By Shane Nelson with additional reporting by Olivia Riggio
Q: What are the top drivers of employee engagement?
A: Employee engagement can be a barometer of how well diversity efforts have been implemented. In the workplace, high employee engagement leads to increased retention rates and higher productivity, which helps to drive down costs of replacing employees and lost productivity. In the marketplace, high employee engagement leads to better customer satisfaction. So how can organizations retain their talent and empower them in the marketplace? Here are three ways our data demonstrates that diversity helps increase employee engagement:
The CEO and their direct reports serve as ambassadors for employee engagement. Engagement of senior management is often contagious, reverberating throughout the entire workforce. Our research shows that when the CEO and their direct reports are held accountable for diversity-management results, it sends the message that diversity is a business imperative. The benefits of accountability are twofold. The company benefits from increased employee engagement across the board, resulting in positive results such as an increase in the diversity of recruits or diversity of those promoted, or even increased diversity of senior management.
In 2020, TIAA (No. 9 on 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) reported that 50% of Level 1 and 2 bonuses were tied to diversity results. When it comes to tying compensation to diversity goals, the 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 averaged 100%. Encompassing the diversity goals are process metrics that impact behavior change and outcomes, such as being a mentor or executive sponsor of an employee-resource group. There are representation goals, such as recruitment and promotions, that are based on the availability of women, Black professionals, Latinxs, Asian Americans and Indigenous/Native American/American Indians for the area and the position.
For the DiversityInc Top 50, employee resource groups (ERGs) serve as a key measurement of employee engagement. When resource groups focus on engaging Black, Latinx, Asian, LGBTQ or woman professionals, retention and promotion of these individuals goes up. All of the Top 50 companies have ERGs. Participation in resource groups gives employees many advantages in navigating their careers. They also promote career growth by exposing employees to the right people and the right projects. Participants have the opportunity to showcase their talents to senior executives and in many cases are exposed to a senior executive they might otherwise not have come in contact with, and vice versa. This kind of exposure creates bidirectional engagement.
Senior executives find that new talent and participants are recognized for bigger projects. Benefits of joining resource groups include networking, professional and personal development, and making connections with those who have similar experiences.
Our data shows that mentoring is a vital component in driving employee engagement. Companies that excel in diversity management use their formal mentoring programs to identify and nurture high-potential employees. The mentoring programs are formal and cross-cultural, meaning the mentor is of a different race, gender and/or sexual orientation than the mentee. Fourteen years ago, 10% of the DiversityInc Top 50 had mentoring programs with cross-cultural components. Today, 100% of the DiversityInc Top 50 companies include cross-cultural components in their mentoring programs. This ensures that the programs are reaching all races and genders and increases cultural awareness of all, including those at the senior-most levels.
These connections are important given the benefits of formal mentorship.
“We recognize that through mentoring, our team members who participate in these programs, these opportunities have the opportunity to spend dedicated time reflecting on their development,” Chris Wilson, senior OED consultant in Enterprise Talent Planning said in a recent webinar. “Getting insider perspective from a mentor or co-mentees. It’s a very powerful developmental strategy for us. It’s an opportunity for our team members to really spend the time developing their skills.”