A survey of over 1,000 people across Australia and New Zealand by Hays has found half of the nation’s bosses have their heads in the sand when it comes to understanding the business benefits of diversity and inclusion. Overall, just 50 per cent of respondents said their organisation’s leaders understand the link between diversity and inclusion and commercial business drivers such as talent attraction. Another 50 per cent understand the relationship to customer insight, 49 per cent to creativity and innovation, a further 49 per cent to profitability and 48 per cent to employee engagement and staff retention.
For particular underrepresented groups, these figures fall further. The survey found that just 37 per cent of people living with a disclosed disability believe their leaders fully understand the relationship between diversity and inclusion and attracting new employees while 32 per cent believe leaders understand the link to creativity and innovation.
The link to staff engagement and retention is also low for people of BAME heritage (38 per cent) and people living with a disclosed disability (34 per cent). When it comes to profitability, just 29 per cent of people who identify as LGBTIQ+ said their employer understands the connection to diversity and inclusion.
In other illuminating findings, 46 per cent of respondents overall trust their leaders to deliver change on the diversity and inclusion agenda, 45 per cent consider that their leaders champion diversity and inclusion and 37 per cent said their organisation implements diversity and inclusion targets or KPIs.
According to Hays, there are several ways to move the dial forward on diversity and inclusion and address the challenges and opportunities these present:
• Use data to make the case: Collect diversity and inclusion data and use it to demonstrate the link to business performance. Design and use performance metrics and analytics to measure and quantify the performance of diverse teams. Focusing on performance in this way will, in turn, lead to diversity improvements.
• Be self-aware: Inclusive leaders should aim to ‘lead from the front’ as conscious and self-aware champions of change. They should learn to recognise their own unconscious biases, so they are able to mitigate any unintentional consequences these may have on the demographics and culture of the organisation they lead. Only then can they be seen as authentic champions of change in diversity and inclusion. Undergoing unconscious bias training can help leaders in this endeavour.
• Understand employee sentiment towards their leadership style: Building an inclusive workplace relies upon all employees having confidence that their opinions are heard, valued and respected equally. Inclusive leaders can inform themselves and encourage this by regularly seeking opinions about both the leadership style of those in positions of authority, and how their diversity and inclusion strategies and actions are being received by employees across all demographic groups. This can be done through regular face-to-face ‘town hall’ meetings and anonymous employee feedback ‘pulse surveys’. In addition to supporting their self-awareness, regular ‘health checks’ of employee opinions may help leaders investigate the reasons behind both positive and negative sentiment, and take active and transparent steps to increase trust, confidence and a sense of belonging amongst their workforce.
• Publicly support diversity and inclusion initiatives: Inclusive leaders should aim to clearly, regularly and effectively communicate that diversity and inclusion is on their agenda. Communicating diversity and inclusion policies, promoting any initiatives being undertaken, and sharing the social, personal and commercial successes which result from these will help increase employee confidence that leaders understand the importance of diversity and inclusion to individuals and the business as a whole.
• Identify training needs: Diversity data is mostly sought during or following the recruitment of new employees, but it should also be collected throughout the employee lifecycle. Not only will this help inform an organisation’s diversity and inclusion commitments and progress, but it will identify any areas that can be addressed through leadership training, such as a lack of diversity in a particular team, unfair people practices or career development decisions.