Business Experts Share DE&I Predictions for 2021

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek January 14, 2021

​More women in leadership roles. Benefits that cater to a more diverse range of needs. A demand for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) consultants. Those are among business leaders' DE&I expectations for 2021. SHRM Online collected the following prognostications, edited for brevity and clarity, from experts in the field.

Elevating more women into leadership roles. 

We'll see more women and women of color promoted into the C-suite, and companies will continue to prioritize seating women on corporate boards. By having more women in power, companies can achieve greater trust between employees and employers and help promote change in the workplace. This will also lead to companies paying greater attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer workplace rights. As human beings, employees want to contribute to a workplace that's positive, joyous and inclusive. Companies will continue to elevate DE&I and belonging to be a cultural imperative through constant vigilance, education and re-education.
—Steve Pemberton, chief human resources officer at Workhuman, an HR technology company in Framingham, Mass.

[SHRMStore: Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life]

Demand for DE&I consultants. 

A lot of HR professionals are hiring DE&I consultants—so much so that it's hard to find a DE&I consultant who has the time to evaluate an organization's practices at this point. There will continue to be a demand, and more consultancies will open because of this high demand. Many organizations also are now posting for a DE&I professional; you need to have someone who's accountable for ongoing strategies. DE&I is not a project or even an initiative. It should evolve into how the company behaves.

Additionally, people analytics will become mainstream as HR teams are more comfortable relying on their people data to make fair and equitable decisions as that data relates to promotions, merit increases and titling.
—Rachel Ernst, chief human resources officer, Reflektive, a performance management company in San Francisco

[SHRM Online article: New DE&I Roles Spike After Racial Justice Protests]

Increase in diverse pool of candidates. 

The breakdown of work/home barriers will bring DE&I further to the forefront. In 2020, companies across the country committed to increasing their focus on DE&I, and in 2021 they'll have to put those promises into action. By being able to hire from anywhere, employers greatly increase their candidate pool, enabling them to push even harder for diversity in their workforce.
—Sabrina Williams, chief inclusion officer at Boston-area education technology company Curriculum Associates, provider of education products for teachers

[SHRM Online article: How HR Technology Supports Diversity and Inclusion]

Benefits that cater to a more diverse range of needs. 

As companies strive for a more inclusive culture while also ensuring they attract and retain a diverse workforce, one-size-fits-all benefits will be tossed aside as personalized benefits for all employees become the norm. Benefits serving varied employee needs have been on the rise in recent years—from mental health support to transgender-inclusive health benefits to single point solutions (fertility/in vitro fertilization, adoption support, child care)—and as the challenges of 2020 left many employees unsupported, the trajectory toward inclusive benefits will continue and become increasingly prevalent. This change won't just be reflected in Silicon Valley tech giants; it will permeate across all company sizes and industries.
—Sarahjane Sacchetti, chief executive officer at Cleo, a family benefits platform in San Francisco

[SHRM Online article: Open Enrollment: Targeted Communications Address Differing Needs]

Finding better ways to use data. 

The HR industry will find better ways to sift thr
ough employee data by getting back to the basics. Data plays a huge role in making sure needs and numbers are met so employees feel comfortable in their work environment and safe enough to express themselves. A good human resources team will go above and beyond to build the culture of inclusion and hold itself accountable to report on factors within this sector that aren't necessarily required. … Data is the tool to help guide decision-making and measure outcomes. The change, however, is done by and for the people.
—Matt Norman, chief people officer, DigitalOcean, a cloud platform provider based in New York City 

[SHRM Online article: People Analytics Software Is Changing the HR Game 



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