What do UK employees think of their organisation’s diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) efforts?
The majority of the 1,000 people surveyed think that their employer takes diversity and inclusion seriously, and that people of all cultures, identities and backgrounds are respected at their organisation. Other survey findings, however, are much less positive – with a significant number of employees feeling a lack of sense of belonging and employee voice at work – highlighting that there is still much to be done to ensure real inclusion in the workplace.
Belonging means feeling valued, accepted and connected with and by colleagues, teams and the wider organisation. Our sense of belonging can fluctuate, depending on our experiences of inclusive practices, actions and behaviours at work. In the survey, respondents were asked to describe their current personal sense of belonging at their organisation. The answers varied widely depending on the individual’s career stage and seniority of role.
Just over half (53%) of the employees surveyed said they feel a sense of belonging most or all the time, and around a quarter (24%) only occasionally feel that they belong.
Nearly a fifth (18%) of all respondents (21% of men and 15% of women) rarely or never feel like they belong at work, while one in 20 (5%) aren’t sure if they belong or not.
That means that over five million employees in the UK could be feeling a lack of sense of belonging at work right now.
Previous research has shown that younger workers are more likely to perceive and call out bias at work, which may have become accepted and normalised over time. This could explain why this age group appears far more critical of their organisations’ DEI&B initiatives than their older colleagues.
A third (33%) of 18- to 24-year-olds feel a lack of sense of belonging at work most or all the time. This compares to 19% of employees aged 25- to 34-years-old, 16% of those aged 35- to 44-years-old, and 14% of those over-45.
As expected, remote workers are more likely to feel that they don’t belong at work compared to their office-based counterparts. One in five (22%) remote employees, compared to 18% of hybrid employees and 17% of workplace-based employees, feel a lack of sense of belonging at work most or all the time.
Based solely on this research, white employees appear to be far more critical of their organisation’s inclusivity than employees from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
The majority (81%) of ethnic minority employees polled think that their organisation has a welcoming and inclusive work culture, and that their leaders lead inclusively (76%). Significantly fewer white employees agreed with either statement (70% and 60% respectively).
Over half (58%) of ethnic minority employees feel a sense of belonging at work most or all the time, compared to 52% of white employees.
Nearly one in seven (15%) ethnic minority respondents rarely or never feel like they belong at work, and a further 8% aren’t sure if they belong or not.
Ciphr’s research shows that there is a direct link between feeling a sense of belonging at work and a good employee experience. Workers who feel connected to their organisation are, unsurprisingly, more likely to stay at that organisation – and be happier and more engaged while they work there.
People who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to:
People who don’t feel a sense of belonging are less likely to:
There are numerous similarities in how male and female employees view their employer’s equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts, with most people generally feeling positive about their organisation's working culture.
Most male and female employees agree that:
Many surveyed employees were more negative, however, about their organisation's policies, DEI training priorities and leadership. Female employees were also less likely than male employees to think that they have a voice in their organisation (50% vs 57%).
Ciphr’s research revealed a significant disconnect between how people in leadership and senior management view DEI&B in their organisation, compared to their employees.
Survey questions that polarised employees and leaders the most examined peoples' views on inclusive leadership, their sense of belonging, how comfortable they feel bringing their authentic selves to work and whether they think their voice is valued in their organisation.
Some of the largest differences in opinion are:
Ciphr’s researchers also analysed the results by organisation size. They found that workers at large companies are less likely to agree that their employer encourages, listens and acts on feedback from employees than those at smaller organisations. 29% of employees at organisations with over 1,001 employees feel that they don’t have a voice in their organisation, compared to 25% of those at organisations with 251-500 employees and 21% of those with less than 250 employees.
Larger organisations are, however, more likely to prioritise and provide DE&I training to their workforces than smaller organisations. Two-thirds (66%) of people working at organisations with over 1,001 employees think that their employer prioritises DE&I training, compared to two-fifths (60%) of workers at organisations with 500 employees or less.
It’s not just the policies and actions of employers that influence their employee’s sense of belonging – the industry they work in is likely to have a big impact too.
The majority (69%) of surveyed construction workers, for example, feel they belong at work most or all the time, as do 63% of those in health and social care and 60% of finance and insurance professionals. Yet less than half of employees working in government and public administration (44%), transportation and warehousing (41%) and legal services (33%) feel that same sense of belonging.
Around a third of employees working in transportation, warehousing, shipping and distribution, legal services and retail and wholesaling feel like they don’t have a voice in their organisation (36%, 33% and 30% respectively).
One in five people working in government and public administration and hospitality and foodservice don't think that discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour is appropriately addressed at their organisation (21% and 18% respectively).
Workers in construction, finance and insurance and health and social care are more likely to say that their employer prioritises DE&I training than those in transportation, warehousing, shipping and distribution, manufacturing, hospitality and retail (71% vs 56%, on average).
The charts below highlight how survey respondents employed in different industries feel about their organisations’ DEI&B efforts.
Ciphr conducted the survey from 12-15 June 2023 of 1,000 employed UK adults (over the age of 18 years old) working at organisations with at least 26 employees. The survey is unweighted, and as such is only a snapshot of the working-age population.
Survey sample: 7% of respondents are 18- to 24-year-olds, 31% are 25- to 34-year-olds, 35% are 35- to 44-year-olds, 16% are 45- to 54-year-olds and 11% are over 55 years old. 86% are white and 14% are Black, Asian and minority ethnic employees.
Nearly half (48%) of survey respondents are employed by organisations with 1,001+ employees, a fifth (21%) have 251 to 1,000 employees and nearly a third (31%) have 26 to 250 employees.
8% work in senior management roles at their organisation (and hold the following job roles: owner or partner, CEO/president/chairperson, chief financial officer, director, C-level executive or senior management), 20% work in middle management positions and 72% work in non-managerial roles. (103 respondents 'preferred not to say'.)
All statistics have been rounded to the nearest integer or one decimal place. Totals may not sum due to rounding.