Why has Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) become an important business initiative, and what are the primary drivers for organizations? Is it about being a good corporate citizen, attracting and retaining better talent, driving profitability, responding to customer expectations?
Research shows that all of the above play a role in driving DE&I strategies.
Simply put, DE&I is good for business: 90% of business leaders surveyed said investing in DE&I has had a positive impact on recruitment, innovation, competitive positioning, agility and return on investment (ROI) according to research that AWS commissioned TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) to conduct.1 Breaking down the numbers further:
- 86% of leaders said DE&I strategies have had a positive impact on ROI, with 41% characterizing the impact as “very positive.”
- 46% have seen an extensive positive impact on brand standing.
- 45% said their organizations better understand and engage customers.
- 44% have seen an improvement in recruitment and retention.
- 44% have experienced an improvement in innovation and agility.
The research also shows that organizations further along in DE&I efforts are reaping significant benefits versus those companies whose DE&I profiles are not as advanced. According to the DE&I maturity model created by ESG and AWS,2 DE&I leaders are:
- 2.1x more likely to report beating competitors to market.
- 2.6x more likely to have beaten their revenue projections by more than 10%.
- Faster to market, with a four-month advantage on innovation.
DE&I leaders have also seen 51% larger market share gains over the past year and have experienced a 33% increase in diverse representation among managers and new hires, relative to companies that have lagged in their DE&I strategies.
What’s motivating DE&I investments?
Given these very real and measurable business benefits, it might be logical to assume that the primary motivation for investing in DE&I is to increase revenue, profits, and competitive advantage. However, the research shows that the most often cited motivator for DE&I efforts is altruistic: 24% of survey respondents said the top incentive is “to contribute positively to social change as a good corporate citizen.” That motivator was followed by:
- Attracting talented individuals (20%).
- Positioning the company to achieve business success (13%).
- Enhancing the organization’s reputation and brand standing (13%).
- Meeting employee expectations (11%).
- Responding to customer expectations (10%).
- Complying with legal and regulatory requirements (9%).
In the DE&I maturity model, the most advanced companies are also the organizations that are most likely to view their investments from an altruistic lens: More than a third of DE&I leaders said their primary driver is being a good corporate citizen, versus just 16% of companies at the beginning of the DE&I curve.
This research provides business leaders and human resources teams with some clear answers to some of their most important questions about DE&I. Keep in mind that this is not something you do just because it is expected or even required. Rather, focusing on DE&I is a proven strategy to help your business be more successful. And when approached from an altruistic perspective—because it’s the right thing to do—the positive impacts on the business will only multiply.
Unfortunately, the research also shows the gap between DE&I leaders and laggards is growing: While leaders said they are planning to invest 38% more of their HR budget on DE&I enablement, laggards are actually reducing their investments. Hopefully, the ESG-AWS report will help get the word out about the benefits of DE&I, particularly to those organizations that are less inclined to invest in such efforts, whether for altruistic or business reasons (or both).
Wherever your organization sits on the DE&I maturity model, it’s hard to argue against the real and measurable evidence that DE&I investments are not just for the greater good but are good for your business. Please review the other articles and resources on this special site to find out more about the exclusive research by ESG and AWS, and learn more about how your organization can maximize its DE&I investments.
1 “A Mature Approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Delivers Real Results,” TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group Research Insights report commissioned by AWS, March 2023