AFP Survey Illuminates Key Factors of Successful DEI Policies

  • By AFP Staff
  • Published: 6/30/2023
Diverse team

Sixty-eight percent of organizations have either instituted or are actively working on creating a DEI policy, according to the 2023 AFP Compensation Survey.

Of those treasury and finance professionals who said that their organizations have a DEI policy in place, 47% reported that the DEI policy at their organization is successful, while 12% said it is unsuccessful and 41% are unsure.

The following key findings from the survey illuminate factors that contribute to the success of an organization’s DEI policy.

Support from the C-suite

The number one factor in the success of a DEI policy, as cited by survey respondents, is support from the C-suite. A common theme among survey respondents was that the level of commitment from senior management made the most positive impact on the success of a DEI policy.

In particular, respondents from organizations where directors or managers are tasked with overseeing the DEI program and/or where the C-suite and Board of Directors are comprised of a diverse group of people noted that the commitment greatly contributed to the success of their DEI policy.

Other demonstrations from the C-suite noted by respondents include:

  • C-level positions and promotions are filled by individuals from diverse groups.
  • DEI efforts are led by senior executives with board visibility.
  • Senior leaders increasingly represent diverse groups.
  • DEI is at the forefront of leadership’s efforts throughout the organization.
  • DEI manager actively integrates DEI into every part of the business including recruitment, retention and awareness.

Training and Shared Responsibility

Respondents to the AFP survey reported that training and shared responsibility — employees seeing themselves as the custodians of the DEI policy — contributed to the success of their organization’s DEI policy.

“Training is set and mandatory for all levels to take, and we are challenged with recognizing our own biases and working with each other to make the organization better for all,” said one survey respondent.

In addition, respondents to the survey cited the following resources provided by their organization:

  • DEI policy is covered in the employee handbook.
  • Sensitivity training and other DEI-related workshops are provided.
  • Annual training is offered on DEI policy.
  • Awareness of DEI culture is promoted through education.
  • Management receives training on DEI policy.
  • Employees actively participate in DEI workshops.
  • Quarterly (at a minimum) team calls with the entire organization with subject-matter expert guest speakers.

Clear Expectations and Accountability

Transparency around goals, wins and setbacks was also found to be important to the success of a DEI policy. Survey respondents reported that by keeping employees informed of the reasons for instituting the policy, expectations around the policy and how the policy would be implemented, the policy was able to function as intended, making it beneficial to the organization as a whole.

In reference to the success of their organization’s DEI policy, one respondent to the survey said, “They measure several metrics and report to everyone.”

Open Dialogue

A culture of open dialogue is another factor cited by respondents as contributing to the success of a DEI policy. “Our organization holds monthly voluntary meetings for employees where we can chat openly with upper-level management about any challenges or concerns we may have,” one survey respondent said.

Another survey respondent stated, “Open, honest dialogue is had with senior leadership, and that is championed throughout the organization.”

A More Diverse Employee Base

For many of the survey respondents who said that their organization’s DEI policy is successful, the success is evident in the diversity of their workforce. “We've increased minority employees to 31% of the total in the past year,” said one survey respondent. Many others cited an increase in the diversity of age, race, gender and sexuality among their workforce and at all ranks, including senior leadership.

Other results that survey respondents observed include:

  • Inclusion of diversity considerations in hiring, vendor selection and other processes.
  • Recent new hires (from diverse groups) are making major contributions.
  • Diverse demographics across all departments.
  • Diversity in teams and increase in the quality of diverse employees applying.
  • Retained our diverse talent.
  • Strong focus on DEI, with recruiter that bases hiring decisions weighted towards DEI.
  • Increased hiring of women and minorities.
  • Diversity and mentorship foster an environment of familiarity and openness to new ideas and processes.
  • It generates more thoughtful ideas and solutions to issues.

Barriers to Success of DEI Policy

Among the 12% of survey respondents who reported that the DEI policy at their organization is unsuccessful, they identified barriers to success such as:

  • Lack of a concrete commitment from leadership.
  • Lack of diverse talent available regionally.
  • Lack of diversity among leadership.
  • Lack of upward mobility for people of color.
  • Diverse candidates are not sought out.
  • Successful from a recruiting perspective, but not as much from a retention perspective.
  • Need to live what we preach, not just assemble PowerPoint slides that look good for leadership.
  • The policy is performative, not hiring or retaining DEI employees.
  • DEI encourages the seeking of diverse candidates, but there is no commitment or follow-through.

About the Survey

The 2023 AFP Compensation Survey was conducted in February 2023 and received responses from 1,408 treasury and finance professionals with diverse corporate profiles.

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