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Workforce Equity

Equity in the Workplace Explained

What Is Equity in the Workplace?

As HR professionals, we strive to create workplaces that are fair and equitable for all employees. Unfortunately, there are still disparities that harm employees and organizations. Overcoming barriers to equity requires you to understand equity in the workplace, why it matters, and how to foster it in your organization.

We often see diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lumped together. While deeply connected, each aspect of DEI is a separate stage along the journey to achieve employee belonging.

We’re breaking down equity’s role in driving an inclusive culture that supports a diverse workforce. Discover what workplace equity is, how to foster it, and how to measure equity in your workplace.

Workplace Equity 101

Workplace equity is the principle of treating everyone in the organization fairly by providing a consistent employee experience and making sure everyone can progress and grow. Achieving equity requires that everyone has access to opportunities, resources, and rewards. In an equitable workplace, everyone receives a fair shot at success regardless of identity, personal background, or systemic barriers in society.

Workplace equity must be intentionally designed and implemented within policies, processes, and programs. To support equity at work, you need to actively identify and address any potential inequalities in the workplace, such as unequal pay or discriminatory hiring practices.

Additionally, we all possess implicit biases that affect our judgment. Workplace equity policies and processes account for these biases and blindspots to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities.

For example, managers in many organizations are the default gatekeepers of learning opportunities and resources. That becomes a problem if they unconsciously favor one group over another. If you automate messaging about learning opportunities, by contrast, you create equal access to that information.

It’s important to note that equity and equality in the workplace aren’t the same thing. Equality means that everyone has a fair chance at getting a job or promotion — but we know that doesn’t always happen naturally. Workers from historically marginalized backgrounds may benefit from programs or accommodations to balance out the systemic advantages that some groups have — and that’s where equity comes in.

If your workforce is 45% people of color, for example, but none of them are represented in leadership, you might need a targeted leadership development program, executive sponsors, and other measures to guide high-potential people of color toward leadership opportunities. In this case, where race has proven to be a barrier to leadership development, a targeted program fills the gaps to generate equal opportunity.

5 Points in the Employee Life Cycle Where Equity Matters Most

Equity matters throughout the employee life cycle, but there are certain points where it’s most critical. Building equity into processes at these inflection points helps you provide opportunities for all employees. Here are some of these key moments, along with how HR leaders can create equity for the workforce.


It’s easy for bias to creep into the earliest stages of hiring — especially in high-volume hiring situations where recruiters are short on time.

Develop processes and policies that reduce the impact of bias in recruiting and hiring. Blind resumes, for instance, redact information about gender, race, age, ethnicity, or other characteristics that could affect a recruiter’s judgment.

When reviewing a blind resume, employers’ unconscious biases are less likely to emerge because they are judging candidates based exclusively on skills and abilities. This improves the likelihood that everyone has an equal opportunity to be considered for a role, regardless of their background or identity.


The selection stage of hiring involves choosing a candidate and extending an offer letter. This step can be heavily biased if you aren’t careful. Selection decisions are typically left to hiring managers, who may be less informed about reducing inequity in hiring.

Your hiring and interviewing processes can reduce this risk. For example, standardized interview questions and job-relevant rubrics can help hiring managers focus on job-relevant characteristics rather than irrelevant information such as race, age, or gender.

When all interviews for an opening use the same questions, it’s easier to compare candidates fairly against a matching rubric. Going off-script increases the risk of asking inappropriate questions or eliciting information employers don’t need to know — and raises the possibility of bias and inequitable decision-making.


An employee’s first few months are among the most critical — as the adage goes, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. If new hires feel that the workplace is unfair, they’re less likely to engage with their new colleagues or acclimate to their job responsibilities.

Develop an onboarding experience that showcases a fair and equitable work environment. A fair onboarding experience encourages a sense of trust and loyalty among team members and increases the likelihood of new hires staying engaged — and staying put.

For instance, you could provide detailed messaging to all new hires outlining the company’s culture. This gives everyone the same opportunity to absorb, process, and apply information about your mission, vision, and values. Similarly, an onboarding guide for managers can encourage equitable, consistent, and fair onboarding experiences for employees across teams.

Check out our Virtual Onboarding Checklist


Equity is essential in workforce development programs. If only certain groups have easy access to training and development resources, you could end up with an inequitable distribution of raises and promotions.

To ensure equity in employee development programs, make sure training materials are available in all languages your business operates in. Provide flexible scheduling options, and allow employees to choose their own learning path whenever possible.

If your organization has employee resource groups (ERGs), encourage them to take part in development and training activities that are tailored to the group’s specific needs.


An environment of fairness and transparency is essential when making promotion decisions. You have to be extremely clear about the criteria for earning and awarding promotions to give employees an equal chance to reach the highest levels of success.

A manager with a hybrid team, for example, could become biased toward on-site employees because they’re enjoying in-person interactions that aren’t available to remote employees. That disparity in familiarity could influence who receives promotions, prime assignments, or other opportunities. Establishing clear criteria and processes for promotions can help managers make decisions based on facts rather than intuition or biases.

