DEI Culture: The Secret Ingredient to Success

Oct 12, 2023

DEI is no longer just a corporate concept that can be discussed ad nauseam; it’s a critical necessity for any forward-thinking organization to recruit and retain talent. Companies leading with DEI initiatives enhance their competitiveness, innovation, and overall employee satisfaction.

What is DEI?

DEI is a holistic approach to creating a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and supported. Diversity refers to the presence of individuals from different backgrounds, including race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and physical abilities. Equity ensures that everyone has fair access to opportunities and resources. Inclusion goes beyond representation, creating an environment where everyone feels safe to bring their authentic selves to work.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are often used together as an acronym, but they represent distinct aspects of a company’s culture:



Diversity refers to the presence of individuals from various backgrounds, including race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and physical abilities within an organization. Microsoft’s diversity initiatives increased the representation of women in technical roles from 16.9% in 2014 to 27.7% in 2020.



Equity ensures fairness in opportunities, resources, and advancement for all employees, regardless of background. Think ‘Lean-In’ with reference to gender discrimination. Equity aims to eliminate systemic biases and create a level playing field. Salesforce conducted a pay equity analysis and committed to spending $6 million to address any disparities they found, demonstrating their commitment to equitable compensation.



Inclusion goes beyond mere representation, creating an environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. Procter & Gamble’s “Diversity and Inclusion: Everyone Valued, Everyone Included, Everyone Performing at Their Peak™” program fosters an inclusive environment where employees can thrive.


Why does DEI matter?

  1.  Enhanced Innovation and Problem Solving:  Diverse teams are better equipped to tackle complex problems and innovate. A study by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their industry peers in terms of profitability. Apple’s commitment to diversity has led to breakthrough products. Their design team, comprising individuals from various cultural backgrounds, played a pivotal role in creating the iPhone, which revolutionized the smartphone industry.
  2. Improved Employee Engagement and Retention: A DEI culture fosters a sense of belonging among employees. When people feel valued and included, they are more likely to stay with the company. A diverse workforce also attracts top talent. Google is known for its inclusive culture. Some companies see an 80% decrease in employee turnover after creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
  3.  Better Decision-Making: Diverse teams make better decisions because they consider a broader range of perspectives and experiences. This helps avoid groupthink and ensures that decisions are more reflective of the customer base. Johnson & Johnson’s diverse board of directors made the decision to recall Tylenol during the 1982 tampering crisis, a move that not only saved lives but also set an industry standard for corporate accountability.


How to Build a DEI Culture?

Building a DEI culture involves both strategic planning and a commitment from leadership. Here’s how to get started:


  • Leadership Commitment: When leaders prioritize DEI initiatives, they send a powerful message throughout the organization. In 2018, Starbucks temporarily closed its stores to conduct racial bias training for employees following an incident of racial profiling. CEO Kevin Johnson publicly acknowledged the issue and committed to addressing it.
  • Education and Training: Investing in DEI education and training programs for all employees helps raise awareness and equips individuals with the tools to challenge biases. Accenture offers unconscious bias training to its employees, fostering an inclusive culture where employees are encouraged to speak up against biases.
  • Recruitment and Hiring: Re-evaluate recruitment processes to eliminate bias and ensure that the candidate pool is diverse. Implement practices such as blind resume screening. Airbnb launched Project Lighthouse, an initiative aimed at eliminating discrimination in its booking platform by reducing bias in search results.
  • Promotion and Advancement: Create a clear path for advancement and ensure that all employees have equal opportunities for growth. IBM implemented the “Pipeline Accelerator Program” to develop diverse talent and increase the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in executive roles.
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Encourage the formation of ERGs that support employees from various backgrounds. These groups can provide a sense of community and facilitate dialogue. Walmart has several ERGs, including the “African American Business Resource Group” and “Women in Retail,” which empower employees and contribute to a more inclusive workplace. Coaching Circles are emerging as a great option.
  • Measurement and Accountability: Set up metrics to track progress in DEI initiatives. Hold leaders accountable for achieving diversity and equity goals. Intel established a goal to achieve full representation of women and underrepresented minorities in their U.S. workforce by 2020 and published regular diversity reports to track progress.

Leaders need to see that a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their companies is not a mere marketing tool; it’s a strategic advantage. If leaders embrace DEI, they can enhance innovation, talent attraction, employee engagement, and decision-making. The more diverse a company is, the better its ability to lead change. Make every employee feel valued, included, and empowered to find meaning at work.

Photo by Womanizer Toys on Unsplash

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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