The 4 Equities Challenge: A Two-Step Way to Enhance Employee Experience

DEIB 4 Equities

People are often drawn to a good challenge –- I mean that’s pretty much why TikTok exists, right? Don’t get me wrong, a good viral social post amuses me as much as the next person. But what if we could harness that same level of energy to make a super-positive impact on the people we work with every day?

In that spirit, I've got a two-step challenge that will sharpen your skills when it comes to supporting employees and measurably improving their experience at your organization. Don’t worry, this won’t be complicated or add a bunch of extra time to your work day. In fact, it centers on one diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) concept that HR and other business leaders probably think a lot about already—equity.

So, here we go!

The 4 Equities Challenge: Enhance Your Employee Experience

Step 1: Identify the four equities

How does equity show up at your organization? Push yourself to think differently here. Oftentimes the initial instinct is to focus on compensation as the only indicator of organizational equity, but the reality is leaders need to consider the ways that something like a wage gap might actually come from broader inequities across the organization.

There are four distinct areas that need to be addressed in different ways to create the ecosystem of equity that characterize a great place to work. So let’s get acquainted with the four equities.

1. Equity of representation

What it is: Giving context and impact to the numbers you see on your workforce composition reports. If your organization can reflect the diversity of your customers and the communities you serve through your own intersectional demographics (and those of your vendors and suppliers), you’ll be better positioned to serve them.

What to ask: Where can we make improvements and set goals to increase the diversity of our workforce — including global gender and U.S. ethnic representation in manager and leadership roles — to better reflect our customer base? Consider other intersectional demographics such as identity, ability, and generation. What’s realistic, and who will we engage internally to help us reach our targets? What options do we have to work with suppliers and vendors who can demonstrate that they have similar goals?

2. Equity of opportunity

What it is: Looking beyond job title and promotion distribution to see who is truly able to thrive at your organization. Addressing opportunity at this level means ensuring that all your current and prospective employees have access to all available growth pathways so everyone gets the chance to reach their full potential. And keep in mind, success is achievable: At the best workplaces in the country, 78% of employees say promotions are fair. (That’s compared to 49% at the average workplace.)

What to ask: Where can we increase transparency around hiring processes, promotions, career paths, performance appraisals, and succession plans? How can we effectively detect and remove bias whenever possible in these areas? 

3. Equity of wellbeing

What it is: Seeing the personal as well as the professional and how experiences in life and work affect your people’s physical and psychological safety. The fact is that managers affect employees’ mental health just as much as their spouse or partner, so there is profound opportunity here to provide meaningful support systems.

What to ask: How are we creating a culture that helps protect our people both on and off the job, fosters psychological safety for all, and trains managers and leadership to care for every team member and treat them respectfully?

4. Equity of compensation

What it is: It's so much more than just what we pay people. What we’re talking about here is how we value people. How we value their skills, ideas, and the experiences that shape who they are and the unique contributions they bring to your organization.

What to ask: When we analyze total compensation trends, how can we get visibility into not only pay, but also benefits, bonuses, employee stock options, and the other avenues we use to provide tangible ways for employees to feel their work is fairly valued? 

Step 2: Evaluate and find opportunities

Now that we’ve got shared definitions and initial directions, let’s look at day-to-day operations and find the places where we can make equity impacts in the short and long term.

I’ll share a concrete checklist soon, but let’s start with this important question: Who’s your dance partner?

It may sound funny, but at UKG we think about equity strategies and other components of the equity ecosystem as a ‘dance’ between the HR and DEI&B functions at an organization. Brian Reaves, our chief belonging, diversity, and equity officer, puts it this way in a recent interview in Fortune:

“The DEI&B function is about change and inspection, while the HR engine is about doing things quickly and efficiently. If the engine doesn’t like change, it views DEI&B as questioning its process. That’s not the case at UKG. Here, we get to dance. I'm understanding what limitations and strengths our Chief People Officer Pat Wadors has, and she understands mine. We figure out the most optimal way to work together.”

The bigger point is that you can’t work alone to make fundamental equity changes happen. You must dance with others. So, make sure you start any evaluation by inviting the right stakeholders to the table. 

"The DEI&B function is about change and inspection, while the HR engine is about doing things quickly and efficiently. If the engine doesn’t like change, it views DEI&B as questioning its process. That’s not the case at UKG. Here, we get to dance. I’m understanding what limitations and strengths our Chief People Officer Pat Wadors has, and she understands mine. We figure out the most optimal way to work together."

–Brian K. Reaves

Chief Belonging, Diversity, and Equity Officer, UKG

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Has your CEO and executive team made a clear commitment to achieving workplace equity? Collaborative research from Harvard Business Review Analytical Services and UKG show business imperatives like this need to start at the top, with the CEO setting the agenda of what’s important and empowering experts across the organization to design the most successful plan possible.
  • Is there a dedicated DEI&B function at the organization? If not, who else is involved in assessing your employee experience from a DEI&B perspective?
  • What subject matter experts do you need to bring in? Hint: This team should probably look a lot like the one you’d assemble to purchase HR software, with representation from HR, Payroll, Operations, Finance, and IT.
  • Which people managers should you bring into the conversation to understand the team experience at the organization?
  • What opportunities are there to socialize your plans transparently with employees and gather their feedback?

After you assemble your team, it’s time to start coordinating efforts and taking action to make improvements across all four areas of equity. 

Use this checklist to spark ideas as you start digging into your own policies and processes.

  • Decide what to measure to assess equity. These are good places to start: 
    • Demographic representation among top performing or high-potential employees
    • Participation of different demographic groups in development or employee resource groups (ERGs)
    • Pay distribution by demographic or department
  • Inspect every phase of the employee engagement lifecycle through a DEI&B lens. Examples include: 
    • Where you look to identify talent
    • How you engage that talent in the hiring process 
    • How you onboard the talent 
    • How you ensure the talent has upward mobility
  • Find a source for trusted equity benchmarks you can measure against consistently and track improvement
  • Regularly ask specific questions around the four equities in your employee experience surveys and take action based on feedback. Hearing directly from your employees around their sense of belonging is critical to the ecosystem of equities and is critical to building trust.
  • Make sure you can distribute shifts fairly and without bias through the scheduling system you use.
  • Make talent calibrations and check-ins around wellbeing and professional development a regular activity for managers, executives, and HR -– establish a true sense of purpose around every activity your employees engage in.
  • Proactively monitor changes in intersectional demographic representation over time and take timely action to address trends. 
Four equities, still just one letter

I’m guessing you already know where I’m going with this, but it’s important to say anyway. The four equities represent all elements of DEI&B, not just the ‘E’. To truly make a compelling business case for change, build an organizational culture that attracts and retains the best talent, and reap the many benefits other organizations who prioritize this critical area do, you have to look at the full landscape beyond these core definitions.

You’re in luck, though. This is just a starting point and there are many more insights to explore. Download a copy of the UKG DEI&B Playbook to get a full end-to-end action plan based on the actual best practices we use here at UKG to craft our award-winning culture of trust and belonging. 

In fact, that’s my final bonus challenge for you –- go read it! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.