Diversity and Inclusion: HR’s Guide to a Successful Strategy

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Diversity & Inclusion Guide_Businesswomen and businessmen attending group meeting conference in office room

Diversity is more than just a moral issue.  It’s more than just checking a box.  It’s about being singularly committed to opening all opportunities to everyone, to advancing the careers of all, to embracing every dimension of diversity possible.  From recruiting to mentoring, human resources plays a significant role in the overall strategy.

Diversity and Inclusion – What is it?

Diversity and Inclusion means different things to different people.  For some, the focus is only on ethnicity.  For others, it’s on sexual orientation.  For others still, it’s culture.  The reality is D&I is all of those things and so much more.  To help define the overall practice of D&I, it’s important to break it down into it’s two component pieces.

According to ideal.com:

  • Workplace culture - an understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people including those:
    • of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations
    • with differences in education, personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases
  • Inclusion – a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all employees.

Together, D&I is “a company’s mission, strategies, and practices to support a diverse workplace and leverage the effects of diversity to achieve a competitive business advantage.”

The Statistics

D&I is not just a program led by human resources.  It’s now, more than it has been in recent years, a business strategy.  And the numbers prove that statement true especially as we can see companies embracing D&I as a business strategy statistically perform better than those organizations that don’t embrace it.

  • Organizations with above-average gender diversity and levels of employee engagement out-perform companies with below-average diversity and engagement by 46% to 58% (Fast Company)
  • Innovation revenues were 19% higher in companies with higher-than-average diversity. (Harvard Business Review)
  • More women in C-suite level positions leads to 24% higher shareholder returns. (Fast Company)

For those still not convinced D&I is a business strategy, consider the following statistics”

  • According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering working for a company. Additionally, more that 50% of employees want their current employer to increase diversity efforts.
  • The millennial and Gen Z generations are the most diverse in history. (CNN Money)

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What are HR Leaders Saying?

To understand more about diversity & inclusion, here are a few quotes from HR professionals on the topic.

Diversity & Inclusion Guide_Jackie Hunter Quote

D.K. Bartley, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Moody’s

“What [diversity and inclusion] is now, and actually what it always was, but just never recognized as, is innovation, is a revenue generator, is a business imperative.”

Mark Dickinson, Former Head of HR Philips Medical Systems

“The challenge is around changing the conversation, around D&I of moving away from the early stage of just counting the numbers to creating an inclusive environment, where people bring their best self to work, that they feel truly empowered and joyful to be there, and giving 100% of themselves.”

Jackie Hunter, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Banner Health

“I think, sometimes, talking with leaders in the past with regards to D&I and previous research, sometimes we get frustrated when folks don’t see our point of view.  But we also have to understand it’s not about changing someone’s point of view.  It’s about changing their viewing point.”

HR’s Role

As a strategy, diversity gives companies an opportunity to start identifying new trends.  They can do this because their workforce is representative of its customers.  As a result, it can hone in on those factors that motivate staff, reduce absenteeism and increases productivity levels all by creating an inclusive environment.

So, what is HR’s role?

HR professionals’ key role is in management and leadership that creates and empowers a diverse culture.  One that is respectful and inclusive and grants each employee the opportunity to learn, grow and contribute to the company.

Monitoring diversity

In most companies it can be difficult to get a clear picture of what diversity is like for that particular organization.

To combat this, HR teams should monitor diversity.  This can be done through audits.  This should be done, not only for current employees, but in recruitment practices as well.  This will allow for progress to be measured effectively.

Widening the talent pool

When it comes to diversity, HR should focus on building a diverse workforce through recruitment or development. There are a myriad of ways of doing this.  Some can be through internal or external partnerships. 

Mentoring and Diversity

Like recruitment, mentoring can be internal or external. For instance, some HR professionals work with schools or local youth groups. This helps with fostering talent early and making sure more diverse individuals are aware of the opportunities.

Supplying Diversity

HR teams should understand it is vital to ensure the diversity of your supply chain.  Furthermore, it should reflect your consumer base, but also that there is a business case for supply chain diversity. 

Diversity’s Future

As this guide clearly articulates, D&I should be a top priority for organizations.  The strategy makes companies more successful.  It’s not just a financial benefit, but embracing this strategy is a benefit to employees.  HR has a real opportunity to lead here.  Doing so will put the company on a positive trajectory.  Examples include created smarter workplaces and allowing for higher job satisfaction, employee retention and revenue.


NEXT:  Diversity and Inclusion:  The Business Case


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