The Employers’ Association releases report on DEI practices

New survey was conducted statewide in partnership with Detroit’s The American Society of Employers.
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Almost 180 Michigan businesses participated in the survey, with about a third of them based in Grand Rapids. Courtesy iStock

A pair of employer groups have released results to a statewide survey intended to capture current practices around diversity, equity and inclusion to help organizations formalize their policies and approaches.

The Employers’ Association (TEA), based in Grand Rapids, together with The American Society of Employers (ASE), serving the Detroit and eastern Michigan region, published results of the 2020 Survey on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices last month.

TEA and ASE invited their joint statewide membership to participate in the electronic survey in July. The brief survey captured current practices around diversity programs and strategies in several geographic clusters: metro Detroit; Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland; Jackson, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek; Saginaw, Bay City and Midland; and “other,” or areas of Michigan not captured in the other categories.

Jason Reep, TEA president, said 179 organizations from across Michigan participated. Organizations with less than 500 employees nationally made up more than 84% of the survey sample; 32.4% were from the Grand Rapids area, and 53.4% were from the Detroit metropolitan area.

Survey highlights

  • 42% of participants maintain formal policies that address employee diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Nearly half of all respondents have no formal DEI programs.
  • A lack of staff resources and workload constraints were listed as the main obstacles to DEI initiatives.
  • Just over a third of those surveyed implemented respectful workplaces (harassment) training for employees or managers in 2020.
  • Over a third (33.7%) of employers have no written policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • 69.3% of organizations surveyed have a formal policy that identifies an accommodation process for disability; 36.4% have a process in place for religious accommodations.
  • 89.3% of organizations said they have a formal written code of conduct.

Reep said the organizations that responded tend to already be interested in pursuing greater workplace equity, although many “don’t know where to start.” Some have begun their DEI work internally, but it has not evolved to the level of written policies or strategies in every area yet. On the other hand, he said some employers have had longtime affirmative action policies in place, and some organizations that are more “progressive” have been doing the work of DEI formally for a while. 

He said the data is intended to help businesses examine their strategic decisions on DEI in the workplace (or lack thereof) and give clear action steps that can be taken to improve outcomes.

“TEA and ASE have seen a recent increase in diversity, equity and inclusion attention in businesses. Both associations have assisted many organizations to enhance and focus their DEI strategies, and the opportunity to partner on this statewide survey will help benchmark best practices throughout Michigan,” Reep said.

“Combining these data points regarding business practices with employee perceptions of DEI in their organizations (through TEA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 20-question employee survey) can provide actionable information for organizations that want to make positive movements regarding DEI.”

Reep added there is no one-size-fits-all approach to DEI strategy in the workplace.

“What the results show is that there is not only one way to do the work based on the parameters (you have), whether it’s cost, time or people,” he said. “Organizations can do something and make a positive impact in their organization and in the larger community by proxy or directly, if that’s part of their mission as well. It is a good reminder that you don’t have to follow one simple formula, because each company is unique in a number of different ways, whether it’s size or industry, what they’re doing, how large they are, etc. It’s really about learning to scale your efforts and then identifying what else you could be doing.”

This new survey is just one of the tools TEA is using to help its membership increase DEI, Reep said. Other opportunities include diversity and inclusion monthly roundtables; employee engagement surveys, with questions to help measure inclusion; consultations on how to set up employee resource groups and diversity councils; trainings on how to reduce bias in hiring and compensation; and compliance and affirmative action coaching with clients.

The 2020 Survey on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices is available at no cost to TEA members and is available for purchase by nonmembers by contacting TEA’s Marla Holzapfel at mholzapfel@teagr.org or (616) 698-1167.

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