These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Diversity Think Tank (DTT) held on Tuesday 28th October 2014, hosted by Thomson Reuters’ Geoffrey Williams (Senior Specialist, Diversity & Inclusion) titled ‘Managing the Diversity Agenda on a Global Scale with a Local Focus’.
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Diversity professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
How do you define / decide on your strategy?
For some companies a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy is very much adhoc and down to feeling it is something that ‘needs to be done’. Therefore, procedures are put in place for improving and measuring D&I. However, for other companies D&I planning is embedded in the organisation’s overall strategy for business development and taken into account during all key strategic decisions. The impact this strategy has is often down to whether the senior management team see the need for D&I within their business. For many companies, the need for D&I is noted from the top and is therefore pushed down throughout the business. However, if the initiative has not come from the top the benefits of having a diverse workforce and D&I strategy need to be clearly communicated.
- More customers can relate to the business
- Support of diverse groups leads to higher retention
- Enhanced employer brand through positioning as an accessible and inclusive employer
- Input from diverse groups leading to wider ideas / solutions
- Attraction of diverse talent
- Competitive advantage.
When deciding on a strategy the definition of what is meant by diversity needs to be clear. Is it gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, experiences, disability, thought, style etc? In many organisations the main focus in diversity strategies is gender bias, but why is this? Is it because of how much coverage this has had in the media in recent years or is it a problem that companies find easier to tackle and understand? Should senior managers lead the decision on the focus of diversity strategies or is this something that should be led by the wider organisation’s needs?
How to implement a diversity and inclusion strategy
For a D&I strategy to be as successful as possible everyone from the organisation needs to understand what it means for the business and their role. Sometimes the whole mentality of a business needs to be changed and this is not a quick task. The business needs to show clear commitment to the agenda to gain maximum support from its employees.
It is vital that the company culture supports employees who are curious about diversity and makes them feel comfortable to talk about this and break down perceived barriers. People should not fear asking questions incase they are wrong, employees should know who to contact and how to do so. It should be accepted that not everyone knows about a diverse workforce and how to manage them, this is where education is key. It is human nature to form bias – therefore training needs to be offered to all members of the organisation, in particular hiring managers, to understand exactly how to try to eradicate bias, including unconscious bias. Using tools such as blogs and videos, with real life case studies of different members of staff, is a great way to educate employees in a more relatable and easily understandable way. Internal communication needs to resonate with the audience and grab their attention. When embarking on communication initiatives the labelling of topics is crucial – they need to be seen as human and holistic rather than just a diversity initiative that people cannot identify with.
Giving hiring managers resourcing metrics and KPIs can make them more conscious of diversity. Sometimes the diverse talent needed is not available, therefore if managers want to hire a team that do not meet these diversity objectives then a justified cause should be requested. In order to achieve these metrics it is essential that managers are going out to large enough talent pools and they may well need educating around how to reach and find these pools to encourage them to do this.
Diversity on a Global Scale
Diversity and Inclusion should mean that everyone in the organisation feels mutually treated, represented and that it is a comfortable place for them to work. However, what is right for one part of the organisation or region is not always right for another. A global diversity strategy is certainly important, but it needs to be adaptable to different countries / cultures. It is crucial that different region’s attitudes and cultures are understood when developing these networks.
- Diversity Networks
The best way to understand the beliefs and motivations of different regions may be by forming networks for different groups. These networks can arrange events – used for both attraction (good for the employer brand) and education (for the rest of the business). However, the wider business and managers need to see how valuable this is to the business for them to accept and support it – done via communication of the added value of these groups. This value can be higher retention, satisfaction, output of current employees, as well as attraction of new diverse candidates and improving the employer brand. Criteria for networks can include professional development, engaging with clients, engaging with local communities and being inclusive to all. Some companies even give networks accountability and business credibility by asking them to create business plans to gain budget and set KPIs to see whether they are achieving what is needed. These networks can also act as forums for feedback and give a voice to people, especially in smaller parts of the business (e.g. smaller countries’ offices). Networks can also share best practice between each other. Things such as newsletters can be good to communicate between networks and to the wider business. Large networks may have representatives in each region and help with setting the diversity agenda. The different networks can be put together by senior managers or by all employees that feel they would like to be represented.
Solid communication between established diversity networks and HR is key to understanding the issues of these diverse groups. A chair is sometimes chosen to take over this communication. HR getting to know representatives via video calls or visiting them in their region can also lead to a better understanding. People like to see that there is an interest in their culture and what works best for them. As well as networks, local HR teams need to be utilised and communicated with to understand what the diversity agenda for their region should be.
It is also important to keep in mind that in varied cultures different terms may have different meanings. The key is to understanding each culture and developing different strategies for supporting staff and the business that suit these regions. Sometimes it may be about looking at the same diversity agenda but in a very different way. Surveys can be used to understand each region and help set agendas. Periods of change may affect areas in different ways and it is essential to understand all employees’ needs during these times.
Challenges / lessons learnt
- Start by defining what diversity actually is within the business
- Use of measurement / benchmarking and understanding what’s good and what’s not?
- Senior Management / regional buy in – this can be tricky as senior managers often see diversity as an ‘add on’ and don’t understand how it helps the business overall
- Breaking down the diversity agenda into achievable and recognisable goals / targets for management
- Justifying the business case – e.g. cost of not retaining women. Senior level need to buy into this and build this into managers’ appraisals to help drive it. Statistics should be used in conjunction with a clear message about not being left behind in an evolving world
- It is essential to understand the style of communication that the management team respond best to in order to get their backing – do they respond better to hearing what pain to avoid or what gain there is?
- Changing the overall business perception around diversity and inclusion.
Measuring success – How do you know if you are doing a good job?
Measurement of success should include a combination of statistics and the number of initiatives that have come from the diversity strategy, as well as what this led to and how this has developed the company culture and company brand. Below are some specific examples of how to measure Diversity and Inclusion strategy success:
- Engagement surveys – including the right questions on these surveys can help in understanding where the company is currently at and where it needs to be. However, to have maximum input it needs to be communicated to employees that surveys are anonymous and exactly what is being done with the information. They need to understand who will access the information and that it will not lead to reprimanding. Input levels often increase yearly as employees see that the information is not being used against them. Surveys can ask questions on religion, sexual orientation, race etc. However these questions need to be adapted depending on region
- Data – hard data such as sales, output, retention, revenue from D&I initiatives, recruitment figures and soft data such as culture (much harder to measure)
- Benchmarking against previous years and competitors
- Awards – e.g. National Equality Standards
- Stonewall Workplace Equality index
- Outsource of the analysis e.g. using Gender Gap – however this still needs to be associated with the brand or employees may be less willing to give away information..