We don’t have to tell you that 2022 wasn’t the easiest year for healthcare hiring. But our end of year report found that one crucial aspect of healthcare hiring and employee engagement is particularly overlooked—diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It can be easy to lose sight of DEI efforts during a hiring crunch. But when done correctly, DEI initiatives can boost employee engagement, ensure that both employees and patients feel heard and comfortable in their facilities, and lead to better job satisfaction.
We know that DEI is a complicated topic. Here are 10 dos and don’ts to help you put forward the most inclusive and effective DEI initiatives in the new year.
Why DEI Initiatives in Healthcare Matter
As more Americans need care, they’ll also need caregivers and nurses who can understand their experiences. Even if patients and caregivers don’t share certain identities, healthcare workers must have the skills to connect and communicate.
So where does the industry stand now? As of 2020, 80.6% of the RN population is white, while 9.4% are men. Needless to say, these demographic statistics don’t reflect the demographics of America itself. Many healthcare organizations are responding with DEI initiatives to both attract diverse candidates and help existing staff understand the communities they work alongside.
DEI Initiative Dos and Don’ts
The best DEI programs help staff feel heard while also providing concrete action. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. We’ve compiled a list of DEI initiative dos and don’ts to help you navigate these occasionally muddy waters.
Do: Focus on Pay Equity
The wage gap is a real concern in almost all industries, and healthcare is no exception—especially as a majority female industry. Consistently across studies, women earn less than men, with a much wider wage gap for women of color. Most healthcare companies use the following tactics to ensure pay equity.
- Pay grid. A breakdown of pre-approved wages for each worker paid based on their position and time at the company.
- Compensation philosophy. A statement of purpose detailing an HR department’s dedication and strategy for providing fair pay.
It’s important that you have a multi-pronged approach when it comes to negotiating pay equity. One of the most concrete things you can do is be transparent about money. Salary transparency begins from the job posting, and can also help you build trust from the get-go. (For more information, check out our employer’s guide to salary transparency in healthcare.) Clearly lay out your pay grid (including rates for overtime or off-hour shifts) and your compensation philosophy.
It’s worth noting that pay grids in nursing were created decades ago and have not kept up with the times. It’s due time to refresh them with fair wages and increments—and with an eye towards the workforce of the future. If you use pay grids, they should be fair, competitive, and add up to a living wage for full-time employees.
Finally, make sure that your payroll is accurate and on-time. This may seem obvious, but is absolutely crucial when it comes to making sure that your employees feel like their time is respected. Calculating things like shift differentials manually can lead to errors fast, so use the right software to ensure the accurate payroll.
Do: Know When to Outsource
Your healthcare HR team can do a lot. You can help employees solve workplace disputes, process and understand complaints, hire and onboard new employees, and so much more. But ultimately, you have limits. HR isn’t equipped to handle certain crises. When you try to take on what is beyond your expertise, you risk offering incorrect or harmful advice.
Instead, keep a running list of local and remote organizations to direct employees to, such as financial planning services, mental health hotlines, and crisis drop-in centers. Understand that being handed a list of resources doesn’t always feel the most personal. Try to connect with these organizations so you can offer more information about what they provide. Train your staff leaders to understand when they should tackle the matter at hand, and when it’s important to redirect.
Do: Understand the IDEA Model
The IDEA (Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, and Accessible) model is a framework that allows you to plan and measure your DEI initiatives. Before you launch a new initiative, ask yourself the following questions. Is it inclusive? Does it promote diversity? Is it equitable? Is it accessible?
Not sure what these terms mean in a healthcare HR context? Let’s break it down (with examples).
Inclusion means that every individual can experience equal opportunity, participation in activities, and social equality within the workplace.
You’re having a company party in a place that isn’t wheelchair accessible. Is this inclusive?
No. Your wheelchair-using staff won’t be able to attend, specifically because of their disability.
What Could Be Done Differently?
When securing a venue, inquire about wheelchair accessibility early on. It’s better to eliminate a venue early than realize at the last minute that it’s not accessible to all.
Supporting diversity means including a wide array of perspectives, experiences, opinions, and expertise, and the understanding that these varied perspectives are valuable.
After an employee attempts to speak to a patient in Spanish, their supervisor asks them to stop. Does this promote diversity?
No. In this case, the supervisor doesn’t grasp the value of their employee’s communication skills and fails to make care more accessible to the patient.
What Could Be Done Differently?
The supervisor could thank the employer for using their language skills to connect with the patient. Then, the supervisor could connect the patient to an on-site translator for future assistance.
Equity is the group of policies used to ensure that every member of your staff has roughly the same experience within your organization.
You launch a series of in-house lectures about building career paths in long-term care. However, all twelve of your planned yearly speakers are white women. Is this equitable?
