Employers Falling Short on DEI Efforts, Bersin Report Finds

David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

Traditional business approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues often are falling short, according to new research by global HR analyst Josh Bersin and his team. The research, based on survey responses of more than 800 HR professionals around the world, found that too many companies are not making DEI a meaningful business function.

Key findings in Bersin's report, Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion, include:

  • 76% of companies have no diversity or inclusion goals at all;
  • 75% of companies do not include diversity and inclusion as part of their leadership development;
  • Only 32% mandate DEI training for employees and only one-third offer such training to managers; and
  • Only 22% of respondents believe their organization's DEI efforts have raised awareness among employers, customers or suppliers.

The report also states that fewer than 12% of employers compensate or track their senior leaders for meeting specific diversity or inclusion goals.

Despite the past year bringing renewed attention to DEI, Bersin analysts found that US diversity is backsliding at the highest levels of organizations. For instance, only three of the Fortune 500 companies are led by a Black CEO, down from seven less than a decade ago. The report also noted that there have only ever been two female Black CEOs in this category.

"Diversity, equity and inclusion is a hotly discussed topic and clearly essential to business success," said Bersin. "However, there are no clear guidelines on how to effect lasting, meaningful change."

This lack of guidelines clearly affects the HR realm. For example, a related research initiative from Bersin included responses from more than 3,000 HR professionals and found that out of the 20 capability areas assessed, DEI scored the poorest with 80% of HR professionals assessing themselves as "beginners."

In terms of equity, the report found that the "top driver of success" for organizations is listening to their employees and taking action on their input. Organizations that have put such listening and action strategies into place are:

  • 3.6 times more likely to innovate effectively;
  • 6.6 times more likely to adapt to change;
  • 8.4 times more likely to inspire a sense of belonging;
  • 8.5 times more likely to satisfy and retain customers; and
  • 12 times more likely to engage and retain employees.