- The global need for Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is more critical than ever.
- Companies have been attempting to implement D&I initiatives, but significant progress is still required.
- There are five strategies to turn D&I into a strategic advantage and improve the employee experience.
- Successful D&I implementation requires active involvement from top leadership, including CEOs.
- Infusing D&I into an organization’s business strategy is essential to success.
- Authentic representation and portrayal are key to inclusive business strategy.
1. Understanding the D&I Landscape
The notion that diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is valuable has gained almost universal acceptance. Diverse and inclusive environments not only ensure a more equitable workspace, but they also cultivate a melting pot of ideas, perspectives, and experiences that can drive innovation and productivity. Such workplaces find and nurture the best talent, increase employee engagement, and improve customer willingness to purchase their products or services.
Despite a global agreement on the importance of D&I, achieving it in practice has proven to be a complex challenge. The disparities in the workplace are vast and deeply rooted. People of color, for instance, are consistently underrepresented in white-collar and leadership roles, and often report less positive workplace experiences compared to their white counterparts. This evidence underscores the urgency for businesses to step up their efforts in realizing more inclusive and equitable workplaces.
2. The Gap Between Promise and Reality
Over the last few years, numerous companies have pledged to improve their D&I practices. This has included initiatives to enhance diversity hiring practices and launch comprehensive D&I training. Some organizations even appointed their first-ever Chief Diversity Officer (CDO).
Yet, surveys suggest that these efforts have largely not translated into tangible changes. While most leaders agree on the importance of D&I, only a fraction believe it’s a strength in their workplace. There’s an evident disconnect between intentions and outcomes, leading to skepticism about whether organizations are truly committed to D&I or simply “going through the motions.”
To bridge this gap, it’s essential to adopt a more holistic and systematic approach to D&I. Instead of isolated initiatives, D&I needs to be woven into the fabric of an organization. Here are five strategies to help achieve this.
3. Strategy One: CEOs as Top Champions of D&I
CEOs play a pivotal role in promoting D&I. They set the tone for the organization’s culture and values, and their public stance can significantly influence the company’s trajectory. CEOs need to embed D&I into the organization’s purpose and take responsibility for progress towards set goals.
Tim Ryan, the U.S. chairman of PwC, exemplifies such leadership. He co-founded CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion to spur business executives to collective action on D&I. Similarly, Nielsen’s CEO, David Kenny, incorporated the CDO title into his leadership portfolio, setting hard targets for diversity and inclusion.
4. Strategy Two: Infuse D&I into the Business Strategy
D&I is not merely an HR issue; it is a business imperative. It should be at the core of the design and execution of business strategy, embedded in the organization’s day-to-day activities.
Alex Gorsky, Chair and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, put D&I at the center of his pursuit of sustainable competitive advantage. He believes that “the best innovations can only come if our people reflect the world’s full diversity of individuals, opinions, and approaches.”
Channel 4, a UK television company, adopted a strategy to focus on authentic portrayal and representation, allowing audiences to recognize themselves on-screen. This approach extended to employing people with disabilities, adding another layer of inclusion to their business model.
5. Future Forward
As organizations strive to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse world, the need to infuse D&I into every facet of business operations becomes apparent. This transition is far from straightforward, but the five strategies outlined here serve as a roadmap for businesses to create a culture that values all employees, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
Leaders must remember that while achieving diversity is an important first step, creating a culture of inclusion is what ultimately allows the benefits of diversity to shine. As more businesses recognize and act upon this, we can look forward to workplaces that truly reflect and value the diverse world we live in.