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How Can You Engage 100% of Your Employees? DEI Initiatives Are a Great Start

  • 5 mths ago

Workplaces have been under a lot of strain in recent years, a condition exacerbated by the pandemic and systemic inequity issues of last year. Sadly, lack of worker engagement and marginalization of certain groups is not a new issue. Underrepresented groups have long pushed for equal pay, recognition in the workplace and fair treatment. But despite years of advocacy, these issues have failed to gain momentum as workplace initiatives. In fact, only 39% of workers are fully engaged, according to Gallup.

Fortunately, recent events have prompted many companies to scrutinize their workplace environments and evaluate the treatment of their workers based on gender, cultural background, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual identity or other identifying characteristic. More companies are making diversity, equity and inclusion an active priority, but prioritizing DEI does not always come easily and many organizations are feeling their way tentatively down an undefined path. How can you help to engage 100% of your workforce? Sage Franch, founder and CEO of Crescendo DEI, and Susanne Tedrick, Azure infrastructure specialist at Microsoft, recently discussed some ideas during a session at ChannelCon Online, including how to break out of the habit of “covering” your true self.

What Is ‘Covering,’ Exactly?

Conversations about DEI in the workplace often begin with understanding “covering” and how it impacts workers. Franch and Tedrick identified covering as a way to compensate for certain workplace expectations. It’s what happens “when people hide parts of themselves to either fit in better in the workplace or to assimilate to some kind of established norms in a company culture,” said Franch. “It’s usually minoritized groups who are covering in situations where leadership has established, either explicitly or implicitly, that a certain element of their identity is not welcome in the workplace.”

Unfortunately, these practices are commonplace. One study revealed $16 billion loss in employee replacement costs per year in the tech sector due to unfair treatment and turnover costs. But moreover, covering in the workplace leads to unfair practices and a lack of equity among workers who continue to regularly disengage from the work environment. First, workers begin to cover to fit workplace norms, which in turn gets further affirmed by peers and leadership, causing the employee to cover more to continue adhering to the culture—finally, a cycle sets in.

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