Understanding the Link Between DEI and Employee Engagement

March 2024
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As PR and communication professionals — whether you work in-house, at an agency, or as an academic or a consultant — we can all relate to what it means to be connected and engaged at our respective companies or organizations. 

However, the nexus between diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and employee engagement may be less apparent. I’ll share more about employee engagement and DEI, the intersection between the two, and how to increase employee engagement at a diverse company or organization.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is holistically about the emotional connection employees have with their company, colleagues, team and department, and their day-to-day work responsibilities. Simply put, it’s about how invested employees are emotionally in their respective work and the company’s mission and goals. 

When employees are engaged at all levels, they’re not just working toward a paycheck or a promotion; they have a genuine interest and commitment to their day-to-day work and job responsibilities and want to support and add value to the company’s success.

Employee engagement is a significant driver of company success. Investing in employee engagement leads to overall increased productivity and better quality of work, and helps companies retain top talent.

What is diversity, equity and inclusion?

For some, DEI is just an acronym. But it also equates to fairness, what people stand for and how we treat each other. According to a McKinsey article, DEI “are three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders and sexual orientations.’

A lot has been happening recently in the world of DEI. In 2023, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill banning DEI offices and initiatives across higher education institutions in the state.

On a national level, third-party groups are targeting corporate DEI initiatives of many U.S.-based and global companies and organizations. 

Despite these efforts, DEI has been, and remains, not only an important part of workplace culture but also a central key to employee engagement.  

How do employee engagement and DEI work together?

Data shows that there’s a positive intersection between DEI and employee engagement. From this data, we can glean that the more diverse, equitable and inclusive a company is, the more engaged its employees are. Diversity encourages belonging and inclusivity, and that translates to increased levels of employee engagement. 

Studies have shown that having a diverse workplace has so many benefits spanning innovation, diversity of creativity, thought and opinion, in addition to problem-solving abilities.

 Imagine being in a team or department meeting where most of the employees come from diverse backgrounds — different cultures, races, genders, disability statuses, neurodivergence — all bringing their unique approaches and perspectives. This level of diversity will stimulate unique ideas and result in numerous insights.

How can employee engagement be increased in a diverse company?

Employee engagement can be increased across a diverse company in many ways, such as communication, training and employee recognition.

As PR professionals, we know how essential communication is overall. From an employee engagement perspective, it develops human connection among peers, colleagues and staff while equally encouraging positive dialogue and feedback, and the company’s vision and goals that all the employees are working toward. A Grammarly Harris poll indicated “that ineffective communication processes cost U.S. businesses up to $1.2 trillion every year.”

Ongoing training and professional development are critical for employees at all levels. It allows them to obtain skills to meet the expectations of their job role and responsibilities, preparing them to take on new roles and opportunities.

According to Deloitte, “recognition is highly correlated with improving employee engagement, which, in turn, improves job performance. In fact, employee engagement, productivity and performance are 14% higher in organizations with recognition programs than those without.”

Employee recognition can be anything from simple and easy words of thank you to recognition awards to bonuses and promotions, to name a few.

A high level of successful employee engagement can make a company thrive. When employees are engaged, it yields innovative and creative thinking, increased levels of productivity and a space where they feel safe. The answer to creating an overall engaged employee environment is DEI. 

Return to Current Issue Employee Engagement | March 2024
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