Recently, executives have made a litany of commitments to addressing bias, rooting out inequitable processes, and making their work communities more diverse and inclusive.

This isn't a light undertaking, as diversifying workplaces has institutional, systemic, and foundational challenges. 

Take hiring, for example. A new study released by talent cloud company iCIMS and Talent Board, a nonprofit candidate experience benchmark research organization, explores "The State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace." Polling recruiters and organizational leaders alike, they sought to better understand how businesses have changed their approach to hiring to better address meaningful DEI needs over the past year.

I connected with iCIMS chief people officer Jewell Parkinson, and Talent Board president and board member Kevin Grossman to learn what the data says about the broader DEI journey and key areas for future growth and development.

1. There's an executive disconnect

Large-scale technological and cultural shifts require commitment and engagement from the top. According to the research, there's a perception gap between executives and the individuals enacting recruiting processes: C-suite executives tend to rate their organizations 74 percent higher than recruiters do in terms of DEI performance.

"One of the most important changes needed to create a meaningful DEI vision and strategy backed by policies, processes, tools, and partnerships is embracing DEI as a journey, not a quick solution," explains Parkinson. "New initiatives and practices can be encouraging, but we have to change the scale at which we enable successful outcomes. Think about DEI not in terms of a five-year plan, but a continuous work in progress that is constantly revisited and revised to pivot with evolving DEI and workforce needs."

2. The immediate response: Champions and technology

Many businesses are looking towards creating dedicated roles to serve as DEI champions within the organization.

According to the report, 62 percent of participants say their organizations have designated an individual to promote DEI in the hiring process, and 47 percent have implemented technology to help reduce unconscious bias in their recruiting and hiring.

Interestingly, those polled also expressed optimism regarding the rising role of artificial intelligence (A.I.) as part of their future investment plans. Parkinson notes there is a lot of potential for A.I. to help create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces, but it must be implemented carefully, with human oversight, to avoid potential pitfalls and biases.

3. Not enough businesses are metrics-driven

It's a rule of thumb for just about any industry: Data and analytics yield smarter decision making. But data alone is useless without a benchmark to measure it against. Context is everything.

Nearly 20 percent of organizations are not tracking diversity metrics in their recruitment or hiring practices. Of those that are, the top five diversity metrics are ethnicity (60 percent), race (58 percent), veteran status (42 percent), disability status (50 percent), and age (31 percent).

"Identity metrics are just one piece of the puzzle," says Parkinson. "They need to be matched with more detailed, internal metrics to transform the processes that contribute to bias in the first place. The onus is on the organization to craft an inclusive hiring experience." Grossman adds, "Make sure that feedback from candidates and employees is included when you analyze processes and outcomes."

The journey towards a truly inclusive workplace requires constant introspection, self-analysis, and action. Above all, organizations need to ensure they are centering on workplace and recruitment experiences that are inclusive for all candidates, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender, able-bodiedness, and so forth. Over the last year, businesses have taken steps, but it is vital that they are the first of many -- because the journey is far from over.