Over the past few years, organizations and employees alike have turned their attention toward addressing the social inequities in the workplace made starkly visible by the pandemic. While much progress has been made in this space, this increased attention has also led to increased recognition that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs can stall, fail, or even backfire if not implemented thoughtfully. Too often, when implementing DEI programs organizations place more emphasis on diversity and inclusion than on equity despite the fact that the majority of U.S. workers (88%) believe fairness is extremely important or very important in the workplace. What’s more, equity often serves as the foundation for successful DEI strategies, improving employees’ job satisfaction, work engagement, perceptions of inclusion, as well as the retention of diverse talent.2 In this context, there is new urgency for innovative perspectives that bring equity front and center in U.S. workplaces.
By addressing inequities within and across employment systems, organizations can identify where most inequities occur and identify the action steps needed to rectify these inequities on an employment system-by-system basis. This has been a challenge for decades, as organizations have struggled to translate research findings into actionable steps to strengthen equity. To aid in this effort, this study identified seven pathways to change (or “Levers for Change”) that employers might pursue to strengthen each of the employment systems: policies, practices, planning and evaluation, roles and accountabilities, culture, climate, and communication. Through recognizing and identifying the breadth and depth of inequities in the workplace, the National Study of Workplace Equity provides organizations with a framework and detailed roadmap to address inequities and help their workplaces thrive.
In an effort to reframe fundamental perspectives of DEI, Work Equity, an initiative of the Center for Social Innovation at the Boston College School of Social Work, partnered with SHRM, the largest global membership organization of HR practitioners, to conduct the National Study of Workplace Equity. One of the first of its kind, the study aimed to understand the state of equity in U.S. workplaces using a nationally representative sample of 1,062 workplaces in the United States.
Measurement and Metrics
Rather than conceptualizing the level of equity as being constant across the workplace, this study recognizes that equity can vary across employment systems. As such, this study takes a more targeted approach to DEI by focusing on the root causes of inequities in the workplace – and explores where these inequities are most likely to be embedded across 10 different employment systems (1) job structures, (2) recruitment and hiring, (3) compensation and benefits, (4) orientation and onboarding, (5) supervision and mentoring, (6) training and career development, (7) performance assessment and feedback, (8) employee resources and supports, (9) promotions, and (10) separations.
Facts and Figures
Organizations often struggle to maintain equity throughout the employee lifecycle. • The three employment systems with the most equity are: • Recruitment and Hiring (#1 Most Equity) • Compensation and Benefits (#2) • Orientation and Onboarding (#3) The three employment systems with the least equity are: • Resources and Supports (#10 Least Equity) • Job Structures (#9) • Supervision and Mentoring (#8)
Study finds that 62 percent of organizations devote little to no resources to diversity, equity, and inclusion (Boston College School of Social Work, December 2022)
The National Study of Workplace Equity Report (SHRM, December 2022)