your organization from a place of authentic (and non-performative) allyship. And before you start a DEIB training plan, be sure to check out our must-have training recommendations at the end, too.
As anyone familiar with inclusive language at work knows, there are many terms and acronyms in this space that are constantly undergoing a process of change. You’ve probably seen or heard the term “DEIB” at work. But what does DEIB stand for, really? Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging are four distinct concepts that work in conjunction with each other to create a better, more supportive environment for everyone.
Diversity is the representation of people of all different characteristics, identities, and backgrounds in the professional realm. It refers to an organization’s efforts to employ individuals of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, ages, disability and/or neurodiverse statuses, nationalities, military/veteran statuses, and other demographics. Representation achieved through tokenism doesn’t signify that a company has achieved diversity. In fact, it can often mean a harmful work environment. A genuine DEIB mission does not stop with a diverse workforce, because diversity in and of itself isn’t a solution.
Often mistaken in the DEIB acronym for “equality,” equity focuses on remedying the specific disadvantages some groups or individuals may face when trying to achieve a goal. Equality assumes an even playing field; equity does not. Instead, equity strategically and intentionally offers opportunities, resources, and other forms of support to ensure that individuals have what they need, based on their unique circumstances, to reach equal outcomes.
In the workplace, inclusion makes diversity meaningful. A great quote from respected inclusion strategist Verna Myers helps illustrate this: “Diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance.” Inclusion gives everyone the opportunity to be their true selves at work by making them feel safe, heard, accepted, valued, respected, and supported. It eliminates tokenism, because inclusion intentionally allows for authenticity and uniqueness.
While inclusion is an organization’s attempt at creating an environment for individuals to be their true selves, belonging means that those individuals actually feel valued, and that they can be open and authentic. In other words: inclusion is the action, and belonging is the effect. Belonging means that individuals feel comfortable at work, feel like they make valuable contributions, and feel connected to their coworkers through meaningful relationships.
How DEIB differs from DEI
The difference between DEI and DEIB is one important letter: B! The letter B, as explained above, stands for belonging. This one letter is why so many organizations are changing their policies and framework from the more antiquated D&I or, more recently, DEI to the most up-to-date DEIB. Equity and belonging are critical components that update the DEIB meaning, improving upon efforts from decades past.
A contemporary DEIB model
What is DEIB then, if not a progressive set of steps to achieve diversity? Each part of DEIB is a distinct effort that intersects and interacts with the others. Like a puzzle, each concept plays a role in achieving the overall picture. And at the intersection of all three is belonging.
As mentioned earlier, equity is giving those impacted by disadvantages the unique resources they need for equal opportunity. With those resources, an organization provides the environment where all individuals feel like they are supported, valued, heard, and needed. In other words, equity helps make people feel like they belong. There’s that crucial “B” again.
By limiting the focus to diversity and inclusion only, organizations in the past lacked crucial factors. Which of the following statements is more powerful?
- Statement A: Our company is diverse. We are inclusive because we welcome everyone.
- Statement B: My company is diverse and equitable. As a person with unique needs, I am included on my teams. I feel a sense of belonging within the organization.
As you can see, it just feels different when equity and belonging are included. For those familiar enough with the traditional D&I approach to ask “what does DEIB stand for” it may seem like a simple case of two missing letters. Still, those letters change the whole dynamic to help achieve an organization’s DEIB goals.
Why is DEIB important?
A DEIB example: the dinner party
Let’s ground these abstract concepts in an approachable, real-world example: a dinner party.
Diversity at the dinner party. For any list of dinner party guests, there are meat-eaters (carnivores and omnivores), vegetarians (who may consume eggs and/or milk), vegans (who don’t consume any animal products), and people on a raw diet (who don’t eat cooked food) present at the party. There is an understanding that each individual is unique. The group recognizes those differences but may not fully understand their needs. Even if each group doesn’t have appropriate food options at the dinner party, it is still a diverse guest list.
Equity at the dinner party. Each part of the meal (appetizers, salad, main, sides, and dessert) has a vegan and raw option. This food is suitable for everyone in the room. There may be meat dishes, but the needs of vegans and raw dieters at the party are met adequately for them to feel full after the meal. They are not excluded from any course or restricted to filling up on salad alone.
