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2024 DE+I Trends

Clarkston’s team of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE+I) consultants have highlighted the top DE+I trends that businesses should consider. Read all 4 trends for 2024 by downloading the full report here.

Over the last three years, we’ve seen tremendous progress with formal DE+I initiatives and key performance indicators (KPIs) in business operations beginning to take shape. It’s becoming more and more clear that industry leaders are beginning to recognize “the why” of DE+I. It’s time for businesses to now begin shifting toward “the how.” With all this momentum, there will still be challenges, but there will also be tremendous opportunities. How can organizations navigate the year ahead, and what are some trends worth tracking in 2024? 

In this report, we break down these four 2024 DE+I trends:   

  1. Increased Use of Generative AI in the DE+I Space
  2. Getting Ahead of DE+I Fatigue
  3. Supplier Diversity is Here to Stay
  4. The Nuanced Dynamic of DE+I During an Election Year

2024 DE+I Trends

Trend #1: Increased Use of Generative AI in the DE+I space 

The use of generative AI has been the topic of discussion among just about every industry, including within DE+I. The first thing that’s important to address is the mythical aura of generative AI and the tools for which it’s responsible. These programs aren’t magical entities that can churn out job-replacing applications at will, but they can enhance and optimize task execution that typically requires some degree of decision-making, critical thinking, and even creativity. Despite what its critics may believe, DE+I is rooted in and backed by data as well as critical thinking and decision-making. Therefore, it falls under the wide umbrella of generative AI’s applicability. In 2024, we’ll see organizations leverage the intersection of DE+I and Generative AI in a number of ways: 

Supporting DE+I initiatives during recruiting with the use of generative AI.

One of the most obvious candidates for generative AI’s applicability in the DE+I space will be in recruiting. Organizations getting hundreds, or even thousands, of applications for a single position have likely employed some sort of tools to search and analyze résumés. With the rise of customizable AI models, organizations will likely be able to tailor such programs to streamline the process that would typically require significant human effort. In fact, 99% of the Fortune 500 already uses AI to screen résumés. An increasing number of AI-based tools are also now available for diversifying candidate sourcing, producing inclusive job descriptions, analyzing interview responses, and more.  

Possible future pitfalls and how to manage them: The prevalence of biases has been documented and will need to be managed as organizations transition to the use of such tools. Even Amazon failed with its initial use of AI in recruiting back in 2018. Oversight of AI-powered tools in recruiting will require a holistic understanding of statistical analysis and DE+I-related people practices. 

Automating employee evaluations and performance tracking through AI-powered tools.

Organizations tend to maintain a central database that tracks the performance of their employees over time through structured and unstructured feedback and input. Several AI-powered tools are now available to generate evaluations based on this performance data and make recommendations related to training and growth. In addition to biases, it’s prudent to consider the degree to which these tools can understand unique instances of nuance. Performances are the product of work, yes, but also the result of circumstances and individual journeys that at times may supersede objective performance metrics. DE+I initiatives generally provide a certain degree of safety in areas of such nuance. 

Possible future pitfalls and how to manage them: An overreliance on Generative AI during its rise in performance management will threaten DE+I practices if it progresses unchecked. Algorithms need to be trained based on trusted data sets that have been validated to reflect the world today. Organizations will need to maintain historical data and fully understand the current state before any such large-scale performance management implementation. This will allow for structured comparison to understand possible biases and provide the basis for re-training.  

Providing a massive boost to retaining a diverse workforce with generative AI-powered organizational network analytics.

A slightly less common version of tracking performance data is tracking workflow via organizational network analysis, a method of studying workflow patterns and communication flows within an organization. Through employee survey data, ONA tools, which can now leverage AI models, will generate a web-like diagram clearly identifying bottlenecks, areas of risk, patterns of communication, etc. With AI’s newfound capabilities, ONA will require less human intervention and thus become more financially feasible for more organizations in the coming years. As it’s increasingly clear that DE+I is a core consideration among prospective both prospective and existing employees when it comes to employee retention, organizations should leverage the increasingly powerful ONA tools to track the success of DE+I initiatives and practices. For example, in fictitious organization XYZ: 

    • ERGs (employee resource groups) were encouraged in early 2023; ONA can be used to track how represented communities developed as a result and how they can be guided in the future.  
    • Additional recruiting for people with military backgrounds was initiated in 2022 – how did their leadership impact the channels around them?  

