The Financial Times recently asked executives from across the corporate world to tell them their stories around what works and what doesn’t when companies try to bring greater levels of diversity to their leadership. The resulting piece, ‘Do company diversity programmes actually help women get ahead?’, was published earlier this week, and the case studies are well worth a read.
It’s great when people get the chance to open up about what they’ve found helpful, irritating, inspiring and disheartening about the various forms of diversity and inclusion initiatives they’ve taken on.
So what do the results tell us that company diversity and inclusion programmes really need if they are to succeed?
1. A bespoke approach to diversity learning and development
These real-life stories illustrate that diversity and inclusion must be tailored if they are to be effective. Equally, any initiative must be positioned in ways that mean everyone in the organisation really does understand the business case for it. The great companies that understand this know that to trot out the usual generic business benefits won’t get them anywhere.
2. A tailored business case for diversity and inclusion, with senior-level buy-in
Like anything else that is taken seriously, the narrative about why and how diversity and inclusion makes sense in this business, at this time, needs to be confidently articulated at all levels.
There needs to be real passion behind the business case, too. It either does or doesn’t make a real and tangible difference to have inclusive cultures, engaging diverse team members and customers alike. If you can prove the differences made, whether it be through increased market share or discretionary effort, of reduced sickness levels or legal costs, why wouldn’t you be passionate about the specific benefits diversity and inclusion can bring to your company?
3. Better diversity metrics to gauge progress and celebrate achievements, and to drive more inclusive action-planning
We have just worked with a large organisation in the social care sector to write a business case that is highly tailored. It touches on recruitment and selection, and how to address the unwanted impacts of unconscious bias in procurement, the supply chain, and customer service.
The business case also factors in hard and soft diversity metrics; managers know they have to deliver on them just as they do on health and safety. In the end, the business knows it will not thrive if it doesn’t get this right. Everyone knows precisely what they have to do to be considered a successful, inclusive manager.
(And it’s nothing at all to do with giving people a job just because… fill in the blank.)