Are diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on the chopping block in 2023?
A Glassdoor exec told HR Dive as much in 2022. Monster and Workhuman researchers published their 2023 workforce trend reports, also noting DEI is among the “first to go” when leaders have their backs against the wall and need to cut company costs.
For HR managers asking, “Then what is the point in pursuing DEI initiatives?”: Job candidates are increasingly interested in DEI when vetting potential employers. Many studies through 2022 indicated as much, with words like “purpose,” “values” and “alignment” cutting through the noise of the Great Resignation.
Assessing early 2023 job market outlook reports, labor experts told HR Dive that employers can differentiate themselves and attract choosy top talent by championing DEI.
HR Dive spoke to three workplace consultants about the trends they are seeing emerge among their corporate clients that will have staying power in 2023.
2023 diversity trend: Political affiliation bias
“Traditionally, talking about politics has been very taboo,” said Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO of DEI technology company Kanarys. But as the U.S. gears up for a 2024 presidential election, Price foresees political prejudice will be a big issue this year.
Already, the Society for Human Resource Management is tracking an uptick in this kind of bias. Price points to SHRM’s August 2022 report, wherein 24% respondents said they have experienced either positive or negative differential treatment due to their political views. This is up from 12% of respondents who said the same in 2019.
2023 diversity trend: Embracing humility
Laura Stamps, Financial Finesse’s head of strategy for DE&I engagement financial wellbeing, wants to see people “learning at their own expense” among 2023’s trends. “People have a fear of not offending and being perfect in this work. Everyone comes from their own vantage point,” Stamps said. “Just because I’m a multicultural Black woman does not mean that I know all things about all people. Being considered a ‘diverse’ person does not make me an expert on everyone.”
“Have the humility to want to learn about people, knowing that you’re going to step in it,” she added.
2023 equity trend: Pay transparency
“Pay transparency is an area that we have seen a lot of movement around,” Price said, nodding to the laws in California, Washington state and New York City. “We’re going to see other states follow suit, along with employees calling for more pay transparency.”
Price pointed to data underscoring that workers want insight into how employers calculate compensation. In Visier’s 2022 pay transparency report, 62% of respondents said they know what factors go into determining compensation. Not only does this data indicate a considerable number of workers in the dark, but Visier noted that this knowledge differed “significantly” by gender and generation.
2023 equity trends: Retirement education for BIPOC
Working in the financial wellness space, Stamps spoke to insights she’s seen in Financial Finesse’s collaborations with the Employee Benefits Research Institute. Notably, EBRI research demonstrates that Black and Hispanic people tend to bring nonmortgage debt into retirement. “They tend to have less retirement dollars saved,” she emphasized.
A phenomenon Stamps said she’s been thinking about lately is medical challenges forcing early retirement. “If you’re forced to retire, you’re theoretically less prepared for retirement than the average [person] and you have more debt. That’s more challenging because now you have a sort of fixed income if you’re lucky. Getting any kind of fixed income that you have to depend on kind of perpetuates the racial wealth gap.”
A 2023 goal for HR leads and benefits professionals: Introduce these conversations to workers earlier. “Let’s not wait until 10 years before retirement — because for those populations, they don’t have the luxury of that time. We’re already catching up,” Stamps said.
2023 inclusion trend: Increased caregiver support
While no single policy exists to make a business “family-friendly,” there are definitely some amenities that are highly sought after and can make a difference, Sadie Funk, director of The Best Place for Working Parents, a business community, told HR Dive. Child care support, for example, makes a huge difference.
And on-site care is not the only solution. “One opportunity is through child care assistance. That may be a subsidy to help cover a portion or all of the cost.”
A dependent care FSA, which is structurally similar to healthcare FSAs, can also apply to elder care, she said. This can be especially helpful to members of the “sandwich generation,” Funk said.
She explained how the caregiver support discourse about resources has only snowballed since 2020. “Leading up to COVID and even [during] early COVID, a lot of these policies were still thought of as a ‘nice-to-have.’ What we’re seeing today is it’s no longer ‘nice,’” she said. “‘Family-friendly’ isn’t just a perk, but it’s really a must-have for those businesses who are trying to compete.”
2023 inclusion trend: Embracing veterans
Stamps also said she wants to see more conversations about veterans — especially conversations with nuance. The veteran community has different branches (Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy and Space Force). From those branches come veterans with either operational or combat experiences.
Additionally, military-related physical disabilities and mental health challenges vary. “Some people have combat-related injuries. My husband is 100% disabled from the Marines, but you couldn’t tell by looking at him,” Stamps explained.
As military personnel re-integrate into civilian life, their Veterans Affairs Administration compensation and benefits breakdown affects their approach to work. Employers should think about how a workers’ veteran status affects their financial goals, as well as how they relate to the world and whether “they feel seen,” Stamps said