There are six important principles that organisations need to adopt in building a genuine corporate culture of diversity and inclusion, according to Bersin by Deloitte, which said these steps will also drive better business outcomes.

The research found that organisations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative, six times more likely to anticipate change and respond effectively, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.

Despite the demonstrated benefits of embracing an inclusive culture, the research also indicates that only 12 percent of organisations around the world have reached full maturity.

“Diversity and inclusion has been a compliance function driven by human resources for too long,” said Josh Bersin, principal and founder, Bersin by Deloitte.

“The most effective way to achieve significant gains is through leadership ownership, strategic measurement, and a culture of accountability for inclusion that is driven from top to bottom.”

Based on a survey of 245 global organisations and more than 70 client interviews, the research demonstrates that inclusive organisations outperform their peers, and these organisations embed these strategies in almost all management decisions.

The strong performance of such organisations may be among the reasons the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends research shows 78 percent of respondents believe diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage.

The research also shows that in organisations with inclusive cultures, people tend to feel that they can be themselves, share problems, make mistakes, innovate, and drive change.

“The most effective way to achieve significant gains is through leadership ownership, strategic measurement, and a culture of accountability for inclusion that is driven from top to bottom”

In addition, the research offers a roadmap for organisations that want to create inclusive cultures, and outlines six principles that are key to creating a more inclusive organisation:

  1. Treat the evolution of diversity and inclusion as business-critical, not compliance-necessary. Organisations that approach diversity and inclusion as a business priority are more likely to report superior business outcomes.
  2. Move beyond diversity to inclusion and diversity. Organisations that focus on the value of inclusion, in addition to diversity, typically enjoy superior performance as compared with peer organisations that do not.
  3. Prioritise inclusive leadership. Leaders who demonstrate behaviours such as courage, curiosity, and cultural intelligence tend to enable cultures that encourage inclusiveness.
  4. Reinforce an inclusive culture by integrating both demographic diversity and diversity of thought into all talent management practices. It is especially important to do this at moments that affect the talent pipeline, such as decisions that impact talent acquisition, promotions, succession management and leadership development.
  5. Provide diversity and inclusion resources that empower individuals to take action. Inclusive organisations are more likely to offer resources that enable individuals to bring their authentic selves to work, manage unconscious bias effectively, and leverage the support of mentors and sponsors to help them navigate their organisations. Further, more mature organisations offer these resources broadly – not just for diverse populations.
  6. Drive accountability, not metrics tracking. Organisations should create accountability by sharing strategic measurements about diversity and inclusion-related activities and their impact, and have senior leaders discuss achievement on an ongoing basis.  One aspect of this might be to tie compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes, a practice employed currently by only 6 percent of companies surveyed.

“CEOs and business leaders should own the strategy, and the entire organisation should embed and use inclusive talent practices”

Bersin by Deloitte developed a four-level maturity model which describes the evolution of diversity and inclusion and what companies should do to move from a compliance emphasis to a strategic focus in order to create a truly inclusive culture.

According to the model, outlined in Bersin by Deloitte’s High-Impact Diversity and Inclusion: Maturity Model and Top Findings, 42 per cent of organisations take a compliance-based approach to diversity (level one), while 31 per cent use a programme-based approach, 15 per cent have a leader-owned strategy to diversity and inclusion, and 12 per cent take a leading “inclusive culture” approach (level four).

The challenge for organisations trying to move to level four is embedding diversity and inclusion as a business value, according to the report, which noted that while leaders may understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, they may still talk about it as being separate from the organisation’s business strategy.

Further, line employees lower in the organisational hierarchy may not be aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion to the organisation’s business.

To begin to make this transition, it is important to communicate the criticality of diversity and inclusion by consistently messaging the impact of diversity and inclusion through both formal communications and reporting relationships.

In addition, organisations can build an awareness of bias into critical talent activities, so all employees are reminded of the importance of managing bias.

“Leaders should be held accountable for improving diversity and inclusion outcomes just as they are accountable for other business metrics”

Most importantly, leaders should be held accountable for improvement on diversity and inclusion metrics (which can and likely should go beyond just representation), similarly to how they are held accountable for other business metrics.

“Inclusive talent practices drive measurable and predictable business outcomes,” said Stacia Sherman Garr, vice president, talent and workforce research leader, Bersin by Deloitte.

“After two years of study, we conclude that these business outcomes are possible for all companies – but only with a change in focus.

“The research shows that CEOs and business leaders should own the strategy, and the entire organisation should embed and use inclusive talent practices.”

Organisations can also build an awareness of bias into critical talent activities, to remind all employees of the importance of managing bias at moments that will have long-term impacts on the talent pipeline, Garr said.

“Critically, leaders should be held accountable for improving diversity and inclusion outcomes just as they are accountable for other business metrics,” she said.

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