HR Policy Association

Survey: Significant Disconnect Between Executives and Employees on Addressing Racism at Work

Executives are 42 points more likely to say their organization is making progress on workplace racism than Associates and 32 points more likely than mid-level employees, according to a new Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on Business and Racial Justice in the U.S. released this week. 

Trust in Business Drops in 2023 Respondents are now distrustful of major institutions (defined as those with less than 50% support), with business dropping from 50% in 2023 to 47% in 2023. No business sector is seen as doing well in addressing racism.

Employees Don’t See Progress on Racism/Inequities at Work. A minority of mid-level employees (28%) and even fewer associates (18%) believe that their company is making “a lot of meaningful progress” on addressing racism and racial inequities, compared with 60% of executives who say so. While 72% of employees trust employers to do what’s right to respond to racial injustice, executives are less likely to see the benefits of a diverse workforce, are not comfortable in talking about race, and are criticized for not dedicating sufficient resources to DEI initiatives or communicating DEI as a business imperative.

Employer DEI Initiatives Seen as Potentially Being as Effective as Government Programs. Four-fifths of respondents indicated that employer DEI initiatives are effective approaches to address racism. The survey also shows that where employees see a high level of progress on racial inequity at work, the level of employee loyalty, advocacy, belonging and commitment increases by over 30%.

Employees seek employer action and communication. According to the survey, 73% of respondents believe employers must ensure diversity across all functions and levels. This includes ensuring racial and ethnic pay equity (80%) and removing bias in hiring processes (77%), results that were largely consistent across ethnic groups. Large majorities across racial and ethnic lines responded that employers must address misconceptions about DEI in the workplace (73%), address misconceptions about workplace affirmative action (70%) and provide training on how to identify misinformation.

Outlook: Although the results are largely consistent across racial and political party lines, many large companies report excellent engagement scores and improved employee views on diversity. Nonetheless, the report emphasizes that as the country becomes more polarized, concerns about racial and ethnic inequity are expanding.

Published on: May 19, 2023

Authors: Timothy J. Bartl

Topics: Employee Relations, Inclusion and Diversity

Timothy J. Bartl

President and CEO, HR Policy Association

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Contact Timothy J. Bartl LinkedIn


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