Time and time again, research has demonstrated the profitability of prioritising diversity and inclusion within business. By hiring from a wider range of backgrounds, qualifications and interests, businesses can reap the collective rewards of increased creativity, cohesion and wider market appeal. However, these benefits are only available to those businesses that work hardest to include these new hires. Wider recruitment is only the beginning of diversity and inclusion; without providing opportunities for unique perspectives to be shared and listened to, the innovation and financial performance of a firm will not be improved. As best expressed by BCG itself, '...diversity for its own sake is little more than a numbers game. Diversity plus inclusion is the source of real value.'
Whilst Serenity in Leadership has summarised the key takeaways of this research below, it is available in its entirety here.
When answering whether they felt 'free to be their authentic selves at work' and whether 'their perspectives at work matter are and are listened to', diverse respondents answered less affirmatively than heterosexual, white men by as much as 15%. This demonstrates that even though companies may be making efforts to recruit from more diverse backgrounds in absolute terms, much more needs to be done to ensure these employees feel as valued and encouraged as their white, male counterparts. Unless a sincere and sustained effort is put in place to address this, it is likely these hires will not feel supported, or indeed motivated, enough to aspire to higher positions within the organisation. This creates major issues in creating the representative senior managerial and board membership necessary to inspire existing employees and attract prospective talent.
Qualifying what a sincerely diverse and inclusive organisation looks like is no mean feat: however, designing a workplace where all perspectives are taken into consideration before major decisions are made is a great start.
BCG lists five key ways in which organisations can unlock the value of diversity and inclusion:
- Commit at the top - Senior leadership must 'visibly and vocally' promote both diversity and inclusion with equal weight. These leaders set the bar for how the D & I conversation should be conducted at every level of the organisation.
- Enlist frontline leaders - champions of diversity and inclusion should be identified within the frontline. Operational managers are ideal candidates for this; they should be provided with training and support to drive the cultural shift that will be necessary to create the inclusivity an organisation is capable of.
- Amplify best practices - make inclusivity training a bidirectional process and iterate on your employees' suggestions that work well. Diversity and inclusion involves every level of the organisation, from entry to executive; it's essential changes here are not unilaterally enforced but allow every employee to take ownership of them and pride in their results.
- Never tolerate bad behaviour - harassment, misconduct or discriminative behaviour is not acceptable in any form. Regardless of their level of seniority with an organisation, those responsible for such behaviours must be held accountable for their actions. When companies publicise their key values and make their codes of conduct easily available, they send out the clear message that the company culture is important as its financial performance.
- Measure and track - suggested changes to diversity and inclusion policy must have measurable outcomes. Without follow-up and refinement, even the best planned policies can prove piecemeal. Regular internal surveys should be prioritised.