A company’s success is completely reliant on its people. HR and company leaders have the responsibility to make this happen by, first, hiring the best people for the job and, second, ensuring that all employees are treated with respect and fairness.
Knowing how to develop greater workplace equity isn’t always obvious, but it's worth the work. As you increase your diversity and inclusion initiatives, you’re likely to find your business is more successful than ever before: Gartner found that hiring for diversity in age, ethnicity, gender, and other factors leads to improved employee productivity — and the more productive your workforce is, the better your business is!
Even though equality and equity sound similar, there are some key differences that influence your work environment especially.
Equality allows all people to be individuals and promotes treating everyone fairly, no matter their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability. Within an organization, equality looks like protecting equal rights to all opportunities and freedom from discrimination for all people. Promoting equality in the workplace means actively working against discriminatory practices and policies and ensuring everyone has the same resources.
Equality gives everyone the same opportunities, but equity takes that next step to level. It’s about recognizing that not everyone has the same privileges (or barriers) when it comes to succeeding in the workplace, so you even the playing field by offering more (or different) support to employees who don’t have the same advantages as others. Equity is about ensuring there is a fair amount of representation in those work opportunities. That’s why, increasingly, more companies are focused on building equity in employment, not just equality.
Why Workplace Equity Matters
Workplace equity is so valuable because it does more than point out behaviors or unfair disadvantages — it aims to actually reduce the disparities between groups and individuals. People commonly in need of equity measures are usually a part of minority groups that don’t have the same privileges as the majority, even if those privileges are not immediately apparent. These are critical to address as disparities can creep into deeply important areas of the workplace like wage fairness and advancement opportunities.
The first step for most workplaces is shifting the company mindset. Especially for the decision-makers of your company, you shouldn’t just assume that offering everyone the same resources and opportunities is the final solution to creating an equitable work environment. Making an egalitarian work environment is about addressing the often subjective challenges that unique groups deal with and making up the difference whenever possible.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
DEI is a corporate term that describes the efforts your company makes to make your workplace a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. These efforts come in the form of policies, programs, and best practices, and HR especially plays a big role in establishing those initiatives. We’re discussing equity throughout this article, so let’s touch on the other two concepts to see how they work together.
Diversity is the who of your workforce, the different types of people your company hires, each of which come with their own backgrounds and experiences. There’s ethnic, racial, and gender diversity, among many others, and the blend of employees at your company makes it unique.
A lack of diversity will quickly stifle creativity, innovation, and even revenue according to one study — research suggests that companies with diverse management teams see 19% more revenue than companies with below-average leadership diversity!
Inclusion, on the other hand, is the how behind the treatment of your employees. It shows just how inviting your environment and culture are to a diverse workforce. Inclusion is only possible when it is built on a foundation of respect, so you can’t really have equity without inclusion (or diversity!) in your staff.
How to Promote Workplace Equity
So, equity is crucial, but how do you actually practice workplace equity? We’re so glad you asked. Here are some useful tips to promote greater equity in the workplace.
- Do DEI research
If you want more DEI programs and motivators, you have to stay on top of the different challenges groups are facing, what they need, and what they are asking for in the workplace. It often all starts with educating first yourself, then your management, and finally bringing that into your teams.
- Analyze your company’s people data
Get concrete with what’s actually happening in your company. Collect and analyze data on your teams to better understand your current demographic metrics within leadership, management, growth opportunities, and more. Based on your results, you can identify where and how you can improve equity.
- Set measurable goals
Especially once you gather adequate data, it’s important to set goals that are measurable and attainable. This keeps you accountable to your employees and makes you follow up on initiatives, which is vital if you want to avoid expressing empty sentiment to your teams!
- Examine your company’s hiring strategies for DEI optimization
Hiring properly is more than just avoiding discriminatory actions. Equity is about pursuing diversity, bringing on talented people who add more perspective and value to your company. Identify talent pipelines out there that you might be missing out on and be strategic about where you post your job listings. Have best practices in place that prevent behaviors like unconscious bias throughout the entire hiring process, too.
- Revise & extend onboarding programs
When it comes to onboarding, it’s really not enough to frontload someone’s first week with all new information, wish them the best of luck, and send them on their merry way. It’s far more effective to ensure that people have mentors in place that can guide them through the first 6 months of their employment (and beyond). This is especially for new employees from minority groups who may need an advocate or needs your company has not previously addressed.
- Avoid imposing a “diversity tax” on the team
One thing to avoid is the diversity tax, which is when employees with marginalized identities are consistently called upon to lead and shape DEI efforts. While members of impacted groups should be consulted about or involved in some way in equity efforts, at times organizations look to them to lead these efforts with little support or no additional compensation — even if the employee didn’t volunteer to be the initiative figurehead. Equity initiatives should bolster your employees, not add stress or tokenization.
- Align employee resource groups with an executive sponsor
One of the best ways to ensure your promoting DEI is to put together an ERG, or an Employee Resource Group. This is a group that is both made up of employees and employee-led that supports more diversity and inclusion in your work community, especially by using the experiences this unique group has to connect with each other and others. Connect them with a high-level sponsor so that real changes can be made!
Examples of Equity in the Workplace
- Ensure diversity across different levels. When you hire, but especially when you promote people into management positions, make sure you are looking at all candidates. Everyone should have the opportunity to qualify for a position fairly and free of bias, so proactively diversify your leadership positions.
- Consider a workforce education program. Not everyone has had the same access to education, so where possible, offer further education and training solutions and train from within so others have access to leadership and skill-enhancing opportunities.
- Improve wage equity. Traditional HR practices tend to be a little hush-hush about wages, but that only perpetuates wage disparities. Instead, go for transparency with wages and create more honest discussions so you can eliminate unjust wage gaps.
- Skills-based hiring. Talent comes from a lot of different people, so talent acquisition teams need to broaden their views. Focus less on ticking certain education boxes if a position can be done just as well based on skills. Again, not everyone has access to higher education like others, but they could be just as able and willing to get the job done.
- Provide equitable benefits. Finally, make sure your employee benefits are actually accessible and meaningful for everyone! This can look like giving both men and women parental leave, or ensuring that spouse-related health insurance includes same-sex couples and other non-traditional families.
Reach More of your Employees
Equity at work can improve your employee retention, enrich your company culture, and ultimately add to your company’s success, which is a win-win-win in our book.
Reviewing the benefits of your workplace is a great way to get started with equity initiatives. Do your benefits only benefit a certain group of employees? How can you make those benefits more inclusive and more equitable across the entire workforce?
Gympass offers health benefits like you wouldn’t believe; access to all kinds of gyms, mental health apps, the whole shebang. Talk to a wellbeing specialist today to learn more about benefits that reach employees everywhere!
- Asare, J. G. (2022, May 1). 4 Ways Companies Tokenize Underrepresented Employees. Forbes. Retrieved August 31, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2022/05/01/4-ways-companies-tokenize-underrepresented-employees/?sh=39b580f63b91
- Lorenzo, R., Voigt, N., Tsusaka, M., Krentz, M., & Abouzahr, K. (2018, January 23). How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation. Boston Consulting Group. Retrieved August 31, 2023, from https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation
- Sakpal, M. (2019, September 20). Diversity and Inclusion Build High-Performance Teams. Gartner. Retrieved August 31, 2023, from https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/diversity-and-inclusion-build-high-performance-teams
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.