Addressing Labor Market Inequities and Inclusion at Work

Inclusion Summit 2021 studio view

New research on employee sentiments around connection at work help employers contextualize DE&I efforts and find new opportunities to create a more inclusive work culture. The keynote address from ADP's Inclusion Summit discusses how leaders can help their employees feel seen, heard and valued.

Implementing better diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) practices in your organization is more of a journey than a destination. It involves constant reflection and an unwavering commitment to creating a workplace culture that supports all employees. At ADP's virtual Inclusion Summit 2021, leading DE&I thinkers Nela Richardson, Marcus Buckingham and Bob Lockett kicked off the event by discussing this very topic in a keynote address titled "Inclusion at work: Knowing where we stand and how we can do better."

ADP Chief Diversity and Talent Officer Bob Lockett opened the conversation, which included award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien, by noting that employers need more data, specifically on progress toward inclusion, to remedy labor market inequities and shape work culture in a way that supports diverse voices and allows each employee to bring their whole self to work. With broader DE&I initiatives, it's easy to measure diversity and equity in quantitative ways and reveal labor market inequities, but inclusion — because it's a feeling — is more challenging to measure.

Marcus Buckingham, co-head of the ADP Research Institute®(ADPRI), grappled with this challenge by revealing the latest data study on diversity and inclusion and laying out the business case for DE&I. ADP Chief Economist Nela Richardson added context with related economic and labor market trends, and Lockett illustrated what these findings mean for employers in a practical sense.

This multifaceted discussion set the stage for deeper dialogue about how employers can effect change within their organizations to influence the culture and attract more diverse candidates.

Marcus Buckingham ADPRI Inclusion Summit 2021

Measuring the "I" in DE&I

The business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion has been made many times and in many ways, and the latest research confirms that this is not a passing trend. Collecting data on inclusion can shed new light on employees' experiences and help employers focus the DE&I lens.

ADPRI developed a questionnaire to measure inclusion based on a key psychological construct: connection. This approach focuses on the feeling of being seen, heard and valued as a whole human at work, as well as the environment and circumstances that inspire that feeling. "Connection is about how we're all different," said Buckingham. "You can't really get connected to a team or to colleagues unless they can see who you are as a unique human."

The initial results of the survey, which included 12,523 workers in the United States, present a salient opportunity for employers to improve DE&I efforts by focusing on inclusion. "We now know 21% of people here in the U.S. feel seen and heard and valued — strongly connected at work," said Buckingham. "Sixty-eight percent are neutral, and 11% are not connected."

Those figures are eye-opening, but there's more. ADP also collected demographic information from survey respondents, and found that workers are twice as likely to feel connection at work if they are white, while only 14% of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) workers reported feeling strongly connected. The disparity is similar among members of the LGBTQIA+ community, who are two times less likely to feel strongly connected at work.

ADPRI plans to share this new measurement tool with the world, giving employers valuable insights into employee sentiment that have been elusive until now. "Our hope is that this simple thermometer to measure the 'I' becomes a way for everybody to get smarter about which things are really working and which things aren't," said Buckingham, "so that we can keep tacking more and more toward those things that really work — and not just what works for the D and E but also what works for the sentiment aspect of the 'I' in DE&I."

Read the full findings at

Nela Richardson ADPRI Inclusion Summit 2021

Connection and the great resignation

How do we apply this new data as we think about the "Great Resignation?" Richardson argues that what's lacking is context.

"[The quit rate] masks the underlying issues in terms of the labor market," she said. "Most jobs can't be done remotely. They require our interaction and connection with other people. A lot of jobs are jobs that don't have a career ladder. A lot of jobs have pay disparity. And finally, people of color are not represented in terms of corporate boards and senior leadership. That's the labor market. When you talk about connection, you need context, and that context goes right back to the historical inequities that have defined the labor market really from the country's founding."

This new study, conducted in September, does reveal some correlations between connection and intent to leave an employer. "If you are actively interviewing for a job right now, you're four times more likely to be not connected at work," said Buckingham. "If you say you have no intent to leave your organization, you are seven times more likely to be strongly connected."

DE&I drives economic recovery

For organizations to improve feelings of connection among employees, leaders have to take the wheel—and they have to want to do it. "The way you really gain buy-in is to talk to people and give them the WIFM" said Lockett. "That's 'what's in it for me?' And what that does is give people the perspective of 'how I can improve something in my workplace.'" This typically means illustrating the links between improving connection and tangible business gains such as reduced turnover and increased productivity. When business leaders understand how these factors impact the bottom line, they are more likely to embrace the data and use it to shape their decisions.

As industries continue to reopen and attempt to regain stability following the coronavirus pandemic, business leaders must prioritize DE&I initiatives as part of their recovery efforts. In fact, DE&I—and especially inclusion—is essential to that recovery. "In order to drive economic recovery, you need inclusion," said Richardson. "Diversity, equity and inclusion don't happen in spite of economic recovery and economic concerns; economic recovery and growth happen because of diversity, equity and inclusion."

Inclusion Summit 2021 ADP

Learn more about the results from the ADPRI study on how to measure and build inclusion at work. Launch the virtual Inclusion Summit 2021 anytime.