DEI Trends in 2023: What’s New, What’s Holding Us Back & How to Ensure Success

Since its inception in the 1960s, the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has planted itself firmly in the workplace. DEI initiatives are now a necessity for organizations across the globe that value their people and want to contribute to creating a fair and truly representative social fabric that benefits us all via a workplace that champions diversity, provides equity and supports inclusion. 

Through the development of solutions, programs and strategic investments, DEI initiatives continue the effort to bring balance to workplaces that carry barriers for many marginalized groups. But how far have we really come? Where are there gaps? In this article, we’ll discuss the emerging DEI trends stepping into focus, the trends that we can leave behind and what makes for successful DEI initiatives.

Emerging DEI Trends for 2023

As many of us know, a lot can change in a year, and according to experts with their finger on the pulse of the industry, 2023 promises to be one driven by tough changes and a requirement to listen closely and adapt. Here’s a summary of the trends that will dominate DEI in 2023.

Disproportionate Layoffs

Expect a turbulent economy to continue causing trouble in the job market, with layoffs occurring that disproportionately affect women and minorities. Threats of a recession have caused many companies to tighten their purse strings, resulting in cost-cutting moves that have left DEI efforts on the chopping block. Even the once-booming tech sector isn’t immune, as we see large numbers of layoffs at prominent companies like Alphabet and Microsoft. 

Stalled DEI efforts paired with continued systemic gender and racial bias in the workplace means women and minorities will likely experience layoffs more than others. To fight this trend and make real change, companies will need to continue identifying where bias exists in their organizations and work to eliminate it.

Staying Flexible

One of the pandemic’s lasting effects is on how and where we work. Hybrid and fully remote models of work are not going away, with many workers appreciating the ability to choose which model works best for them, and that trend continues into 2023. Employers will do better by their employees by remaining flexible and tackling head-on the challenges that different models of work, be it in-office, remote or hybrid, can present for workers. 

For example, while more back-to-office mandates may be issued in the coming year, trying to force all employees back to the office can create conflict and alienate underrepresented groups, particularly when a dynamic remote or hybrid work model benefits certain workers better, such as some employees with disabilities. 

Organizations working to be more inclusive should think about how they can meet the individual needs of employees and what workers need to balance their work and succeed at their job.

Listening to Working Parents

Another DEI trend expected in the year ahead includes recognizing the needs and individual lived experiences of working parents that may not fit the “traditional” mould of the nuclear family. Experts note that organizations are beginning to realize their benefits packages don’t meet the needs of single, separated or divorced parents. 

Instead, companies will have to introduce benefits that fit a variety of family structures and needs; for example, offering paid adoption leave, fertility treatment coverage, and paid family leave for workers who care for elderly family members in addition to children.  

Better DEI Reporting

Because a lot of businesses are dealing with tighter budgets in 2023, one trend to watch for is organizations investing in more meaningful metrics and benchmarks of change. How a company measures their success with a DEI initiative can be a clear indicator of whether they’ve given meaningful thought to their DEI program and are invested in true, long-lasting, sustainable change rather than surface-level quick wins. 

Companies that see the real value of DEI will put every available resource they have into empowering their DEI strategy leaders and supporting employees of all backgrounds with a truly inclusive and equitable workplace environment.

Addressing the Loss of Female Leaders

A recent report by McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.Org found that, in 2022, organizations saw women leaders switching jobs at the highest rates yet. Research has found women continue to face additional difficulties that lead to their departure from a company, including the inability to advance in their positions due to stronger resistance than their male counterparts; being overworked and underrecognized; and valuing a culture of work that supports DEI, employee well-being and flexibility.  

Women and women of color especially are already underrepresented in leadership positions, so to address this trend going into 2023 and beyond, organizations will have to identify what biases and behaviors in their business are driving their best female leaders away. From there, meaningful discussions and planning will need to take place to address the ways in which women leaders can find success in their current roles.

