Building Trust in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Commitments

Operational success can suffer if employees cannot trust their employer to fulfill the commitments they have made.
Don Longo
Editorial Director Emeritus
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diverse workforce

NATIONAL REPORT — Over the past year and a half, many studies have noted workers’ concerns about their organizations’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) commitments. Some believe their employers haven't set their ambitions high enough; and, perhaps more troubling, others noted that their employers had made promises they weren’t keeping.

To understand the level of trust that workers have in their organizations’ DEI initiatives, Deloitte, a multinational advisory and consulting firm, surveyed more than 1,500 workers across U.S. regions, industry sectors, age groups, and functional roles. Conducted in August and September 2021, the survey targeted larger samples of diverse respondents to capture their perspectives on the evolution of these types of programs and the impact on their work lives and relationships with their employers.

Findings from the survey were analyzed along with other similar DEI employee studies, as well as with the perspectives of subject matter specialists in human capital, culture and purpose-related disciplines. The results were recently published in a whitepaper entitled “Build Trust in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commitments.”

According to the report, trust begins with making and demonstrating effort.

“When stakeholders, including workers, perceive an organization as lacking the ability to execute its DEI strategy, or the accountability to fulfill its commitments, their trust in the organization can dwindle. When promises are not kept, perceptions of organizational integrity can erode,” according to Deloitte. This can lead an organization to develop a reputation for performative activism or virtue signaling: the perception that the organization is involved in activism primarily for image enhancement without genuine commitment to back it up.

Despite these pitfalls, however, Deloitte’s survey results indicate that some organizations are learning how to earn their workers’ trust and, by and large, workers do currently trust their organizations’ and leaders’ commitments to DEI and their ability to execute successful DEI programs. Significantly, these results are consistent across demographic groups.

Trust can be a critical factor in the relationship between a worker’s performance and operational success. Prior research indicates that if employees cannot trust their employers to fulfill the commitments they have made, their levels of engagement could decrease, and they may become more likely to withhold their best efforts.

Alternatively, if employees trust their employer’s commitments, their engagement level can increase up to 20 percent, and the likelihood they will leave their organization decreases by 87 percent. Additionally, amid the “Great Resignation,” there has been a notable shift in workers’ feelings about the role of work in their lives and increasing expectations that employers share and reflect their workers’ values, including commitments to DEI.

“What we’ve found in our research is encouraging. Workers, including those who as part of our survey demographic questions self-identified as members of diverse populations, currently trust their employers’ DEI efforts. But our research also shows that it would be a mistake to take this trust for granted, and that organizations may already be at risk of drifting off course from the commitments they made,” stated Deloitte.

Failing to meet DEI commitments can damage worker trust. Developing strategies to stay true to the commitments they made can help organizations create long-lasting, successful DEI programs, contributing to trust within their workforce.

Deloitte’s paper explains its definitions for trust, diversity, equity and inclusion as:

  • Trust is the foundation of a meaningful relationship between an organization and its stakeholders, at both the individual and organizational levels.
  • Diversity is the characteristics with which we are born and gain through experience, both seen and unseen, that make us different and similar.
  • Equity is the outcome of diversity, inclusion and anti-oppression actions, wherein all people have fair access, opportunity, resources and power to thrive, with consideration for and elimination of historical and systemic barriers and privileges that cause oppression.
  • Inclusion is the actions taken to understand, embrace and leverage the unique strengths and facets of identity for all individuals so that all feel welcomed, valued and supported.

The report goes on to outline the consequences of not following through on DEI commitments, and offers ideas from study respondents on how an organization can build trusted DEI programs over time and who within the organization should be accountable for different elements of a successful program. The full report can be viewed here.

The firm concludes by reminding readers that DEI is a journey without a finish line.



Convenience Store News has launched an industrywide initiative to facilitate engagement among all stakeholders in the convenience channel around diversity and inclusion, with underwriting support from Altria Group Distribution Co., The Coca-Cola Co., The Hershey Co. and WorkJam. The platform is designed to be a catalyst for discussion, innovation, engagement and action.

About the Author

Don Longo
Don Longo is Editorial Director Emeritus of Convenience Store News. Read More