What is Equity in the Workplace?

Line drawing of five raised hands. Yellow background.

When did equity get added to the middle of diversity and inclusion? Why is the stated value equity and not equality? Does equity in the workplace matter that much, or should businesses just focus on diversity and inclusion?

The first time I heard DEI as shorthand, instead of diversity and inclusion, was in 2017 when I took leadership training for my volunteer work. Looking at Google Trends, the phrase “diversity and inclusion” started gaining in popularity in 2014, but the full phrase “diversity, equity, and inclusion” didn’t start gaining in popularity until 2020.

We’ve written about diversity in the workplace and inclusion in the workplace. In this quick guide, learn more about equity, and why it matters in the workplace.

What is Equity?

Merriam-Webster defines equity as: “justice according to natural law or rights; freedom from bias or favoritism.”

Another definition is this: Equity refers to fair and just treatment of all people.

Equity in the workplace looks like all employees receiving the resources they need to succeed.

What is Equity in the Workplace?

Equity in the workplace is about ensuring all employees access the same opportunities, resources, and treatment. Equity means employees are valued based on their skills, knowledge, and abilities in a workplace, rather than their characteristics.

Also, equity in the workplace also means that employees have fair and equitable access to training and development opportunities to further their careers.

Equality and equity are similar concepts, but not the same. Equality in the workplace means all employees receive the exact same resources, regardless of need. Equity in the workplace means all employees receive the specific resources they need to succeed, according to their unique needs.

Examples of Equity in the Workplace

There are many ways to achieve equity in the workplace, but here are a few ideas to get started.

  • Hire for skills, not degrees. When looking to fill an open role, reconsider the minimum requirements for the position. Is a four-year degree necessary, or can a candidate prove their qualifications with experience and skills?
  • Accommodate health conditions or disabilities. The events of 2020 led to many rapid changes in the workplace, including more opportunities for remote work. One result of this change is increased labor participation by people with disabilities. Remote work is just one possible accommodation. Neurodivergent employees, for example, might need written instructions or a distraction-free workspace. Every person is different, so accommodations will vary based on individual needs.
  • Offer flexible work schedules. Some jobs need to be done on specific days, at specific times. However, many jobs just require employees to hit certain deadlines. What roles at your company could be accomplished with flexible hours?
  • Provide training during work hours. Employees should not be fully responsible for professional development on their own time. Offer training during the normal workday. Record presentations so any employees who can’t attend the live session can watch the replay.

What equity in the workplace looks like will vary from person to person, company to company. It comes down to understanding we’re all different, so we all have different needs, and an equitable employer will do their best to meet those needs.

Why Equity is Important to Your Business

Multiple studies show that diversity in the workplace increases profits, but equity in the workplace is more difficult to quantify. As such, it’s more difficult to measure the effects of an equitable workplace. However, there is some research on equity in the workplace.

Research by Gartner found that employees who work in an equitable environment perform at a level that is 26 percent higher than those who don’t. Unfortunately, the same research found that only 18 percent of employees reported working in an equitable environment.

The National Study of Workplace Equity found better business outcomes for organizations with higher overall equity. Adaptable and agile, these companies are “thriving amid the turbulent business environment of the past two years.”

Gallup’s annual State of the Workplace report includes metrics on employee engagement. They ask survey respondents to agree or disagree with 12 statements to determine if an employee is engaged. Three of these reflect equity:

  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Gallup has studied employee engagement for more than 50 years. Companies with highly engaged employees are more productive and more profitable.

Engaged employees are also more likely to stay with a company.

How Equity Can Improve Employee Retention

Research by Gallup on employee burnout found equitable workplaces have a positive impact—and inequitable workplaces have a negative impact.

  • Employees who strongly agree that they have the same opportunities for advancement as other employees in their organization are 43 percent less likely to report feeling burned out “very often” or “always.”
  • Employees who strongly agree that they have equal opportunities to advance to senior management within their organization are 30 percent less likely to experience high levels of burnout.
  • Employees who reported feeling discriminated against at work in the past 12 months are more than twice as likely to be experiencing high levels of burnout.

Preventing employee burnout should be part of your employee retention strategy.

Insight Global Can Help with DEI in the Workplace

Now that you understand the importance of equity in the workplace, what step should you take next? If you already have DEI plans in place, you might just need to do some employee surveys on their effectiveness and then update the plans accordingly.

However, if you’re not sure about the next step, that’s okay. Insight Global is here to help! Sign up for our exclusive video series on DEI in the Workplace.

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