We were recently invited to a roundtable about Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). It was a very enriching conversation that gave us further insights into the reality of corporate D&I and which we wanted to share the learning from.
By nature, we are a diverse business (woman-led and founded, and our respective highly international backgrounds created an environment that was naturally attracting a more cosmopolitan workforce) but we still had lots to learn… We hope you will too by reading this small piece!
D&I has, of course, always been something that minorities have been fighting for - but, until now, it was mostly overlooked. Let’s face the reality, the “moral compass” didn’t necessarily agree with the “commercial compass” until big consultancies such as McKinsey or Bain & Co started releasing reports on the positive impact of diversity on commercial results. Only then did companies really start to make a D&I effort.
Thankfully for minorities, beyond insights from MBBs helping their business case, recent macro events (the rise of LGBTQ+ movements, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other similar global ‘revolutions’) and trends have further accelerated the need to look into the issue.
When we say trend, we are talking for example about people’s renewed view on jobs – work should be more than something to help pay bills and mortgages. People want to invest their time in the right opportunities and a key part of that is finding a business where they would feel happy to deliver their best work. They will have a very hard time doing so if they feel like they don’t belong in one way or another – so understandably there is a higher attrition of diverse talent in companies these days because a lot feel like they do not belong (try to stand in a meeting room where no one looks like you and do not make any effort to include you and see if you are motivated to keep doing the work...).
Looking at those macro factors and trends, they are here to stay. So companies are right to be delving deep into the subject. Now the question is – are companies taking the right approach?
A genuine intention is the biggest step in the process but it has to be followed through with actions – one does not go very far with intentions only. So where do we start?
Most have been monitoring their actual performance by collecting data (around background, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). This can help identify the areas in which the business is lacking – is it mostly male dominated? Are LGBTQ+ people feeling like they are discriminated against? Are people from ethnic minorities underrepresented? Are neurodiverse individuals’ conditions taken fairly into account? And so forth. From there, how do we move from making D&I a simple statistic and an observation of where the company lacks?
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when they see the results of their surveys is ‘forcing’ the D&I hires. But while the intention is very positive, this is not necessarily the place to start. Before hiring for diversity, companies should audit themselves to answer the following questions:
Are we ready to onboard diversity talent? Do existing underrepresented employees feel like they belong? Would other people like them feel like they belong if they were to join tomorrow? Does the company culture encourage belonging and inclusion?
Diversity is good but “inclusion” is also part of the whole process. So if the answer is yes to all the above, then by all means get onto acquiring diverse talent without hesitation. If the answer is no or somewhat mitigated however, it needs further investigation. Early attrition of diverse talent is a worse performance than poor diversity… Concretely, what can be done?
There are a lot of resources around the topic and many more strategies that can be put in place but a key idea is to encourage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Those groups are identity or experience-based communities. In essence, ERGs are open forums where a sense of community and belonging can be nurtured. Additionally, they provide a clear line of communication with leadership to address and work on solving identified issues.
How well do employees understand D&I? The answer is likely, not that well. And the reason is because most of the time D&I is reduced to a simple statistical metric that has been assigned to HR for them to solve. Except, D&I is every business area’s problem. With or without a specific budget for D&I, all can be further educated and trained to fully create together a place where anyone can belong.
There is so much more to say and this barely scratches the surface but hopefully this quick article did provide some food for thought as to the current state of D&I in the workplace. As far as talent acquisition for diversity is concerned, we left it aside for now as it deserves its separate article. If of interest to learn more about our specific view and approach to it,please get in touch with us and hopefully if more of you want to read about it, we will share more elaborated notes on this topic.
But generally, there is so much more to learn about so we would love to hear from your experience and perspective on the subject. What is D&I to you and how do you view its current state in the workplace?