How DEI Enhances US Government Agencies

Executive Summary
In recent years, Government agencies and business leaders around the world have been trying to predict the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) trends that will impact work cultures. DEI is now much more than a ‘progressive’ idea. It has become an imperative for organizations worldwide.

Since the start of 2020, there has been a lot that the world has had to grapple with: the COVID-19 pandemic, a global lockdown, major events, protests, conversations surrounding systemic inequalities and injustices, a new normal of remote working, and an economic recession. In the turmoil, it became clear that going back to “normal” would not be good enough. The trends and observation captured in this whitepaper on DEI all point to the fact that the world is hungry for change.

By prioritizing DEI, an organization demonstrates respect for individual differences. Respecting these individual differences should not just be an HR goal, it should be something that leadership recognizes as a driving factor for performance. Efforts to increase DEI should not be limited to HR initiatives, they should be reflected in organizational missions, visions, values, and strategic plans. To promote DEI initiatives and create a high- performing workforce, our research shows that leadership needs to invest their time, resources, and courage.

Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another.

Inclusion is an organizational effort and practice in which diverse groups or individuals of diverse backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed.

Making individuals from all backgrounds feels welcome is one of the greatest enhancements to workplace performance a government agency can take. By doing so, in a structured way and with a strong implementation plan, the agency will have a unique opportunity to unify its workforce. At Red Carrot, we believe it is time for the Government to realize this and act. We recommend that Government agencies develop and integrate DEI communications programs in their workforces. To become a more effective change leader, let people know what is driving the change, what is in it for them, and the opportunity cost of not changing.

Red Carrot’s Research on Workplace Diversity

In March 2021, Red Carrot conducted a nationwide poll of employees to assess their thoughts on workplace diversity. Our survey was statistically significant amongst three diverse ethnic groups: White, Black, and Hispanic/Latino. We purposely over-indexed on minority groups to get a better reading of their opinions and experiences related to diversity. We used the White population as the control group to identify the nuances in both information sources and behavior.

Our questionnaire was designed with three objectives:

  • Gauge the level of real diversity that currently exists in the workplace, as judged by employees.
  • Measure how much the value of workplace diversity is understood and promoted by employees.
  • Evaluate the correlation between diversity and the employees’ appreciation for their workplace.

Key Findings: Employees Value Diversity

We found that in the answer to the statement “My workplace is racially diverse” only 10 percent of the total respondents strongly agreed while 26 percent disagreed. When focusing on the Black and Hispanic/Latino respondents, 33 percent disagreed and only 6 percent strongly agreed. This difference in perception is cause for concern and resolving it should be a prime objective of all communication around DEI.

Even more telling is the lack of perceived value in diversity. To the statement “Diversity increases creativity and a higher quality of work” a total of 20 percent of the respondents indicated they disagreed. However, 56 percent of Black and Hispanic/Latino respondents agreed. When asked, 23 percent of the minority respondents agreed to the following fact “Diversity contributes to my appreciation of an organization and/or workplace.”

To validate further our findings, we cross-referenced with other studies:

A Glassdoor survey found that “57 percent of people think their company should be doing more to increase diversity among its workforces.”

A Deloitte study reports that “83 percent of millennials are actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive culture, compared to only 60 percent of millennials who are actively engaged when their organization does not foster an inclusive culture.”

Our results amongst Black and Hispanic/Latino participants are consistent with other research conducted throughout the nation. Research indicates that understanding one another by surpassing simple tolerance to ensure people truly value differences is a rapidly growing sentiment in society. This phenomenon embraces and celebrates the rich dimensions of diversity. For that reason, Red Carrot wanted to take a closer look at different diversity policies that will help instill inclusion, respect, and appreciation to enhance productivity and other positive measurements related to a performing workplace.

Evolving our Work Culture

Respecting and appreciating what makes people different empowers them. Recognizing the value in differences of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin is a powerful tool for creating harmony and enhancing productivity.

Research published by the Harvard Business Review reported that “…diversity in the workplace can lead to creativity in resolving problems as well as creating new products and services. When you create a culture of respect, nobody is afraid that their point of view will be dismissed. They know can each confidently share their ideas with the team.

Research by the Harvard Business Review found that diverse teams “were [sic] shown to make decisions faster than individual workers and benefitted from a 60 percent improvement on decision- making.

Defining DEI in the Workplace

When we characterize diversity in the workplace, even definitions from a decade ago feel outdated now. No matter the industry, we cannot afford to be rigid. So, what do we mean when we talk about a diverse workforce? We mean advocating for workplaces made up of employees with a wide range of different viewpoints, reflecting perspectives outside of the de facto white male gaze. Where once this was taken to refer specifically to culture and race, we now equally consider a greater number of factors, including, age, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs. Even as definitions continue to shift, society and business will always benefit from the value of differing worldviews.

DEI Fosters Increased Performance

Workplaces have had to rethink, update, and revamp their DEI strategies and initiatives. Doing so will lead to the creation of an equal and inclusive workspace, where employees feel appreciated and valued, regardless of their diversities. This will push productivity in Government Agencies.

Put simply, DEI are important because people deserve better. Employees are not a facet of the agency; they are the agency. Providing a more rounded, more inclusive culture for employees is an essential first step in improving overall employee engagement and enhancing productivity. The benefits of DEI can be found everywhere. Productivity can be supported by recognizing that many of us are in our own cultural silo (called an “anthro-vision), which can be shaped by race, region, religion, and more. Promoting a workplace culture that encourages employees to break out of these silos creates an opportunity to get the most out of a varied workforce.