DEI Trends That Aren’t Working

After a growing focus and integration of DEI into most organizations over the past few years, lessons have been learned along the way, and discussion has taken place about  what hasn’t been leading to valuable success. 
For a DEI initiative to lead to lasting, positive change, it has to inspire behavioral changes within the workforce, meaning those initiatives that don’t won’t be worth the investment. A recently published discussion with Renu Sachdeva, Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Talking Talent, North America, reviewed the DEI trends that have lost their staying power going into 2023. Here is a summary of those trends.

The occasional DEI training session.

It’s clear that having a one-and-done approach to DEI training won’t lead to lasting results; after all, changing behavior and ways of thinking is a process that takes continuous effort, meaningful thought and consistent reinforcement. That’s why having a single, or once-in-a-while DEI training session isn’t useful. It’s not enough to educate employees, you have to also reinforce that knowledge with ways to address DEI as it appears in their daily lives. 

In order for employees to understand DEI and incorporate it into their everyday interactions, ensure there are consistent and open opportunities for dialogue and offer coaching as well as further information sessions on topics such as microaggressions, intersectionality, how to create and contribute to a culture of belonging and what do to when recognizing unconscious bias.

Leaning too heavily on ERGs.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have their place as an excellent tool for giving employees an opportunity to share their experiences and support others while fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion. But you cannot expect ERGs to take the place of a full DEI strategy; rather, they are one valuable part of a whole host of planned initiatives that can lead to a successful DEI plan.

Similarly, you also can’t expect employees to see benefits from ERGs without direct involvement and support from leadership. Senior leaders need to be a part of ERGs as  partners and advocates of the group while simultaneously representing the support of the executive team.

Thinking People of Color should primarily lead DEI efforts.

While it is key to include those directly impacted by discrimination as part of the conversation, leaving them to devise and lead a successful DEI strategy alone is counterproductive. Indeed, their lived experiences and insights are important to informing the strategy, but it is unfair to task them with creating equity alone when it is an effort that should be undertaken by everyone.

Bottom line: if a DEI strategy is to be successful, it needs the effort and input of both underrepresented and overrepresented groups alike; after all, discrimination and inequity affect everyone.

Bare minimum DEI leader support.

In 2023, DEI officers continue to face the monumental challenge of leading the charge to reverse decades of systemic inequalities in their respective workplaces, and as such, they need all the support they can get if they’re to be successful in their position. Organizations that don’t arm these leaders with resources, tools, data, personnel, budgets and executive-level buy-in will see their DEI leaders (and their DEI plan) suffer. 

Additionally, not valuing your DEI leader by investing in their role shows a lack of belief and value in the DEI plan in general and gives the impression that DEI is not a priority for the organization. If you’re going to have a DEI leader execute a successful DEI strategy, then the organization has to go all-in.

A disconnected DEI strategy.

For a DEI strategy to lead to meaningful change, it has to be comprised of a series of connected, well-thought-out initiatives that reinforce the overall plan. For example, having a series of culture days and DEI-focused lunch and learns won’t be as effective if they’re not part of an integrated strategy fuelled by real DEI data. 

Similar to one-off DEI training sessions, if these initiatives aren’t informed by data from marginalized groups and don’t have a way to track their effectiveness, then they won’t serve the overall DEI strategy and lead to real behavioral change.

From DEI Trend to Success

For organizations making positive changes in improving diversity, equity and inclusion, what exactly is it about those initiatives that make them successful? We may now have some answers. A 2023 report written by the Global Party Alliance in partnership with the World Economic Forum has identified five factors that are key to success in DEI initiatives. 

With DEI trends that will likely change from year to year, companies will need to ensure they can continue to gauge their successes and their failures while pivoting to new DEI strategies and programs that will create the long-standing change needed. So, use these five factors as you re-evaluate your current DEI initiatives and when planning new ones.

1. Nuanced understanding of root causes.

The report calls out the need for a full account of a company’s DEI-related challenges and their root causes if a DEI initiative is to be successful. Ensuring the initiative’s target population is given adequate opportunity for input from the start and throughout the process will give further context and valuable insight.

