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Dan RobertsonFeb 14, 2024 12:14:50 PM7 min read

5 DE&I trends to be aware of

5 DE&I trends to be aware of  

As we embark on another year, the developing landscape of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) continues to shape-shift, reflecting the ever-changing requirements and expectations of the workforce. As more organisations continue to recognise the importance of DE&I, it becomes ever more important for them to remain dynamic and stay aware of emerging trends.  

In this article, we set out five trends expected to influence DE&I workplace strategies in 2024. From addressing DE&I myths and misunderstandings to amplifying the voices of employee resource groups, organisations should continue to work towards promoting a culture of inclusivity and belonging.  

Read on to explore our top trends and discover how we can work with you to create a water-tight DE&I strategy, not just for 2024, but for long-term organisational success. 

1. Addressing the growing backlash on DE&I 

Over the last couple of years, organisations have spent a lot of time thinking about representation and diversity: how do we increase women, people of colour and other minority groups in organisations? A main mechanism to increase representation is through data collection and targets as these drive accountabilities.  

However, one of the big problems around this is understanding what we do as DE&I professionals. When we talk about having targets to increase underrepresentation (known as “affirmative action”, which is legal), the general public and stakeholders often wrongly assume that we are filling quotas and giving underrepresented groups more advantage over majority groups. This practise is described as “positive discrimination”, which is illegal. There is therefore a big misunderstanding around what the DE&I agenda is.  

In June 2023, this misunderstanding became evident at a U.S. governmental level, with damaging effects that have impacted some of America’s top universities. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina cannot use policies that consider a student’s race in admissions as means of affirmative action. This means they are prevented from using policies to increase the number of Black, Hispanic and other minority students on campus. The court stated that, by considering an applicant’s race, the universities were violating the equal protection promised by the U.S. Constitution by practising positive discrimination.  

Affirmative action programmes, such as the race-conscious admissions programmes run by the universities, are designed to address historical inequalities and increase representation of underrepresented groups. However, the court’s ruling to strike down these policies could limit the efforts to promote diversity on campuses, perpetuating existing disparities by making it harder for underrepresented groups to access educational opportunities.  

This growing backlash, as a result of lack of understanding, should be a message to DE&I professionals: it is our responsibility to communicate what we do in a clearer way, and to mitigate these damaging myths that can hinder our progress towards diverse and inclusive workplaces.  

2. Enhancing education around DE&I

Dan Robertson, Managing Director at FAIRER Consulting, explains: "As change-makers, DE&I professionals need to upskill and develop the capabilities on dealing with the growing backlash against the DE&I agenda." We have a responsibility to translate important concepts and legislation so that it appeals - and is comprehendible - to the general public, avoiding damaging misunderstandings and making the agenda clear. 

We need to work more closely with leaders within organisations to set clear policies, agendas and DE&I goals. When leaders actively support and participate in DE&I initiatives, it sends a powerful message throughout organisations, reinforcing the importance of these principles. 

In addition, DE&I professionals often fall into the teacher-student relationship when explaining DE&I terminologies or concepts to the general public, but why not make these matters more accessible and comprehensible in the first place? Avoiding jargon and creating clear explanations, policies and expectations can help to shed the veil on DE&I, mitigating myths and misunderstandings. For example, FAIRER Consulting has published a DE&I glossary: an ever-evolving dictionary explaining some of the commonly used terms and concepts. 

Social media is another useful tool for enhancing education around DE&I. It can be used to amplify unheard voices, share educational content, engage in real-time discussions, raise communities, build corporate transparency and challenge stereotypes – all with a global reach.  

It is crucial to navigate these spaces responsibly, but the strategic use of social media can contribute significantly to creating a more inclusive and informed society, working towards a shared understanding of DE&I principles and ensuring we all contribute towards a shared agenda. 

3. Promoting corporate and social cohesion

“It is a fact that discrimination and inequity exist. We cannot treat everyone the same because life doesn’t treat everyone the same”, states Dan. Therefore, our organisational structures – which are designed to create inclusion – can sometimes end up fragmenting us.  

For example, ERGs (employee resource groups) for women, people of colour, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities and so on, are useful mechanisms that are designed to create safe spaces and give us forums to share common experiences. However, the communication flow between those communities – and between minority and majority communities – is fractured.  

The antidote here is to ramp up corporate cohesion: how do we make sure that different groups within our corporate structures are communicating effectively? While it is important to have safe spaces for different groups, how do we establish structures that are designed to bring people together at the same time?  

One way to bring groups together is to have programmes that promote a common bond. For example, we can layer inclusion networks on top of individual employee networks - like women’s networks and LGBTQ+ networks - where we recruit more men or more heterosexual people to be involved. “Corporates are happy for us to be fragmented as we have less power that way, but by working from the lens of inclusion, it allows minority and majority groups to come together to formulate policy”, explains Dan. 

It is therefore important that ERGs are not seen as box-ticking initiatives, but they are championed as being forums for mentorship, collaboration and amplifying voices. Business leaders should include DE&I matters in wider business updates, as well as assign a board member from each ERG group to attend strategical business discussions, allowing the representatives to be involved in decision-making. By leveraging ERGs in this way, leaders will indicate to the wider organisation that DE&I matters are as important as other business matters, increasing leadership accountability and DE&I visibility across the organisation. 

 4. Providing the license to learn and grow

"The space for learning and growth has died, but we need to create space for making mistakes”, says Dan. If someone uses a piece of terminology which you are uncomfortable with, have a conversation with them and explain why. That person then has the opportunity to learn and grow from their mistake. It is more constructive to engage in dialogue rather than immediately label someone as discriminatory, which can cause someone to shut down and refrain from engaging in further DE&I conversations or initiatives. An open approach encourages understanding and allows individuals to learn from their mistakes, promoting a culture of continuous improvement.  

Organisations should offer educational resources, training and forums for open discussions. There is no harm in asking questions – they should be encouraged – as long as the question comes from a place of good intent. However, if you immediately make judgement or someone down for making a mistake, people become defensive and unwilling to partake in DE&I activities.  

5. Striking the balance between office-based and hybrid or remote working

 The COVID-19 pandemic propelled the working world into an era of home-based working, turning the traditional processes of the workplace on its head. Almost four years later, the workforce remains apprehensive to completely surrender the set-up of remote working, with 77% of remote workers saying they are more productive when working from home. As such, home working has become a norm and comfort for many employees. From a business perspective, remote working also allows organisations to leverage global talent that might have otherwise remained untapped. 

However, despite the benefits of flexible working, it is important that business also recognise its associated challenges. Remote working can have adverse effects on work-life balance, with employees working longer hours when at home versus when in the office. In addition, some employees may experience home conditions that are counterproductive to wellbeing, due to a loss of daily routine and the workspace invading the home – and even the bedroom.  

With 67% of employees feeling disconnected from their teams when working from home, organisations must seek to strike a balance between the benefits of flexibility, with its associated concerns, in order to maintain employee wellbeing and productivity.  

To encourage a feeling of team connection, organisations can employ methods like enhanced collaboration tools, virtual peer meetings and coffee catch-ups, and frequent employee communication.  

Let’s work together 

Our DE&I consultants are experts in developing and executing successful DE&I training programmes and workplace strategies. Browse our catalogue of courses, explore our consulting services or contact us for a complimentary one-to-one discussion with one of our experts. 


Dan Robertson

Dan Robertson is MD of FAIRER Consulting and Global Head of ED&I Advisory Services at Hays International. Over the last 15 years Dan has spent his time supporting global business leaders to transform their ideas into meaningful action, with a focus on inclusion as a strategic management issue, bias mitigation and inclusive leadership.