In the ever-evolving world of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), organizations are striving to keep pace with the shifting demands and expectations of their employees and partnerships. As an organization of DEI practitioners and, as a business owner myself, I engage in this discussion constantly with my team, current and potential clients, and other DEI practitioners. This is my list of DEI trends to expect in 2024 and my thoughts on these trends for anyone looking to create DEI change within their organization this year.
Client Expectations: Assessments and More
One recurring theme that emerges from conversations with current and potential clients is the need to assess the current DEI landscape within their organization. These assessments come in various forms, ranging from climate assessments to comprehensive DEI climate assessments. Organizations are looking for a holistic view of their current DEI landscape.
Tangible’s own DEI Climate Assessment Tool©®™ (DEI CAT©®™) was developed as a result of the growing demand for more specific DEI data-driven insight into the workplace. The tool moves organizations forward in their DEI journey by providing a full view of their current DEI landscape through nuanced and specialized data on the experiences and perceptions of their unique workforce across identity and organizational groups.
But it doesn’t stop there. Organizations also want an audit of their policies and practices with an equity lens. This involves a deep dive into existing frameworks, policies, and practices to ensure they align with DEI goals. For this reason, qualitative analysis has been in high demand, as it helps organizations understand the underlying dynamics and experiences of their workforce.
Many of the clients come to us because they have attempted and failed to implement impactful DEI changes within their organizations. DEI is a skill set that requires education and empathy-driven curiosity about people to work. Organizations that have attempted DEI initiatives now understand that to create organizational-wide DEI change, all levels of the organization must have a base-level knowledge and understanding of DEI. We expect to see many requests to provide training to provide everyone in the organization with common DEI concepts, language, and vocabulary.
In the same vein, more organizations will seek out DEI Learning and Development (L&D) plans and coaching, particularly for individuals responsible for DEI and for C-Suite leadership. This usually happens following the results of strategy development informed by the data from an assessment that indicated a need for more DEI education.
Areas of Focus Within DEI
While bias and microaggressions are still critical concerns for many organizations, clients are moving away from one-off workshops. They are looking to build a culture of accountability and infrastructure, recognizing that workshops are just one part of the solution.
Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions by organizations at the moment is how to celebrate holidays inclusively. There is extreme anxiety around how to celebrate holidays, how to be inclusive, how to avoid offense, and which holidays to pick. We expect to engage this topic more and more in strategic plan development.
Capacity building is another key focus, with organizations keen on helping existing DEI committees define their purpose, mission, and contribution to the organization. These committees play a vital role in providing leadership support, and guidance, recommending training options, and ensuring the longevity of DEI initiatives.
Beware of Pitfalls: Bad Trends in DEI
While progress is being made, there are concerning trends that we expect to see in 2024.
Many organizations want to increase their DEI initiatives without creating a role to be responsible for the work and its progression. We’re seeing more organizations do the work of an assessment and building internal DEI knowledge but then delegate the responsibility of DEI to HR or add it to an individual’s workload without a working budget and decision-making power. This will almost always result in a loss of progress and DEI investment.
Another thing we are seeing more often is organizations shying away from a robust assessment for fear of what the data will look like. A fear of optics will hinder progress. Transformational change happens when you lean into the problems and address them head-on.
The expectation of overnight results is unrealistic and counterproductive. DEI work is a long-term commitment, and results take time to manifest.
Shifting Trends and New Realities
The landscape of DEI is shifting in response to the changing needs of the workforce. Previously, the focus was on numbers and recruitment, but the trend is moving toward understanding what needs to be done to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
Organizations are no longer satisfied with performative actions. The workforce is increasingly skilled at differentiating between performative gestures and genuine commitment to DEI. This shift is forcing organizations to address difficult questions and take meaningful actions.
The language surrounding DEI is changing as well. While DEI buzzwords have become mainstream, there is a growing emphasis on translating these words into actionable initiatives. People demand more than just talk; they want to see tangible change.
In 2024, we expect to see the next phase of DEI where data and results are the major determinants of success. Organizations that continue to shy away from informing themselves about DEI and understanding their workforce will continue to see DEI initiatives fail to meet their goals. Organizations that take the time to do the hard work of learning, educating, and growing within their DEI efforts will see positive changes in how employees experience the workplace and all the benefits that come with it.