Inclusion at the dinner party. Guests were asked before the party to help choose the music and the menu. They don’t feel like a burden or that accommodations have been made. They were not asked to bring their own dishes to eat, but were served food by the party host just like the other guests. Everyone can fully participate in every aspect of the party.
Belonging at the dinner party. With food issues addressed, people interact and speak about a variety of topics, not just diet. People are not identified by their diet or singled out as vegans or raw diet adherents. They are identified by their unique personality traits and the experiences they share in conversation. Each person is a party guest who is a whole, individual person. Their dietary needs are not a label they’re forced to carry or represent at the party.
Having DEIB goals is all about making the workspace just as inclusive, welcoming, and diverse as the DEIB dinner party example. When companies implement DEIB training, the aim is for people to be their whole selves at work and feel a sense of belonging in those spaces.
DEIB crash course
Once you understand where belonging fits into the greater DEIB meaning, you can go deeper into these topics, their meaning, and their applications in the workplace. For a crash course in learning to set DEIB goals and carry them out, check out our four-part DEIB video series:
Types of DEIB initiatives to implement in 2024
We said that DEIB initiatives should be a high priority for employers in 2024, and at least 69% of executives say that diversity is important. So, where — in thought and action — is your company focused right now?
DEIB initiatives: The basics
The impact of COVID-19, especially on the hospitality and healthcare industries, highlighted inequalities for BIPOC employees and small business owners. Remote learning revealed how interrelated economic inequality and the digital divide are in our country. News teams in hospitals underlined the racial inequalities of patient treatment, not to mention the horrific risks of poor employer benefits. To put it bluntly, the U.S. daily news cycle has focused the American discourse on systemic inequalities for over three years. In discussions about progress, many employers feel they have a lot to answer for.
Meanwhile, workers are increasingly invested in this progress. Today’s Millenial and Gen Z recruits view inclusion as a requirement for potential employers, not a preference. According to Monster’s 2022 survey of 60,000 employees, the main three DEIB priorities for potential employees are a diverse workforce (39%), gender pay equality (36%), and growing mentorship (28%). As an employer, you can find your edge here.
The pandemic and ensuing Great Resignation certainly changed how we associate work and well-being, too. Even in 2023’s layoffs-pocked job market, the balance remained tipped in employees’ favors — many workers have forever changed their standards for what it means to be supported at work. Perhaps that’s why, in a February 2023 survey of nearly 500 diverse members of PowerToFly’s community, 49% of respondents said they’re considering quitting their jobs that year, regardless of layoffs and instability. Another 27% of respondents weren’t yet sure whether they’d consider quitting this year.
In plain terms, companies just can’t afford to lag behind on DEIB anymore. If you’re doing the good, hard work of starting a DEIB program at your company from scratch, here are some foundational DEIB processes that can get you started.
DEIB initiative #1: Start with an assessment
You need to know where you are before you can get where you’re going. Take stock of your company’s culture:
- Survey employees about demographics (ethnicity, age, gender identity, religion, etc.) and perceptions (stress levels, feelings about diversity, whether they feel safe at work, if they feel their opinions matter, if they feel their needs are met, etc.).
- Determine your levels of employee absenteeism and retention.
- Go on Glassdoor and read reviews of your company. Go to your company website and see if, as though you were seeing it for the first time, you can determine your company values.
- In meetings, observe how people interact. Do they ask questions? Do they engage? Does it feel comfortable and safe to speak up?
All this information will provide your baseline as you move forward with more DEIB initiatives.
DEIB initiative #2: Align your DEIB goals with your bottom line
You need buy-in from senior management, especially the C-suite. The best way to do that is to establish a compelling business case for DEIB at your company. Here are a few metrics for bottom-line support to ramp up your DEIB work:
- Companies with inclusive cultures have 22% lower turnover and 39% higher customer satisfaction.
- Gender-diverse teams are 15% more likely to have financial returns above industry means.
- Consumers prefer to do business with companies that align with their values (and DEIB initiatives don’t alienate anyone).
- Diverse management teams lead to 19% higher revenue.
- 93% of employees who feel valued also feel motivated to do their best work. The employers of those happy staffers reported an 11% average turnover rate — much lower than the national average of 36%.
DEIB initiative #3: DEIB action committees and ERGs
Create a DEIB committee that will be in charge of your initiatives. They will hold themselves and leadership accountable for your DEIB goals.
