Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Thought Center

Ever think about the gap between employees' personal beliefs and the reality of your company’s work environment? You should – it’s important.

How many times have you said that a person just wasn’t the right “fit” for the company, team, or a job function? Few people give much thought to what is meant by “fit”. According to Deloitte, an organization’s cultural fit consists of values, beliefs, mission, and goals. Alignment between a company’s culture with that of its employees is fundamental to business success.

“Fit” is equally important for candidates when considering prospective employers or remaining with their current ones. Ensuring alignment between their personal beliefs and their prospective workplaces has emerged as an important deciding factor for joining or remaining at a company. The larger the gap between their personal beliefs and perceptions of their work environment, the higher the probability of disengagement and/or attrition.

CEOs define the culture of their organizations which typically reflects their personal and business values. That said, every generation has unique values formed by the prevailing societal, political, and economic influences during the time in which they grew up. They bring these beliefs into the workplace requiring companies to adapt if they want to attract top talent.

Today’s workforce is no different except they are more selective, outspoken, and socially conscious than previous generations. They expect companies and CEOs to align with their beliefs and values, otherwise they have no hesitation making their opinions known through social media and/or walkouts.

As a result of working with our clients, we have discovered a significant gap between employees’ personal beliefs and the reality of their work environment. This revelation is based on analysis of 3,500 responses to our online survey. If left unaddressed, the difference between the two has a significant impact on overall business results.

Why This Matters

There are compelling reasons for being concerned about this gap: overall company performance and talent acquisition. They are interdependent and consist of multiple factors.  

Today, company reputation is paramount. Financially, organizations with good reputations are perceived as providing greater value, cultivating greater customer loyalty, and delivering higher earnings and market value.

People want to work for companies known to be inclusive and with great working environments. This is particularly true for millennials and the Z generation who are brand conscious and committed to social responsibility. It is difficult to shift a negative reputation once established.

 

Hiring top talent is challenging. The talent pool is increasingly diverse. Approximately 44% of the millennials are people of color; 48% of post-millennials. It is predicted that by the end of 2020 people of color under age 18 will be in the majority. To remain competitive, companies need to reflect these demographic changes.

Employee retention is more complex and critical given the current environment. Approximately 31% of women and 24% of men leave the workforce primarily due to an inflexible workplace. Low unemployment and a shortage of skilled professionals has created a highly competitive talent market. Brain drain occurs every time an employee leaves in addition to the negative impact on team effectiveness, productivity, and, ultimately, profitability.

Replacing employees is costly. Filling a position can cost up to 20% or more of a mid-range employee’s annual salary and exceed 200% for executive leadership. Offering competitive salaries and benefits can potentially wreak havoc on existing salary structures.

Employee (dis)engagement directly affects profitability. Gallup estimates that one-third of employees are actively engaged. Disengagement costs companies “approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary” or $350 billion for the US economy.

Employee activism is now inescapable. Forty-five percent of all employees indicate they make employment decisions based on the actions a company takes regarding important societal issues. They are actively holding executive leadership accountable for being socially responsible and vocal about these issues.

Moving Forward

As CEO, you and your senior leadership team have a direct impact on changes in organizational culture, workplace systems, and accountability required to achieve and sustain a workplace that more closely aligns with employees’ belief.

 

Start with asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you know how employees perceive your company’s work environment?

  • Is there diverse representation throughout the company or does everyone look like you?

  • Does everyone believe they have equal development and advancement opportunities?

  • What is the company’s reputation on the street?

  • Are employees fully engaged and proud to be associated with the company?

  • Is your pipeline filled with qualified, diverse candidates?

  • Do you take a stand when you feel strongly about an environmental or societal issue?

Next, consider implementing these actions:

  • Recognize diversity and inclusion as vital for success. Integrate them into the business strategy.

  • Publicly declare a commitment to creating an inclusive culture and demonstrate this commitment by being (and the senior leadership team) actively engaged and visible champions of inclusion.

  • Hire a person dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Provide the necessary funding for this position and associated activities.

  • Support an in-depth assessment of employees’ perceptions of the current work environment. Include questions about personal beliefs regarding the importance of an inclusive workplace.

  • Ensure data from this assessment is used as a baseline for designing a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategic plan and effective allocation of resources.

  • Commit to acting on the results of the assessment. Provide frequent and consistent communication regarding progress.

  • Reinforce organizational buy-in and alignment through accountability and specific goals.

  • Monitor progress regularly.

 

It is complicated but possible to close the gap between employees’ personal beliefs the workplace reality. While it takes time, commitment, courage, and financial resources to create an environment in which everyone thrives, companies can no longer afford ignoring this disparity.

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Julia Geisman is the Founder and CEO of CareerAgility LLC. The company works with companies committed to building and sustaining inclusive and equitable workplaces.  Their proprietary online assessment creates data-driven baselines used for evidence-based recommendations specific to the unique needs of their clients. Clients include companies from the financial services, technology, and biotech industries.

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