No. Some of your staff may not feel that their identities are properly reflected in the speaker series, and may feel as though the career paths laid out for them aren’t truly accessible.
What Could Be Done Differently?
Arrange a diverse array of speakers from various gender identities, racial identities, ages, and other forms of experiences. While you won’t be able to fully reflect every identity present among your staff, more diversity will show your employees that career paths are possible for a wide range of long-term care workers.
Access refers to the strategies in place to ensure staff members have equal opportunities for growth, such as promotions, raises, training, support, and more.
You decide to offer an in-house training program for better patient interactions. You open the signups at 7AM, and it’s first come, first served. Does everyone have equal access?
No. Night-shift workers may not be awake at this time. Also, caregivers of children may be completing school drop-off.
What Could Be Done Differently?
First, gauge interest to see if you can accommodate everyone who wants to do the program. If you can’t, then a lottery system can feel more fair than first come, first served.
Do: Sync Your Efforts Across Facilities
Part of creating a company that follows the IDEA model is ensuring that all your employees have access to the same DEI initiatives. Make sure that your HR teams replicate DEI efforts across facilities, and that employees have access to these initiatives regardless of where they’re located. If you’re having a training session on inclusive dress codes in one community, for instance, have a similar training everywhere.
When you sync your diversity initiatives, you can also better identify issues within specific facilities. For example, if all facilities have the same ongoing initiatives, but one particular facility is reporting low employee satisfaction with DEI efforts, it might be time to look closer and work with that HR team to see what’s going wrong.
Don’t: Ask Marginalized People to Shoulder Responsibility for Your DEI Initiatives
Let’s say you want to start a staff-led DEI initiative, such as an affinity group or a series of peer lectures. If you automatically assume that your marginalized employees will volunteer for these roles (or even assign organizing roles to them), you can create an unwelcoming work environment. It’s not your marginalized staff’s responsibility to educate others on why diversity matters, and asking them to do so can cause understandable frustration.
Instead, make sure that any employees involved with DEI initiatives personally volunteer. Don’t put pressure on your staff to help organize if they don’t have the desire or bandwidth.
If you have the budget, invest in outside trainers and speakers. This way, you can train your staff in important information without unfairly leaning on employees.
Don’t: Launch a DEI Campaign That’s Only Focused on Messaging
Lip service is easy to spot. Employees will be able to tell if you say you’re focused on DEI but take no concrete action.
Sometimes, DEI initiatives can still feel like lip service if your employees don’t see them in action. It can help to publicize your DEI efforts, since some initiatives aren’t visible from the outside.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a resource library and partnering with local organizations so your HR staff can direct staff to the right place. Your employees might not be familiar with this project unless they’ve gone to HR with a crisis—which they may not even know is an option.
Let everyone know about your DEI initiatives in a newsletter, a memo, or at a town hall. Not only will more employees know about your resources, they’ll also be able to see that your diversity efforts are not just lip service.
Tip: Provide Surveys (and Report on the Results)
Asking for feedback is an important part of honing your DEI initiatives. But it can be frustrating for employees to feel like they’re answering surveys into the void. Share the results of the survey, as well as any actions you’ll be taking because of it, with your employees. Transparency is key to a healthy workplace.
Don’t: Ignore the Possibility of Bias
You want to believe that no one on your team is perpetuating discriminatory hiring practices, but that isn’t always the case. It’s important to take episodes of conscious bias directly to HR, but you also need to combat unconscious bias.
Unconscious bias is bias perpetuated without intention. It’s a real, documented phenomenon, and can happen regardless of the perpetrator’s conscious goals. Here are some examples:
- Age bias. According to AARP, 60% of workers over 45 have experienced some kind of age discrimination in the workplace. This includes being passed over for promotions, extra opportunities, or being the recipient of “jokes” about their age. Some of these incidents might be consciously done, while others are due to unconscious beliefs people hold about middle-aged and older employees.
- Name discrimination. One study from LinkedIn found that people with white British names received positive responses to job applications almost 9% more often than applicants with “minority ethnic” names, despite identical CVs and cover letters.
- The gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is one of the most common examples of conscious and unconscious bias. In 2021, the average median salary for men was 18% higher than women’s. The wage gap widens for women of color. There are multiple reasons for the pay gap, but the unconscious belief that women’s work is worth less than men’s is one of them.
.Even though unconscious bias is unintentional, it needs to be tackled intentionally. Train your staff on how to recognize and snuff out unconscious bias, both in their own minds and in the workplace.
Better Hiring With Apploi
You can’t have a solid DEI program without ensuring that payroll, hiring, and onboarding are equitable. Apploi can help you standardize your process throughout facilities, so all employees are treated fairly.