Equality in action: workplace culture putting diversity to work

Developing a workplace culture of equality is not just the right thing to do. It’s a strategic imperative.

Accenture research shows a direct correlation between a more equal workplace culture and the willingness and ability of employees to innovate.

And given that innovation is at, or near, the top of every business leaders’ agenda, it’s an opportunity that none can afford to ignore. 

A balanced workplace culture

With that front of mind, Accenture has set itself some clear targets to achieve a global workforce that’s balanced equally between men and women by 2025. And by the end of the year, women will account for 25% of its managing directors worldwide.

Accenture has put in place clear policies and programmes to create an organisation that has a workplace culture of total equality and diversity that will drive its future as an innovative business.  

D&I 101 & more

The company has shunned a ‘once size fits all’ approach to launch global programmes and targets that are underpinned by local initiatives tailored to each market.

As an example, its Accelerate programme in the UK specifically supports its African Caribbean employees by providing a series of development, self-reflection, reverse mentoring, sponsorship and relationship building interventions to help them stay and progress in the organisation.

Accenture is not alone in pursuing agendas that ensure it reaps the business benefits of creating an equal and diverse workplace culture.

Learning from best practice

Mastercard’s President and CEO, Ajay Banga, explicitly links equality and innovation as a major push for the business he runs. Mastercard also has twice the number of women in leadership roles as other companies in the S&P 500.

For Ajay Banga, diversity is essential to thrive in a fast-changing industry like payments , as he explains: “We’re in an industry where technology and innovation flow around you all the time. If you surround yourself with people who look like you, walk like you, talk like you, went to the same schools as you and had the same experiences, you’ll have the very same blind spots. You’ll miss the same trends, curves in the road and opportunities.”


Decisive action

Other leaders have also made the link between workplace culture, the innovation they need in their business and the equality and diversity of their workforce. Andrew McKenzie, CEO of mining giant BHP, has recognised that an ageing workforce, a shortage of talent and the need for diversity of thought to drive new ideas, required decisive action.

Mining is a traditionally male-dominated industry, addressing that required some bold and disruptive thinking but in 2016, he established a global inclusion and diversity council and went public with his vision to achieve 50:50 in BHP’s global workforce by 2025. One year later he commented that the company had made more progress towards diversity that year than it had in the previous ten.

Procter& Gamble is another business that thrives on innovation. It is seeking to make sure it has a workplace culture that enables everyone in the company to “perform at their peak”. To that end it has rolled out a series of programmes that are dedicated to driving the equal representation of women at every level of the company.

Investing in change

As well as initiatives that engage and identify high-potential women and prepare them for senior roles, Procter & Gamble also teaches employees how to recognise and overcome their own unconscious biases.

That’s a policy that Duke Energy, another business operating in an industry where technology-driven change demands innovation, has put into practice to drive the diversity and equality of its workforce. It’s provided unconscious bias training to 500 of its senior leaders as a way to ensure that nothing stands in the way of building a workplace culture rooted in equality.

Most companies recognise they need to support the development of their future business by taking decisive action. Marriott International, for example, has created the Emerging Leaders programme that has rapidly accelerated the advancement of women and minorities to senior leadership positions. Women now account for 55% of Marriott’s U.S. workforce and hold many of the most senior roles in the company, with eight women leading businesses that have annual revenues greater than $100 million.  

While all workplace cultures are unique, those like the examples above, that strive to create real equality share some common characteristics.  They invest in training to give people the skills they need for the future. They promote flexibility and work-life balance, with leaders demonstrating that commitment through their behaviour. 

Employees understand the purpose of their organisation and how their work supports and aligns with it. But perhaps most important of all? They let people be their true authentic selves, valued for their differences, and the unique contributions they can make.  

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