What Is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB)?

DEI has evolved to consider the feelings of individual employees.

Written by Jeff Rumage
What Is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB)?
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
UPDATED BY
Matthew Urwin | Jan 29, 2024

DEIB stands for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Together, these four concepts are a core focus of human resources and company leaders who aim to create a work environment where employees from all backgrounds feel included, valued and comfortable being themselves.

What is DEIB?

DEIB is the practice of creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where employees feel like they belong. By creating equitable systems and an inclusive culture, companies can create an environment where employees feel seen, supported and empowered to bring their whole selves to work.

DEIB comes from earlier workplace terms, D&I and DEI, that have evolved in recent years. The term D&I reflects the importance of creating an inclusive culture welcoming to employees from diverse backgrounds. DEI added equity to recognize the need to level the playing field for groups that have been unfairly treated or excluded on a systemic level in organizations. 

DEIB accounts for belonging, which is an emotional state that can occur when an employee feels like they have the psychological safety to be their authentic self and fully contribute to the mission of a company. It’s the result of inclusive practices and behaviors that make employees feel like they are valued for the unique perspective they bring to the organization.

This article will unpack the four components of DEIB, clarify the difference between DEI and DEIB and reveal how a comprehensive DEIB strategy can benefit organizations.

Related Reading10 DEI Initiatives to Prioritize in the Workplace

 

What Is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging?

DEIB builds upon the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion to create a culture where all employees feel like they belong.
 

Diversity

Diversity is the representation of different backgrounds and identities in a workforce. A diverse company will employ people from different races, genders, age groups and sexual orientations, as well as different backgrounds and experiences. 

Diverse perspectives can contribute to innovation, identify cultural blindspots and relate to the life experiences and perspectives of the communities it serves. To unlock that potential, a company needs to create equitable systems and an inclusive culture.

Examples:

  • Cast a wider recruiting net by writing job descriptions that encourage candidates who don’t meet all the qualifications to apply.
  • Intentionally target candidates of diverse backgrounds like veterans, women and HBCU students to produce a more diverse talent pool.  
  • Establish and enforce department quotas for hiring a certain number of candidates who come from marginalized groups.   

 

Equity

Equity is when employees of all backgrounds are treated fairly and given equal access to opportunities. Companies can incorporate equity into their hiring practices by looking for processes that might unintentionally exclude candidates from underrepresented groups, and level the playing field in their workforce by addressing pay disparities and providing training about unconscious biases.

Examples:

  • Encourage pay transparency by listing the salaries of all employees and positions, so employees can spot pay gaps and ensure fair compensation practices.
  • Offer mentorship and coaching opportunities for women and employees of color to keep management positions open to all employees and avoid building glass ceilings
  • Provide all employees with financial resources and other forms of support needed to access upskilling and learning opportunities.

 

Inclusion

Inclusion goes beyond fair treatment and seeks to create a welcoming environment for all employees. An inclusive company makes sure everyone is included in conversations and considers the needs of all employees through flexible work arrangements, accessible facilities and inclusive language. Companies might also create employee resource groups to learn how it can help make workers from underrepresented groups feel more welcome.

Examples:

  • Outfit the office with wheelchair lifts, automatic doors and any other accommodations for employees with disabilities.
  • Offer remote and hybrid work opportunities for all employees.
  • Install gender-neutral restrooms to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ employees.
  • Give employees time off for holidays of various cultures, religions and backgrounds.

 

Belonging

While the first three elements of DEIB are actions or philosophies, belonging is more of a feeling. It’s a feeling “you create by not just exhibiting behaviors, but also ensuring that you’re bringing people in and creating a comfortable environment for all of them to belong,” Yrthya Dinzey-Flores, vice president of DEI, social impact and sustainability at Justworks, told Built In.

The importance of belonging made its way into HR offices in recent years, when it was identified as a missing emotional component to the diversity and inclusion field.

Coqual, a nonprofit think tank, identified four key elements of belonging in the workplace:

  • You are seen. In other words, you feel recognized, rewarded and respected by your peers. This recognition is not just limited to accomplishments; it also includes recognition of each individual’s unique experience and perspective.
  • You are connected. This means you have positive, authentic social interactions with peers, managers and senior leaders. When you know your colleagues are affirming and accepting, you are more likely to trust them and express your ideas and opinions.
  • You are supported. Your coworkers, managers and leaders provide you with the support you need to do your job and have a healthy work-life balance
  • You are proud. You take pride in your work and your organization, and you feel aligned with its purpose, vision and values.

When employees feel like they belong, they are more likely to trust their teammates and feel safe proposing a new idea or raising a concern about a process that’s not working. When they see that their ideas and contributions are valued, they become more engaged in their work and the mission of the organization. And, according to the Coqual report, employees who feel like they belong are more likely to stay with their organization for at least two years and recommend it as a great place to work.

 

Difference Between DEI and DEIB

DEI describes a company’s efforts to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment, while DEIB goes a step further by taking into account whether employees actually feel like they belong in that environment. 

Dinzey-Flores said belonging was added to DEI because employees from diverse backgrounds were being invited into rooms, but they still didn’t feel like they belonged in those rooms.

“You could build a lot of infrastructure around inclusive behaviors and have a very diverse workforce,” she added, “but if your employees still feel like they don’t belong in that space, then you won’t really be able to reap the benefits of the work in the same way.”

