Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is not a new issue. However, gone are the days where DEI was looked at as simply an ethical concern or a nice to have. Numerous studies over the years have pointed to the business case for more diverse and inclusive work environments across many dimensions.
A 2021 report by non-profit BoardReady found companies with more than 30% of board seats occupied by women delivered better year-over-year revenue in 11 of the top 15 S&P 500 sectors than their less-gender-diverse counterparts.
Not to mention that according to Glassdoor, three in four (76%) of employees report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers, and 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity.
However, the implications don’t end there. Institutional investors, including pension funds, endowments, mutual funds and hedge funds, are also exercising their fiduciary responsibility to push organisations to more diverse and inclusive practices. In the last year, we’ve seen major asset managers such as BlackRock, Vanguard and others raising expectations that companies take action to advance equity of opportunity within the workforce.
These trends help to underscore the importance of workplace DEI and, as such, leaders increasingly see addressing these issues as a top priority to attract clients, investors, potential candidates and create thriving businesses. However, building a truly inclusive organisation has challenges both culturally and operationally. It’s as much a task of change management as it is people management and requires a methodical approach. Here are some learnings from my organisation’s process that might prove useful:
Start with the workforce
In the not-so-distant past, the consulting industry was seen as the “old boys club.” While the industry has worked to address this perception, there’s still much work to be done to diversify our industry.
Historically, the industry has had the practice of hiring for “fit,” which runs the risk of perpetuating a lack of diversity in the recruiting process. There are tactical ways to address these issues. These include increasing the recruiting slate from sources that offer greater access to diverse candidates (i.e., HBCUs, Hispanic-Serving Institutions or HSIs and professional organisations addressing diversity). Businesses should also create standardisation across the recruiting process that limits bias. However, systemic elements must be addressed, such as ensuring recruiting teams and interview teams are also diverse and reflective of the candidates we wish to attract.
Dig deeper on workplace
Building a more inclusive workplace culture requires a thoughtful approach. Making individuals feel heard, valued, included and championed are all key considerations. Often, organisations rely on these things happening organically, but building processes for these can increase the chances of success.
At Protiviti, we’ve invested heavily in creating and empowering various Employee Network Groups (ENGs) to champion the issues most relevant to diverse groups across our organisation. These groups help foster dialogues about what we can be doing to support our colleagues and advocate for programmes and initiatives. It’s important that when designing these groups, diverse leaders are involved in their creation, objectives and purpose.
Additionally, there must be continued investment in these groups to ensure they have the resources needed to tackle the relevant issues they wish to address. For example, at Protiviti, we recently made investments in our ENGs to significantly impact our culture by fostering communities of connection, leading meaningful discussions, and driving change through educational /developmental programmes and outreach. We will continue to contribute programme budgets advancing their critical contributions to our organisation and engagement with our diversity partners to bolster this important work.
Additionally, mentors and sponsors within a company can have a huge impact on the inclusiveness of workplace culture. Often, employees are over mentored and under sponsored, so it’s important to put processes in place to address this issue. At Protiviti, every person is assigned a formal advisor (mentor), and many employees seek additional informal mentors to help guide them through their careers.
We have found that sponsorship can make a significant difference for individuals in the leadership ranks. In some cases, the sponsorship relationship forms organically for some individuals but not all. At Protiviti, we recently implemented a formal sponsorship programme focused first and foremost on underrepresented leaders. As a result of taking this approach, we are building equity by providing more executive access and visibility. This, in turn, leads to greater opportunities for underrepresented leaders participating in the programme.
It’s clear that diversity has moved beyond being a moral imperative; it has become a business imperative for almost every company. We must remember that DEI is about organisational change management, which requires implementing processes that increase the chances of success. It will not be an overnight fix, but by being intentional in addressing issues and measuring what matters, we’ll create tangible progress in building more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
By Susan Haseley, EVP, Global Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Protiviti