Reaping the Benefits of Doing D&I Right

December 10, 2019 | By NACE Staff

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TAGS: best practices, diversity and inclusion, nace insights, recruiting,

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Tony Byers, a global diversity and inclusion expert and author of the book The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion: How Diversity and Inclusion Advances Innovation and Drives Growth, says that there are three crucial elements of effective diversity and inclusion within an organization:

  • Work force—Building a diverse work force with representation at all levels.
  • Workplace—Building an inclusive workplace—a culture—that values diversity.
  • Marketplace—Leveraging the diversity an organization has built in its work force and the momentum and innovation it has gained from the inclusivity in its workplace to impact the marketplace with an increase in sales of products and services.

Byers has reviewed research that confirms what he has seen and known: that there are substantial benefits associated with having a diverse and inclusive workplace. For example, he says that organizations that establish and manage diversity and inclusion effectively outperform their peers in the marketplace.

“DiversityInc magazine identifies an average [difference] of about 26 percent on S&P markets,” Byers says.

“Researchers on global diversity report on the benefits of having diversity on boards and in leadership teams for women and ethnic minorities. McKinsey has found that these organizations have an increase in productivity by an average of 15 percent and 35 percent, comparatively. This research shows that organizations that have a focus on diversity and inclusion perform better in terms of overall profits and productivity.”

He points to other benefits: a reduction in employee costs, less turnover, higher retention, greater team flexibility, leaders who manage a diverse organization well getting higher levels of discretionary efforts from their teams, more innovation in terms of product ideas that can go to market, an increase in sales, and more.

So, if the benefits are so great, why isn’t everyone placing an emphasis on their diversity and inclusion efforts?

“Some organizations believe that just having diversity by itself is going to get them these benefits,” Byers explains.

“They go full-fledged on trying to become diverse, but haven't spent any of the time that is required to build an inclusive environment. They don’t know how to leverage the diversity they have. The benefits don’t come from just having diversity; they come from knowing how to use it.”

He cites the example of an organization that focused the majority of its efforts on obtaining diversity, while focusing very little on creating a culture of inclusion to bring that diversity along. As a result, the diverse employees who it hired didn’t stay long, and the organization suffered from high turnover of diverse individuals. However, as Byers notes, the situation worsened.

“Their experience impacted the organization’s brand as those former employees said that they worked there, but the experience was terrible,” Byers says.

“The organization created an environment that people saw as not a friendly or welcoming place for individuals who are different, so they avoided it. They placed the organization at a deficit in an area they were trying to grow.”

Another misstep he encounters involves employers that don’t see diversity and inclusion as an organizational change process or a culture change process within their organization.

“Instead, they see it as a short-term initiative,” Byers points out.

“If you see diversity and inclusion as a short-term initiative and say this is what we're going to do this month or this is what we're going to do three times this year without being tied to a larger strategy in terms of how it's going to change the culture of the organization, then you don't reap the full benefits of having strong diversity and inclusion.”

Having a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy that has clear objectives and outcomes is a crucial first step. It tells the organization where it is going and why.

“Organizations need to integrate it into the everyday way that they operate,” Byers adds.

“To truly change the organization’s culture, effort, and environment in this area, leaders can’t just talk about diversity for 20 minutes in a meeting. Leadership commitment and engagement to drive diversity and inclusion plays a big part in its success. They need to share the importance and the expectation of diversity and inclusion with their employees.”

Byers also cautions employers against addressing diversity issues with broad training.

“Training people is typically the first solution that organizations attempt,” he says. “The questions then are: What are we training them to do? And what do we want to do differently? Organizations need to identify their specific problems—such as challenges with retention or with succession planning—and make sure they apply the right solution to the right problem.”

Lack of consistency is also an issue, especially for organizations that are starting initiatives. Byers offers the example of one organization that celebrated cultural history months.

“For one of the cultural history months, it applied a tremendous amount of resources,” he says.

“The organization was really excited to connect with this group. Then, for the other cultural history months, they used approximately 20 percent of the resources that they did for that first one. The impact is that they sent a message to all of their employees—unintentionally—that one group was much more favorable to them than the others.”

Throughout his work with organizations looking to establish or grow their diversity and inclusion programs, Byers stresses that this effort is a journey, not a destination.

“It’s not something that you are going to achieve and be done with,” he explains.

“You are always trying to enhance the culture. Once you embrace that mindset, then you realize that it is a longer-term strategy beyond three months or six months. You are going to understand that it takes time to change your culture and you commit to that. Organizations that do D&I well create a high level of expectations for leaders to be involved and engaged in it. They can clearly tell you what they want their leaders to do, how to interact and communicate, how to inclusively manage people. You want make sure that everyone in the organization, but particularly the leaders, demonstrate those values each and every day.”