Using a skill-based approach to build diverse and inclusive organisations

Traditional approaches are no longer fit for purpose for organisational diversity and inclusion

Without a doubt, improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) should be a boardroom prerogative in any business. This is even more the case in a post-COVID world, where the corporate landscape is going through significant changes due to the pandemic and other cultural, economic and social factors.

The cost of neglecting to improve DEIB is even higher than ever for companies with the Great Resignation going on, threatening costly workforce turnovers that could devastate businesses large and small.

Even though the business and societal benefits of having more inclusive organisations is now well-recognised, little has been done in terms of practical steps that leaders can take beyond hiring more diverse talent and a new approach is needed, as traditional approaches to improving DEIB have fallen short at many companies.

Boosting the DEIB of your workforce isn’t just the right thing to do, but can also have positive effects on employee satisfaction, retention, meeting business goals and customer satisfaction.

According to a new report from RedThread Research, organisations that foster greater diversity are 81% more likely to have higher customer satisfaction, 2x more likely to indicate they have met business goals, and employees are 2x more likely to give their employer a positive net promoter score. Furthermore, they are 45% more likely to remain at their organisation.

So, there’s a clear business case for improving diversity and one effective way of achieving greater DEIB is to take a skill-based approach.

Top skills for driving a strong DEIB culture

To successfully drive a culture of DEIB starts with understanding the skills needed, as actionable skills data gives everyone a tangible and unbiased way to build the foundations for an inclusive organisation — one skill at a time. This can be the catalyst that will finally drive change. And what’s really exciting is the actionability not just for HR, but across the entire business and for all job levels, because it’s only through making DEIB part of holistic business operations that true systemic change will occur and drive change within DEIB efforts – across HR teams and the broader business community.

Which skills to focus on? The RedThread research study, Creating a DEIB Culture: The Skills Every Employee Needs, shows that the top skills for driving a DEIB culture are:

  • Individual employee skills to act authentically: courage, authenticity, data literacy, pattern recognition, managing ambiguity and the ability to empower people.
  • Manager skills to explore new ideas: curiosity, influence, negotiation and grit.
  • Senior leader skills to push for change: mental flexibility, rapport building and assertiveness.

    Additionally, two skills were found in all employees at all organisations with high DEIB — calculated risk-taking and nonverbal communications.

Taking action includes the entire business

After uncovering the actionable skills data that build more diverse and inclusive organisations, through internal technology to generate skills insights, it is of utmost importance to embed the DEIB culture across all aspects of the business, each with a role to play. DEIB Business & People Strategies need to be aligned and DEIB should be integrated into all business processes to deliver outcomes. This includes:

Diversity & Inclusion

  • Push the envelope: Provides insights about the business value, employee proposition, while offering strategic solutions that drive cultural stickiness, business impact and employee equity.


  • Driving scale: Set the vision and strategic direction, while demonstrating inclusive behaviours every day and calling out exclusive behaviours when they see them.


  • Catalyst for change: Bring their authentic selves to work, offer their unique gifts and talents, and operate grassroots efforts that positively impact the culture


  • Setting Conditions: Create a safe environment for employees to work, be themselves and contribute their best while demonstrating and holding others accountable for acting with decency and inclusivity.

Human Resources

  • Aligns people and business: Establishes and maintains employment & leadership practices, policies and programs that are fair, inclusive, and systemic, while monitoring and measuring their application, effectiveness and impact.

Implicating everyone in the journey, each with a role to play and each bringing their unique set of skills is what is needed to succeed.

Becoming a true champion of equal opportunities

Like all worthwhile efforts, shifting to a skill-based approach on DEIB will involve a huge cultural and process change, from the entire business. But it will pay off in the long run, with people who feel empowered by the opportunities they are offered, which will make your workforce more innovative, engaged, productive and agile. And it will set your organisation apart as a true champion of equal opportunities.

Susie Lee is Global Business Transformation & DIB Executive Officer at education technology company Degreed.

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