Four key pillars to make your D&I programme a success

17 December 2020

Although diversity and inclusion has been a topic of considerable interest for a number of years, few organisations know how to implement sustainable, long-term change to support their goals. PwC’s ongoing benchmark survey suggests that whilst 76% of global leaders claim that D&I is a priority for their organisation, only 5% of organisations are succeeding in key dimensions of successful D&I programming.

This blog is the first in a series exploring the practical steps you can implement to increase diversity and inclusion within your organisation – whether you’re just starting out on your D&I journey, or whether you’re looking to improve the outcomes of your existing D&I programme.

We recently invited a number of diversity and inclusion leaders to share their experiences as part of our Building Diverse Workplaces webinar (now available to watch on-demand). They covered key topics when designing a D&I programme, from setting and measuring organisational priorities, to engagement from senior leaders, how to diversify the hiring process, and creating training programmes.

Our panellists agreed that a successful programme is built upon four key pillars. Over the coming weeks we will delve deeper into how each these pillars can help you to build a successful D&I programme.

Pillar 1: Analysis
“What gets measured, gets managed” might sound like an old cliché to some, but it is useful to keep in mind when creating or implementing a D&I programme. Understanding where your organisation is at and how it benchmarks against the sector you operate in is essential to setting achievable goals and monitoring progress.

However what, and how, you should measure is not immediately obvious. For example, more and more organisations have been using employee opinion surveys to measure inclusiveness, but many fail to delineate those results by identity. At first glance, 80% of your employees feeling that they have equal opportunities might sound like a great result, but closely examining the 20% might give you more insight into where you organisational problems lie.

Pillar 2: Strategy
Whether an organisations D&I strategy should be driven by ethics or by commercial need has been an area of much debate for a number of years. But with nine out of ten employees now believing that companies should engage in D&I initiatives and the majority of millennials and Gen Z saying they’re more likely to buy products and services from companies that have had a positive impact on society throughout the pandemic, many businesses are starting to understand that the two are intrinsically linked.

Our panellists unanimously agreed that creating a D&I strategy that aligns with the organisation’s vision for the future is more likely to gain support from within and make it a long term part of the agenda. The right strategy needs to be able to address the primary issues of your organisation and position D&I as a catalyst for driving commercial results.

Pillar 3: Leadership engagement
Getting the leadership team engaged is crucial to implementing a successful D&I programme. With almost a third of our webinar attendees indicating that their board is aware of, but not engaged with their efforts, it’s clear that many organisations are being let down by a lack of support at the top.

Some leaders are naturally more likely than others to be interested in D&I initiatives, and identifying such individuals can be an important first step. Rather than immediately trying to get the every board member get involved, seeking out a number of people who want to champion the D&I agenda can act as a great case study for improved results, and can help you make a commercial case (as well as apply some peer pressure) to get others involved.

Pillar 4: Implementation
Executing a D&I strategy is a process of continuous improvement that will encompass many different elements across your business and talent ecosystem. Whether you are looking at talent acquisition, training and development, succession planning or cultural change to bring about a more inclusive workplace, the implementation of the programme is critical.

Our panellists agreed that looking at barriers to entry and barriers to progression are key to sustainable change. Rather than focusing on quotas, we need to understand the underlying reason for people from certain backgrounds not being hired or not being promoted, and actively work on removing those barriers, be it through talent marketing, mentorship schemes or a skill (rather than experience) focused hiring process.

The events of 2020 have opened up many of the discussions that needed to happen in order to drive long-term, sustainable change. The general public are now more aware than ever before of the oppression and disadvantages faced by minorities, and they are demanding more action from both their employers and the companies they choose to do business with. And whilst 2020 saw many of us asking ‘why?’ things had to be the way they were, the key question on everyone’s lips in 2021 should be ‘how?’ to bring about the change we need.

Cindy Gilicze is part of the retail practice at NSCG, and she has a keen interest in helping organisations improve diversity and inclusion throughout their workforce. If you’d like to have a discussion to see how we can help you with your own D&I challenges, please get in touch.

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