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The Link Between Employee Wellbeing and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Published by: TELUS Health,

Thushyan Kayilas, Senior Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion – Morneau Shepell
April 26, 2021

To improve wellbeing in the workplace, diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) needs to be a top priority for organizations. Comprehensive DE&I training is crucial for fostering a positive and inclusive workplace that is conducive to the health and wellbeing of all employees. Without a strategy to improve DE&I, your approach to employee wellbeing is incomplete.

Workplace culture and the impact on wellbeing

Employee mental health is closely linked to experiences of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. One of the biggest threats to wellness is the issue of “Emotional Tax”. Employees pay an Emotional Tax at work whenever they are in an environment where they feel different to their colleagues due to gender, race and/or ethnicity. This Emotional Tax has an acutely negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.

According to Catalyst’s 2019 report, 60% of Asian, Black, Latinx, and multiracial professionals report feeling like they are forced to be on guard to protect against racial and gender bias while at work. Respondents who stated they felt higher levels of being on guard were also more likely to consider leaving their jobs more regularly.

Adding to this issue is the disconnect between senior level executives and employee experience. Research conducted by Accenture featuring approximately 1,700 senior leaders and 30,300 employees found that there was a “perception gap” between c-suite executives and employees. Leaders estimated that 98% of employees felt included at work while just 80% of employees reported feeling included. This perception gap can impact employee retention and increase the risk of absenteeism.

Addressing diversity, equity & inclusion

A 2021 survey by Deloitte has confirmed that DE&I and employee mental health and wellbeing are top priorities for CEOs in 2021. However, where many organizations fail in their approach to DE&I is neglecting to put adequate training systems in place to combat discrimination. A recent report by Josh Bersin analysts confirmed that the majority of HR professionals are not sufficiently trained to deliver DE&I training with 80% of respondents labelling themselves as beginners.

Small adjustments to employee support programs are not enough to improve workplace wellbeing. Instead, organizations need to take a strategic approach to shaping attitudes and behaviours in the workplace in order to shift workplace culture in a meaningful way. By addressing the broader problem impacting your employees, you can reduce reliance on individual support mechanisms.

When effective measures are taken to address DE&I within an organization through the implementation of a targeted training program, the changes can be immediate. Tangible actions aimed at addressing diversity help to improve employee perceptions of diversity, which in turn boosts employee engagement.

Research also shows that leadership support is a key mediator in employee perceptions of workplace culture. Leaders play a critical role in promoting workplace wellbeing in a number of ways, including investing in wellbeing programs and modelling healthy behaviours with their own actions.

An inclusive, diverse workplace culture fosters a sense of belonging, safety and purpose for employees, helping to increase productivity long-term. According to Accenture, improving inclusion in the workplace could result in a total profit increase of $1.05 trillion in the US alone.

DE&I training and the benefits of micro-learning

With the right training program, you can enable and empower your employees while improving employee wellbeing. An effective DE&I training program should take the form of a holistic journey that moves from raising awareness to understanding, commitment, and accountability. It should also feature proactive modules which provide actionable next steps to help individuals put their learning into practice.

Micro-learning is a highly effective format for DE&I training thanks to the bite-sized eLearning approach, which is more focused than traditional learning methods and leads to better comprehension and retention of information. Micro-learning allows individuals to progress through training modules at their own pace. It also enables individuals to learn about DE&I in a safe environment, without fear of being targeted by colleagues and instructors.

LifeWorks’ Workplace Learning Solutions DE&I modules are intersectional, developed to combine DE&I with mental health awareness. They are designed to tell a story, featuring real-life experiences and perspective-taking tasks that challenge learners to confront DE&I in everyday contexts. As global leaders in the employee wellbeing space, LifeWorks has unique insights into the tools organizations need to improve inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

Creating an empowering workplace culture

In order to reach their targets for improving DE&I in the workplace, organizations must take a proactive approach to employee training to create an inclusive workplace culture that puts wellbeing first.

Make your employees feel loved