Common Company Policies That Might Be Undermining Your DEI Efforts

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Many organizations are committed to ensuring their workplaces foster diversity, equity, and inclusivity, but despite the best intentions, there are some common company policies that might unwittingly undermine the progress toward improving DEI. A lack of understanding, well-meaning but misguided approaches, and unconscious biases are just some of the stumbling blocks in creating an inclusive work culture. In this post, we’ll dive into some of the most common company policies that may be undermining DEI efforts, and how to address them.

The “Culture Fit” Hiring Standard – This is often code for a narrow definition of what type of person would “fit in” with the company culture and typically results in hiring people who are very similar to the team already on board. Restricting the definition of cultural fit ensures that applicants from different races, genders, or nationalities aren’t given a fair shot at the role. A lot of times, this can show up as “affinity bias” – someone went to the same school as you, or perhaps you have kids that are the same age. They may be a great person with a lot of commonalities, but this doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for the role. Instead of deeming people unsuitable based on superficial attributes, focus on skill sets and values as essential indicators of whether an applicant would gel well with the company. An easy way to do this is to reframe the ‘culture fit’ conversation to a ‘values fit’ one– since, we can be very different yet share the same values! 

Bias and Discrimination in Reviews and Promotions – If you don’t address bias in performance reviews, you may be losing out on promoting some great employees. Because many performance review processes are usually loose with language and conducted at the managers’ discretion, they can include irrelevant or unfair assessments of a person’s performance. Research has shown this can significantly impact those with marginalized identities. Build in a bias check during performance review time and train managers to watch out for their biases.

Exclusive Social Initiatives – Team building activities are a fun and effective way to connect a company’s employee base, but companies need to ensure that such events are inclusive and non-discriminatory. Companies should make an effort to plan activities that anyone can enjoy and feel welcomed. Inclusive events can help break down barriers and foster an open, friendly work culture that values individual differences. You may want to reconsider happy hours (what about those who don’t drink), after-hour events (what about caregivers), outdoor or physically strenuous events (are they accessible?), and religious holidays (how might these impact those who aren’t religious or who celebrate other religions). You can read more on how to create a more inclusive celebration here.

Lack of Pay Transparency – Transparency is a cornerstone of building trust within an organization. A policy of nondisclosure regarding compensation can inadvertently perpetuate pay inequity, particularly for historically marginalized groups. By promoting a culture of openness and sharing salary ranges, employees can gain insight into fair compensation practices, empowering them to address any existing disparities.

Lack of Flexible Work Arrangements – Flexibility in the workplace is crucial for ensuring equal opportunities for all employees. Rigid policies that fail to accommodate different personal circumstances, such as caregiving responsibilities or disabilities, can disproportionately affect underrepresented individuals. Embracing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, allows employees to maintain a work-life balance and fosters an inclusive culture that values diverse needs.

Limited Career Development Opportunities – A lack of equitable access to professional growth and advancement opportunities can hinder DEI efforts. Companies should actively invest in mentorship programs, training, and development initiatives that provide employees with the skills and resources necessary for career progression. Establishing clear and transparent promotion criteria, along with diverse representation on promotion committees, helps mitigate unconscious bias and encourages an inclusive pathway for all employees.

Underresourced or Non-existent ERGs – Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) serve as vital support networks for marginalized communities within an organization. However, ineffective ERGs or the absence of such groups can inadvertently exclude underrepresented employees, leaving them without the necessary platforms to connect, share experiences, and address challenges. Companies must encourage the formation of ERGs, provide them with resources (budget!), and actively involve leadership in fostering an environment where ERGs can thrive.

As HR professionals and diversity advocates, we’ve seen how businesses of every size and industry struggle with creating and maintaining a culture where diversity, equity, and inclusivity thrive. Eliminating policies that are inherently exclusive or discriminatory and instituting policies that promote inclusivity and fairness are essential in creating a company culture that is welcoming and values employees from all backgrounds. By implementing these recommendations, you can take significant steps towards creating a genuinely inclusive and diverse workplace that benefits everyone involved, from employees and leadership to customers and stakeholders.