If inclusion is inviting people to a party, belonging is about making sure all of the guests feel comfortable, said Jackye Clayton, vice president of talent acquisition and DEIB at Textio. A good party host will be mindful of their guests’ dietary restrictions, music preferences and the physical environment.

Related Reading6 Actions Executives Must Take to Improve DEI in the Workplace

 

Why Is DEIB Important?

DEIB helps companies recruit and retain a diverse workforce, because workers want an equitable and inclusive workplace that allows employees from underrepresented groups to feel like they are not only welcomed but valued.
 

1. Helps Organizations Retain Employees

If a company isn’t making people feel like they belong, they will leave to find an environment that feels more comfortable. According to a McKinsey report, 51 percent of employees quit their job during the Great Resignation because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging. A BetterUp study of 1,789 employees found that employees who had the highest sense of belonging had a 50 percent reduction in turnover risk. 

“People don’t change who they are,” Clayton said. “They’ll change where they are, searching for that level of comfort.”

 

2. Helps Organizations Recruit

Candidates, especially Millennial and Gen-Z candidates, commonly ask employers during the hiring process about their DEI work and what they have done to become a more inclusive workplace. In fact, 42 percent of workers believe a diverse and inclusive workplace is very important when considering their next job, according to Gallup. So it behooves organizations to put in DEIB work — especially if they want to appeal to the next generation of professionals.

 

3. Spurs Problem-Solving and Innovation

When an employee feels comfortable being themselves at work, they may be more likely to take creative risks, propose new solutions and think outside the box. Consider the inverse: If an employee isn’t feeling seen, connected, supported and proud of their work, a part of their brain will tell them that they are not safe, which may cause them to feel guarded and distrusting of the people around them, said Rhodes Perry, a workplace-belonging consultant and author of Belonging at Work.

In that kind of environment, employees may not feel comfortable sharing their opinions or disagreeing with someone else’s opinions. They may worry, for example, that there will be repercussions for raising awareness of a process that isn’t working. When employees have the psychological safety to say what’s wrong, that will help business leaders more quickly identify a new path forward.

“If you welcome that kind of fast failure,” Perry said, “that’s going to lead teams to be more innovative and creative.”

 

4. Increases Bias Awareness 

Emphasizing DEIB can raise employees’ awareness of potential biases and take steps to address them. For example, DEIB-conscious employees may be better equipped to single out and stop microaggressions when they occur, make an effort to use their pronouns as a way to include LGBTQ+ employees and push for high-performing women and top performers of marginalized backgrounds to be rewarded with pay raises.

Related ReadingHow to Kickstart Your DEI Program

 

How to Promote Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Companies have a long way to go in creating a sense of belonging with their employees. Only 30 percent of employees feel like their opinions are valued at work, according to Gallup, and another study found 26 percent of workers don’t feel emotionally safe at work. Coqual found that employees of color were less likely than white employees to feel like they belong at a company. 

DEIB leaders stressed that leaders should have a clear vision of what they are trying to achieve through their DEIB work, which will improve the quality of interventions they are able to take. 

Here are a few ways to get started:
 

1. Start With DEI

DEIB can’t happen without DEI. For employees to feel like they belong, companies first need to create a workplace that is equitable, inclusive and accessible. 

“You can’t have belonging if you don’t have those three things first,” talent and DEI consultant Daniela Herrera told Built In.

 

2. Offer DEIB Learning Opportunities

To create an inclusive culture, companies should offer DEIB training for employees, managers and leaders. Manager training is particularly important, as it can help them check their unconscious biases from tainting their perception of employees.

 

3. Listen to Employees

Perry suggests company leaders ask: Who am I intentionally including? Who am unintentionally excluding? What is the cost of not answering those questions?

They can then listen to employee feedback, either in the form of employee surveys or by asking ERG leaders about issues impacting specific communities within the organization. 

“Don’t guess, and don’t cherry-pick the things that you’re trying to do to make people belong,” Clayton said. “Look at the systems that may have created a sense of not belonging at the organization and see if there needs to be a bigger change.”

 

4. Prioritize Employee Recognition

Companies should strive to recognize employees’ contributions and make them feel like valued members of the team. Managers can give a shout-out to their direct reports during company meetings or communication channels, or they could take on a larger employee recognition program. Employees are more likely to feel like they belong when they feel seen, valued and appreciated.

 

5. Develop Employee Resource Groups

Companies can also nurture a sense of belonging through ERGs, which bring together employees from a shared background or identity for camaraderie and discussions about their employee experience. Those conversations can sometimes result in new programs or initiatives. 

Justworks, for example, partnered with its ERG for employees with disabilities to develop a quiet working zone in its office. The space was designed specifically for neurodiverse employees who have trouble concentrating in an open office environment. When explaining the purpose of the space, the HR team extended an invitation to all employees to use the space, which will hopefully eliminate any stigma and make individuals feel included.

“It’s not just about the behavior, or creating the space for inclusion,” Dinzey-Flores said. “It’s also about the steps that you follow to help people feel that that thing actually is inclusive.”

 

Frequently Asked Questions

DEI is a process of creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. DEIB adds a fourth dimension, belonging, which measures whether employees actually feel welcomed, valued and included in the workplace.

Inclusion is creating a culture welcoming to employees from all backgrounds and identities. Belonging goes one step further in creating an environment where workers feel valued and safe being their authentic selves at work.

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