How to Develop an Equity Framework

An equity framework is a road map to help you reach workplace equity goals. By building equity directly into policies, processes, and programs, you can create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Here are a few steps for developing an equity framework that drives employee engagement and fosters equity.

Revisit Existing Policies

Too many organizations fail to revisit and reexamine legacy policies. Those policies become ingrained as tradition even when they have unequal and inequitable effects on different employee populations.

Proactively assess your existing policies to check whether they unfairly disadvantage certain groups. This assessment should include an analysis of the policy language and an examination of how the policy is implemented and enforced.

Consider how policies may create different outcomes and experiences for employees based on their backgrounds or other characteristics. Strict policies related to working hours, for example, can make it challenging for working parents to transport their children to and from school or child care.

Look for any potential biases that may be embedded in the policy or its implementation. A policy against listening to music through a headset for employees working in an office setting, for example, could prevent some neurodivergent employees from reaching their potential.

Design Intentional Processes

Examine your existing processes for structural barriers. When designing or modifying processes, ensure that barriers are removed and no new ones are inserted. Take compensation processes, for example. Historically, companies have set pay based on an employee’s previous compensation, which has perpetuated pay disparities between men and women, particularly women of color.

Many companies are revisiting their compensation philosophy to be more transparent and prioritize factors such as job duties, experience, and location rather than salary history. Embed objectivity into your compensation processes by clarifying the criteria for base pay and outlining clear, job-relevant criteria for giving raises.

Invest in Equity Programs

Programs designed to promote equity in the workplace can take a variety of forms.

One type of program that can be particularly effective is executive sponsorship of employees from underrepresented groups. This means that senior-level executives take a direct interest in the career path of employees in the group. They provide guidance and support to help ‌junior workers improve their skills and reach their goals.

Another type of program that can be beneficial is an ERG. An ERG is a voluntary organization of employees from a particular demographic, such as race or gender, who come together to support one another and create a sense of community within the organization.

These kinds of programs can help create an environment of fairness and promote a sense of belonging and inclusion for all employees.

4 Ways to Measure Equity in the Workplace

There are many ways to measure the state of equity in your organization. Consider what these programs, tools, and data say about your organization.

Track Pay Equity

Pay is a huge factor in achieving equity in the workplace. Tracking pay equity can be a progress marker for your organization’s journey to overall workplace equity.

Tracking pay equity can be done in a few simple steps. First, collect data on everyone’s salaries, along with demographic information including gender and race.

Next, analyze the data to determine whether disparities exist. Look for patterns that indicate unfair pay practices, such as pay discrepancies between employees with similar qualifications and experience. Look for salary gaps between genders and ethnicities, among other characteristics.

Finally, take corrective action as needed. Solving disparities could require restructuring salaries, providing additional training and development opportunities, or revising hiring and promotion practices. You should also keep track of any changes you make. This ensures you can document good-faith efforts to remedy disparities while creating best practices to prevent backsliding in the years ahead.

Calibrate Performance Evaluations

How managers rate performance says a lot about equity. To assess performance evaluations for equity, HR should first look at the overall performance of the organization to determine whether particular employee groups are underrepresented or overrepresented.

Look for disparities in performance ratings between different groups of employees. Review employee feedback or comments to get a qualitative sense of whether the workforce feels they’ve been treated fairly. ‌If disparities are identified, address the gaps and explore all opportunities for improvement.

Finally, analyze any data collected in the process of performance evaluations. This helps your organization verify that the performance evaluation process is fair and that potential biases are identified and addressed.

Compare Retention Rates

Employee retention rates refer to the number of employees who remain in their positions over a given period. Employee turnover rates refer to the number of employees who leave their positions during that same period.

By tracking the retention and turnover rates of employee groups, HR can get a better understanding of how well they are treating the entire workforce. If there is a large discrepancy between the retention and turnover rates of different employee groups (including characteristics such as gender or ethnicity), this could signal that one or more groups is being discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly. These metrics inform HR’s understanding of workplace equity and allow for corrective action to address inequities.
Find out how much turnover is costing your business. Use our calculator!

Go Straight to the Source

Employee surveys are a powerful tool for measuring the state of workplace equity. They can help you understand how employees perceive workplace equity and identify potential improvements.

Design survey questions to capture quantitative and qualitative data. For example, you can ask employees to give a numerical rating (quantitative) of their overall satisfaction with the diversity climate in their workplace. You can also ask them to provide feedback (qualitative) on inequities they’ve observed or experienced. Other potential questions include asking employees whether they feel their personal identity is respected and valued, and whether they feel their career opportunities are equal to those of their peers’.

Analyze the survey results to identify trends in employee attitudes toward workplace equity. Use the data and insights to develop goals, set benchmarks, and create action plans that promote a more equitable workplace.


Power Your Business Through Equity in the Workplace

By creating an equitable workplace, you can help employees reach their fullest potential while remedying and preventing disparities. With the right policies, practices, and programs in place, you can create an environment of inclusion and respect where everyone feels appreciated, heard, and empowered to drive business success.

Learn more about how Enboarder can help you create connection and belonging at work. Download our e-book today!