ONA and advanced people analytics could not only test and track the success of existing DE+I initiatives, but also reveal new ones.  

Possible future pitfalls and how to manage them: Generating the output is quite simply data in, data out, so DE+I expertise is required to interpret the results and strategize consequential actions. Like the risk mitigation strategy for performance management, recognizing the current state of DE+I in an organization will be key to fully understanding the impact as well as the pitfalls. Additionally, the implementation of such solution requires long-term investment and structured executive support 

The milestones that this generation has seen with AI is unprecedented, and thus the “lessons learned” will come from our experiences. The combination of data governance, technical guidance, and DE+I support will be critical for organizations integrating generative AI within their people practices.  

Download the Full 2024 DE+I Trends Report Here

Trend #2: Getting Ahead of DE+I Fatigue 

Organizational DE+I is at an inflection point and carrying a great deal of momentum, which explains why you may be hearing about it more often than ever before. This also provides a natural segue into this next trend: the increased presence of DE+I fatigue. 

As we continue to recover from the residual effects of the pandemic and nationwide racial protests, we see how companies are reacting to this change in public focus. A recent report by LinkedIn notes that Chief Diversity Offers (CDOs) were the only C-Suite position to experience hiring declines in 2022.As we move into 2024, there are several internal and external factors contributing to this perceived DE+I fatigue, or the idea that individuals feel tired of talking about and/or participating in DE+I-related initiatives or topics.  

Common Causes of DE+I Fatigue 

    • Emotional labor + workload: We often see employees experience emotional exhaustion when continuously engaging in discussions and efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Constantly addressing sensitive topics, listening to others’ experiences, and trying to create inclusive environments can be emotionally draining. In our experience working with clients, we also see that when diversity and inclusion efforts are met with resistance or pushback, it can lead to fatigue. When DE+I tasks become an additional workload for employees, it adds to employee stress and dissatisfaction. We’re seeing this become more prevalent as more DE+I roles become absorbed into other functions as a result of full-time DE+I roles being cut. 
    • Unrealistic expectations leading to a lack of progress or results: When companies invest time and resources into DE+I initiatives but fail to see significant improvement or tangible results, it may lead to fatigue. From costly employee turnover to damages to brand reputation, these causes inevitably lead to long-term negative impacts on organizations.  

So, how can your organization address DE+I fatigue, and how can you be intentional about potentially avoiding DE+I fatigue in the first place?  

    1. Provide Executive Leadership Access to Your DE+I Advocates: Proactively recognizing and equipping your DE+I advocates with access to executive leadership is integral when it comes to getting ahead of DE+I fatigue. One thing we’ve seen organizations that are successful at empowering their DE+I advocates do is have executive leadership sit on a DE+I council alongside leaders of ERGs.  
    2. Set Smaller, Achievable Feeder Goals: Now, more than ever, DE+I leaders must be intentional about goal setting. In a recent DE+I survey, half of employees surveyed cited lack of accountability as one of the biggest DE+I issues they’re seeing at companies. We know what isn’t measured isn’t managed, but as businesses set these big, ambitious goals, they should also be setting smaller goals that feed into the larger initiatives and help benchmark progress.  
    3. Be Transparent with Your People About Your Organization’s DE+I Challenges: When employees are aware of what’s happening in the organization, and the actionable steps being taken to improve it, trust in leadership will improve. In 2023 among the Fortune 500 companies, 154 have proactively published Diversity reports, up from 79 in 2022. Organizations should strongly consider publishing DE+I data publicly but do so it a way that’s showing vulnerability, not as a glorified marketing ploy.  

The Risk of Doing Nothing 

Organizations who fail to get ahead of potential DE+I fatigue are in danger of backtracking on the progress and strides they made over the years. Key DE+I champions and faithful employees alike are more likely to leave your organization, which will negatively impact financial targets as well as overall brand impression.  

To foster a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive ecosystem, you will have to look for ways to extend its influence. One such approach that organizations have found to be win-win in recent years has been supplier diversity. Given its recency, there have been some questions on its sustainability. Here is our take on that in forecasted trend #3. Continue reading by downloading the full report below.

Download the Full 2024 DE+I Trends Report Here

Read last year’s DE+I Trends Report here.

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Contributions from Nick Charron, Hugo Rincon, Courtnie Williamson, Dante Orlandella, and Tigist Abebe

Tags: Diversity + Inclusion, 2024 Trends