Let's Talk
5 min read

5 Things Organizations With Successful Diversity Programs Have In Common

May 19, 2021 at 11:00 AM

Woman smiling

It seems everywhere you look these days, organizations are rolling out diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs. 

Recent examples include college sports teamsHollywood unions, beauty product retailers and eLearning solutions providers.

The events of the past year have all but guaranteed it will remain top-of-mind in corner offices across the country.

A new HR.com study, The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2021, sponsored by Wiley Beyond, addresses the phenomenon head-on. The objective of this report is to advance DE&I initiatives to help organizations achieve greater long-term success.

Download the Future of DE&I

The respondents included human resources professionals from a wide variety of industries across the globe; and represented companies of all sizes.

The study defined DE&I as initiatives relating to the presence of underrepresented groups in organizations, how valued and welcomed these groups are within their organizations, and the degree to which these groups enjoy equal opportunity.

The report found that there are several key areas common to organizations with well-performing DE&I programs and low-performing DE&I programs. This article explores five of them.

1. Support at the top of the organization to close pay gaps and a budget for it

Nearly 40% of organizations do not include DE&I in their succession planning and management processes. A lack of prioritization at the top levels of a company is a common barrier to DE&I. The absence of a DE&I initiative – and someone to lead it – makes it more challenging to achieve pay equity and close pay gaps, because pay gaps among underrepresented groups may not be identified.

Even when these gaps are discovered, only one-third of survey respondents said their organizations have a dedicated budget to close pay gaps. And 26% cited a lack of a budget as one of the barriers to increasing the effectiveness of DE&I initiatives within their organizations.

By comparison, organizations with high-performing DE&I programs had fewer leaders who didn’t prioritize initiatives; and only 17% lacked a leader to oversee and champion DEI&I initiatives.

The study further revealed a large number of companies with high-performing DE&I programs had one or more leadership development initiatives focusing on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in leadership. Additionally, 76% of the organizations with a strong DE&I program have a mandate in place to increase diversity in leadership roles. 

2. DE&I strategic frameworks integrated into their business strategies

As the demand for corporate social responsibility rises, proactive companies are making an effort to invest in a sustainable DE&I strategy and culture. They’re doing their part to correct inequities and become more inclusive. 

Nearly 60% of survey participants said DE&I frameworks are integrated into their business strategy.

These companies realize that incorporating DE&I into their business strategy and culture makes them more attractive to potential hires, reduces employee turnover, and positions them more positively in the marketplace. Companies embracing DE&I also see a boost in revenue.

3. Emphasis on DE&I in succession planning and talent acquisition

DE&I is not a “one and done” process. A company must make the commitment and dedicate the resources to sustain it, if it is going to make real change and see tangible results.

Survey respondents were asked to what degree their organization uses the following four DE&I initiatives:

  • Consistently communicate the importance of DE&I throughout the organization
  • Stress DE&I in the talent acquisition process 
  • Embed the topic of DE&I in all or most talent development materials
  • Include DE&I in the succession planning and management process

Predictably, companies with low-performing DE&I initiatives reported little support existed in these areas, while those with high-performing DE&I initiatives fully backed the initiatives.

4. Inclusion of a wide range of characteristics into their DE&I definition

Employers most commonly track DE&I characteristics related to protected classes. Mental health-related disabilities and illnesses are often misunderstood because unlike physical disabilities, they are not visible.

However, some initiatives include a wide range of characteristics not necessarily covered by regulations. Among them were styles of behavior, personality, socioeconomic status, and spirituality.

Asked which characteristics of a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce does your employer consider and track, the respondents’ top three were race/ethnicity, age and gender identity.

Companies that make the effort to reach the widest variety of groups, will have the most success with their DE&I programs.

5. Employees offered more inclusive and family-friendly benefits

For most employees, a job isn’t just about earning a paycheck. Just 44% of companies ensure that their health care and employee assistance program providers are reflective of the diversity of the workforce.  

Offering such benefits helps create a sense of belonging and spur greater productivity among diverse employees. 

Nearly 60% of companies offer flexible work options, but this has been largely driven over the past year by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women are more likely to return after having children to companies that offer flexible work arrangements. And 9 out of 10 millennials cite flexibility as a top priority when looking for a job. 

Asked what benefits or work arrangements their organization has that makes it easier for diverse employees, the top five responses were:

  • Flexible work options (57%)
  • Paid time off (56%)
  • Paid parental leave (45%)
  • Workforce diverse healthcare/EAP providers (44%)
  • Telecommuting options (43%)

Diversity, equity and inclusion are here to stay

We encourage companies to use the findings in The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2021, as a benchmark to measure how well they recruit and retain the best and brightest talent and develop future leaders.

By implementing DE&I programs or strengthening existing ones, companies will position themselves to attract and keep diverse employees, achieve steady growth, boost innovation, and increase profitability.

At Wiley Beyond, our goal is to guide businesses through this time of profound societal and economic change. We believe education has the power to transform organizations. It’s a critical element of a successful DE&I initiative. 

We partner with companies to align talent strategy with business strategy.  For more information on how we can work with you to achieve your organizational goals, download The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2021, and visit wileybeyond.com.

Download the Future of DE&I


Natasha DeJesus

Written by Natasha DeJesus

Natasha DeJesus is a Global DE&I Board Member at Wiley and Co-Chairs the Wiley Education Services DE&I Business Council. She is responsible for driving the DE&I enterprise strategy and is committed to fostering an inclusive workplace environment that enables colleagues to thrive and reach their fullest potential. Natasha is a Bronx, NY native and an alumnus of Colorado State University where she received her MS in Organizational Leadership.