From that continued consultation and analysis, many issues may be uncovered that need to be addressed, but it is important not to try to address them all at once. Rather, give each problem area its due effort by prioritizing and sequencing them. The report suggests considering factors such as impact versus feasibility and urgency versus importance when discerning priority. Don’t forget to consider how your company’s unique position and competencies can further maximize the impact of your DEI initiatives.

2. Meaningful definition of success.

After gaining a holistic understanding of the root cause of a DEI challenge, having clear goals with a way to measure their results makes all the difference when communicating why a certain DEI effort is important and deserves support. 

This understanding, along with the measurements taken over time, will further help to guide the initiative as it goes from planning to implementation. Make sure you set measurable short- and long-term goals and use the insights of a diverse team who understand the organization’s strengths and weaknesses to determine what is realistic and what isn’t. 

With this understanding, you can then make a clear case for change that highlights why the initiative is important overall and what it will result in for each level of the organization. The clearer employees’ understanding, the more likely they will be moved to action.

3. Accountable and invested business leaders.

The report further highlights the importance of having business leaders that are just as invested in DEI as everyone else. Making them the face of the initiative or a visible participant in its execution helps to show that DEI is being taken seriously and should prompt employees to take action in support of the initiative. 

Baking DEI goals into quarterly and annual planning and involving teams outside of HR ensures enough resources and expertise are allocated while making it a core business priority. Senior leaders can also be given performance incentives based on the initiative’s outcome, which helps secure their continued focus and commitment to the initiative’s success.

4. Solution designed for context.

When devising solutions that lead to sustainable and positive DEI results, ensuring they address the root cause and can be integrated into your employees’ daily work activities and processes while remaining scalable is key. Let’s break this down further.

Indeed, the root causes of DEI issues are complex, which is why the report highlights that they require a solution that is multi-faceted. One example given describes how a coaching program to address the gender pay gap is not a solution on its own but also requires a way to address bias in hiring, performance management and any other policies that affect one gender disproportionately. 

Another key to success is being able to integrate changes into how employees work and the processes they utilize so that the positive impacts are sustainable and ongoing.

The more the solution helps to positively shift employees’ behavior and mindset, the more likely you are to see sustained change. 

The report further suggests that in addition to providing any upskilling or other tools employees require, you’ll also want to encourage employees by making them accountable and using performance management to measure their success according to the new expectations set by the DEI initiative.

5. Rigorous tracking and course correction.

Speaking of measuring success, the final factor considered a hallmark of a successful DEI initiative is the ability to effectively track the progress of each goal against milestones and adjust based on results.

Picking the right KPIs and deciding when and how to discern them will continue to inform you of the progress of your DEI initiative and the resolution of root causes. But don’t rely on numbers alone: the report highlights that collecting qualitative feedback from target groups is necessary as well. If the right metrics are used, you’ll be able to accurately gauge what’s working and what needs adjustment, allowing you to implement any necessary changes sooner.

Programs that set your DEI strategy up for success

Felix understands the importance of integrating direct coaching and advocacy initiatives into a successful DEI strategy. With our successful Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs, you can build frameworks that support diverse groups and high-potential talent as they develop their skills, improve their knowledge and advance their career while creating a culture of opportunity that drives better business results.

Discover more about each program below.

Felix’s Sponsorship Program

Designed to support and strengthen diverse, high-potential talent, our Sponsorship Program pairs sponsors with protegees in an effort to achieve individual development goals, enhance visibility, access key networks, build skills and much more. The program’s framework is expandable across various audiences (including gender parity, diversity and inclusion, and BIPOC) and is scalable to a global reach while retaining tailor-made elements and delivery specific to individual lines of business. 

Felix’s Mentorship Program

Boost morale, increase retention and develop supportive networks and relationships as you drive the growth of your diverse mix of top performers with our Strategic Mentorship Program. The 9-12 month cohort program pairs mentors with mentees and provides the tools and framework for mentees to set goals and see career advancement. 

Through personality assessments, networking opportunities, interactive skill-building sessions and professional coaching, mentees benefit from a customized framework that also results in better long-term business results as you build a rich environment for learning and development for all groups.

Discover Felix’s Talent Development Services

Contact the team at Felix to learn more about how we can help build success into your DEI strategy via our programs, services and more.

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