According to the Deloitte 2023 Global Human Capital Trends survey, most organizations have prioritized diversity and inclusion actions over equitable outcomes. In fact, the top benefits of organizations’ DEI efforts are primarily focused on inclusion-related outcomes such as “worker engagement and well-being.” Meanwhile, equitable outcomes such as “stronger leadership pipeline and increased talent access” and “contributions to positive community or societal outcomes” fall within the bottom four, along with “increased innovation” and “enhanced ability to anticipate future disruptions and agility in meeting business and workforce needs.”
Looking ahead 2–4 years, surveyed respondents expect their organizations’ DEI efforts to have a large impact on “increasing brand recognition” (27%), but much less of an impact on achieving equitable outcomes such as a “stronger leadership pipeline or increased talent access” (9%) and “contributing to positive community or societal outcomes” (10%). What’s more, 24% of organizations are not establishing accountability or measuring progress in their equity commitments. Our conclusion in evaluating these survey results is that there may be a DEI “commitment drift” on the horizon.
The new fundamentals
Re-orient to outcomes, not activities. It’s important to measure DEI success according to DEI outcomes (that is, what is changing?), not what is being done (such as dollars spent, trainings completed, or participation in affinity groups). Organizations should identify the specific inequities that exist across identity groups within their own organizations, uncover the root causes of those inequities, and design interventions and solutions to address them. Just as every business strategy is tailored to the individual organization’s customer needs, achieving equitable outcomes requires a tailored approach specific to each organization’s strategy, context, and history of engagement with communities.
Focus on the system, not the individual. Inequity is a dynamic, systemic challenge requiring a systemic response. Deloitte’s Equity Activation Model (figure 2), introduced in The Equity Imperative,12 presents a systems-based view of how businesses can activate equitable outcomes within and outside of their own organizations. The model is structured around three primary spheres of influence (each of which includes activators and enablers) that are within every organization’s reach: workforce, marketplace, and society, all of which are encircled by organizational culture.
To unleash an organization’s potential to make DEI impact in the marketplace and society at large, organizations should first prioritize equitable outcomes for the workforce. Yet, many DEI efforts have historically focused on single workforce processes (such as talent acquisition or succession planning) rather than the interconnected system of workforce processes across the talent life cycle. Systemic change requires that DEI efforts cascade across the talent life cycle and traverse multiple talent processes to mutually reinforce equitable outcomes.