We can more single-mindedly focus on productivity when we work towards eliminating the anthro-vision barriers and look beyond the standard rituals that limit others. To drive increased performance, we recommend that leaders design a pathway to eliminating anthro-vision.

DEI Fosters Employee Satisfaction

Employee disengagement costs companies dearly: up to $550 billion a year. Having employees who feel their voices are well represented — both at an individual and corporate level — naturally leads to increased job satisfaction. A report by Forrester found that workplace belonging leads to a 56 percent increase in job performance. Employees who feel engaged at the workplace perform better. Fostering engagement is about much more than creating satisfied and committed Federal Government employees. It is also about providing better service to the public. Simply put, engaged employees are better employees.

Time for the Government Agencies to Reflect the Public they Serve

It is clear now that DEI in the workplace is an important aspect of employee engagement. Calls for DEI in the workplace grow louder every year. That means the magnifying glass is going to be held closer to organizations that preach DEI but aren’t practicing it. In 2021, you will see that the organizations most successful at demonstrating increased DEI will be the ones that take a comprehensive approach to build it directly into their culture.

In 2021, organizations will prioritize a more balanced workforce, providing greater opportunities for growth and a safer work environment for people across all spectrums. This will benefit any group that has suffered at the hands of exclusionary business practices, but it is also bound to be financially beneficial as well.

With the encouragement and support of U.S. public opinion, it is an opportunity to coordinate a nationwide effort in favor of a strong DEI message and culture. The key here is leadership. The distrust of leadership, growing concerns, and uncertainty among Americans about their future are also reflected in the workforce.

Red Carrot’s Eight Actions to Support DEI.

We have developed eight important steps and ideas for action that can immediately improve productivity through the promotion of DEI at federal agencies:

As people like to fit in, most of them are cautious about sticking their necks out. When we operate in a strong, homogenous culture, we stifle the natural cognitive diversity in groups through the pressure to conform. That is why we believe that only highly relevant and authentic messaging will breakthrough this important barrier.

Red Carrot’s Eight Actions to Support DEI:

We have developed eight important steps and ideas for action that can immediately improve productivity through the promotion of DEI at federal agencies:

  1.  Educate your leaders and invest in meaningful diversity training.
  2. Listen to employees and establish a shared vision.
  3. Form an inclusion council and be proactive about developing specific inclusion initiatives.
  4. Create opportunities to appropriately connect with employees and foster better social bonds.
  5. Create opportunities to interact with and celebrate employee differences.
  6. Create employee resource groups and establish mentoring initiatives.
  7. Hold better all-hands meetings, where all views are welcome and sought out.
  8. Report goals and measure progress.

As people like to fit in, most of them are cautious about sticking their necks out. When we operate in a strong, homogenous culture, we stifle the natural cognitive diversity in groups through the pressure to conform. That is why we believe that only highly relevant and authentic messaging will breakthrough this important barrier.

Creating Awareness for the Need to Change

Through our research, Red Carrot has identified critical insights on how to create recognition and acceptance for DEI. There are five communications factors that influence the success DEI awareness efforts.

FACTOR 1 — A person’s view of the current state. If there is one thing to do, it is to give people compelling reasons for change. Answer the question “Why change?” Create awareness and understanding as a first step towards real change.

FACTOR 2 — How a person perceives problems. What is the nature of the change and how does the change align with the vision for the organization? Create segmented “reasons to believe” that are relevant and tailored to different segments of your workforce.

FACTOR 3 — The credibility of the sender Create credibility through endorsers and influencers (the President and Vice President, Different Secretaries amongst them)

FACTOR 4 — Circulation of misinformation or rumors.
Our recent experience with misinformation and disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine has thought us valuable lessons on how to combat these destructive messages.
Create a precise view on how DEI will impact the organization or our community and create motivational events around each of the reasons.

FACTOR 5 — Contestability of the reasons for change.
Why is the change made and what are the risks of not changing?
Create and communicate the agency’s need for change and explain why change is necessary; provide compelling reasons for the change and emphasize the risk of not changing.

If workers feel like they belong, government agencies reap substantial bottom-line benefits. High belonging was linked to a whopping 56 percent increase in job performance, a 50 percent drop in turnover risk, and a 75 percent reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52 million. Just imagine what the potential of that is when it is translated into productivity in the agency.

How much attention does DEI get in your Agency? How do you as a leader or your leadership pursue them? Did we miss something worth mentioning? We would be happy to hear from you and continue the conversation.

About Red Carrot

Red Carrot, an 8(a) and woman-owned business, is distinguished by our proven federal experience and performance-driven processes. Our team is fueled by passion, backed by intelligence, and built on expertise.
Red Carrot believes that there is always a better way. We solve our clients’ biggest Strategic Communications, Customer Experience, Management Consulting, and Human Capital challenges. Red Carrot approaches challenges through our vetted processes, based on industry best practices and proprietary data. We continuously explore innovative and often untapped perspectives. This constantly enhances the quality of our work. From our inception, we have stayed research-centric, data-informed, and customer-oriented while expanding our range of highly skilled capabilities. The Red Carrot team supports projects across multiple industries and government agencies. Our accolades include the On the Rise Government Contractor of the Year, Telly Awards, and Hermes Creative Awards.