ROI in DEI: The Cost of Employee Belonging

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Show me your budget and I will show you your morals.

The 21st century boardroom has added a seat for a societal consciousness and morale. Employers are confronted with the realities and social conditions that exist beyond their products, packaging and warehouses, and being held accountable to these truths. Productivity and efficiency are now the by-products of inclusion and belonging because of the intentional choice to affirm their business model with a people-first priority.

In many cases, answering the call to invest in DEI meant Hiring an Executive of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging and waiting on them to answer the call to “make things right”. Truth and experience have revealed that the investment goes beyond a direct deposit of the six-figure salary; it is traceable in every facet of the organizations people and policy practices and the invisible culture that narrates the employee’s journey at work.

Your People are Your Brand
The Total Employee Experience is the individual and collective narrative about the company or organization from recruitment to exit. What people say to themselves and to others in response to the common question, “How was work today?”, can build or break the strongest brand.

Actionable and trustworthy DEI work should not be a hoarded possession of a singular department, team or role. DEI is ever-present in brand identity and within organizational culture. As a result of strategy development and organizational support and alignment, DEI becomes a lens application that every employee has by default of their own lived experiences.

Tapping into that lens is a direct invitation from employers to allow their talent investments to fully emerge and become empowered to drive the work and reconciliation of what it truly means to do the work of DEI.

To Affinity and Beyond
Employers want employees to bring their full selves to the work environment, but at what cost? Full self includes interest, identity and professional development. Belonging can be promoted and supported in the work environment when employees are given the opportunity to connect and engage beyond planning meetings, project teams and weekly check-ins. In order for these encounters to happen, equity considerations regarding employee time and capacity must be considered.

The establishment of Employee Resource Groups are a tangible investment that return mutual benefit. It is common for affinity spaces to be reserved for socializing across common interest. Examples of Affinity Groups are sewing or book clubs. These social opportunities redirect the center of dialogue to be solely about work. Uncomplicated human interaction is missing from the typical workday and affinity groups provide a means for checking out as an employee and checking in as a person.

As community grows within the organization across work teams and collaboration efforts, commonality naturally reveals itself. At this point, Employee Resource Groups expand to a new offering type, Diversity Resource Groups.

Diversity Resource Groups are a collective of employees that share commonality in being the identified minority within an organization. The minority identity can include intersections of race, gender, sexuality, religion and neurodivergent abilities. These groups are a vital resource for connecting an informed lens into cultures and group-specific experiences and challenges that organizations may currently be operating out of limited perspective.

One of the benefits of Employee Resource Groups is because they are voluntary and employee-led, there is direct representation of current and emerging leaders. Engaged employees that take initiative and use opportunities to connect and collaborate, demonstrate individual commitment to growth and professional development.

Professional Development Groups are a third type of Employee Resource Groups. Dedicated spaces for coaching and mentoring promotes sustainability, reduces turnover, promotes advancement and helps to inform succession planning. These groups are an employer investment into talent development and growth and holds a space for networking and collective wisdom.

Adopting and Adapting
Adopting DEI as a principle and not simply an initiative, is a critical step to affirm the current and ideal state of employee inclusion, diversity and wellbeing. To run effectively, Employee Resource Groups require the moral support of leadership, budget support by offering a stipend and paid time to engage in meetings and activities. Further, as an extension of power and equity, ERGs require organization-wide representation and validation.

The return on investment for employee belonging is invaluable. If there is a vision, but not yet a path, connect with a consulting agency to partner and build strategy that include short- and long-term investments with positive return to yield ongoing benefit and employee belonging.

Show me your morals and I will show you your budget.



Human-being Activist & Author. People watcher and conversation starter. INFJ unicorn. Storyteller. Unapologetic Black Woman.

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Human-being Activist & Author. People watcher and conversation starter. INFJ unicorn. Storyteller. Unapologetic Black Woman.