Create and support employee resource groups (ERGs) that align with different identities and backgrounds, such as LGBTQIA+ ERGs, Black or African American ERGs, Spanish Language ERGs, and more. Compensate employees on your DEIB committee as well as those leading your ERGs. They’re doing extra work; pay them extra for it.
DEIB initiative #4: Reexamine each one of your processes through a DEIB lens
It’s back to the drawing board for all work functions, this time with DEIB in mind. Expect and embrace change to workplace processes such as:
- Job description writing
- Recruitment and hiring
- Internal and external communications
- Individual assessment and promotions
- Work hours, location, dress
DEIB initiative #5: Learn, learn, learn
Finally, it’s time to either implement or invest more deeply in a robust DEIB training program for all levels of your organization. For details, we cover how to go about this in the next section.
4 proactive DEIB initiatives for 2024
With the above groundwork in place, here are some DEIB initiatives to expand on in 2024. Remember that being an innovator or an early adopter of DEIB practices is always the right look. Slow movement from the middle of the pack or lagging is going to be penalized by the market and top talent alike.
1. Share your company’s DEIB data
A study found that only 55% of Russell 1000 companies disclose any kind of DEIB data at all. DEIB data disclosure is a powerful driver for change. It’s easy to change your external marketing material to look more diverse and think that’s the end of it. If you share your results with the whole world, it will motivate you to hit your DEIB goals.
Share your organization's DEIB data. Publish the results as well as the methodology used to collect it. Sharing this data educates your employees on what DEIB is. It also keeps leadership accountable.
Does the thought of publishing organization-wide salary information scare you? Then you might have some inequalities in that area. Set a deadline to publish your salaries within the next six months. If something looks wrong, make it right. When it comes to transparency, the scarier = the better. Discomfort is a catalyst for growth.
2. Diversify your hiring teams
We know like hires like; that’s called affinity bias. In the early stages of your DEIB effort, your recruitment and hiring team may be homogenous. As your DEIB initiative evolves, ensure that your hiring team becomes diverse in its demographic makeup. The recruitment and hiring team should reflect the diversity you seek. Remember, panel voting systems produce more diverse hires than individual decision-makers.
3. Strengthen employee referral programs
About 45% of employees hired by referrals will stay at a company for four or more years. Compare that to just 25% of job board hires. Encourage referrals across departments and demographics, and see this as the diversification tool it can be. Allow HR and DEIB teams to monitor that referrals aren’t all coming from one group. Ask employees to explain how their referral reflects company values.
4. Connect with and advocate in your community
A survey found that nearly 60% of American consumers want to buy products from companies that take a position on social issues. Your company needs to advocate for as well as connect with your local community. Many recruiters don’t know where to find diverse candidates simply because they have no connections to diverse communities.
Reach out to a local organization like a church, resource center, school, sports league, or small business. Ask how you can give money (donations) or time (volunteer work). A successful payoff may be generations of goodwill and mutual benefit.
We’ve previously covered the different types of DEIB training available on the market, as well as ways to strengthen and improve your diversity training. As we always say, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each company and organization is unique.
To help with choosing between options, we stressed the four must-haves for any DEIB training plan. These are crucial elements to your company plan because they take into account the true DEIB meaning along with all its necessary elements:
- Strategy. Identify a goal. Measure your baseline. Assess your resources and budget.
- Metrics. Set indicators. Strategize subjective and objective measurement tools. Benchmark.
- Leadership training. Make sure C-suites are included in training and leading the pack.
- Participatory learning. Learn by doing. Incorporate real team interaction.
Finally, we identified the three strategic types of training that you need for company success. Including these three types in your DEIB training plan will ensure that you reach your evolving DEIB goals.
- Awareness: Sensitivity training and basic awareness education.
- Action: Learning how to eliminate bias, communicate better, and implement inclusion techniques.
- Advocacy: Engaging staff and the community to create safe environments at work (and beyond).
Each organization has a specific surrounding community. Those people serve as both the staffing pool as well as the customer base. The best DEIB training plan is one that’s customized to fit the needs of the organization in general and the community at that specific time.
Where the rubber meets the road: Your next steps with DEIB
Since DEIB is an evolving concept, knowing the basics is a start. Next, you have to apply active, actionable DEIB to the workplace. Belonging is good for business, but strategic DEIB training is where the rubber meets the road. Whether you have an expert in-house or you contract out for DEIB training, achievable goals are where your staffers, from C-suites to interns, will see results.