(Boston Consulting Group, Jan 2019, by M. Kretz and others)
This article begins with the observation that while many companies and their leaders recognise the benefits that diversity brings and have instituted various kinds of diversity initiatives, across the board the reality is that progress has been slow. (The authors are, of course not the first to have bemoaned the very slow progress globally to reach levels of diversity in organisations which remotely reflect the diversity in the population at large.) Essentially, as the authors explain, leaders still have blind spots when it comes to the difficulties of implementing a sustained diversity program.
The authors surveyed some 16,500 people worldwide to identify the most effective diversity and inclusion results. Their survey traversed three broad categories of diversity: gender; race and sexual orientation. Through their research the authors assert that they have been able to determine what are the solutions to the diversity conundrum.
Launching programs and expecting results, they say, is not a recipe for success- a proposition with which we at Symmetra certainly agree. The essential elements of success in a diversity initiative must include the following, according to the article:
- Leadership commitment
- A tailored approach
- Metrics for gauging progress
- Involvement of all employees
Another important error committed by company leaders and identified by the authors is the place or point in time when the biggest obstacles to diversity occur. Obstacles could potentially occur in any one of four areas: recruiting, retention, advancement, leadership commitment. While many leaders see recruiting as the place where the biggest problems arise and need to be overcome, in fact, members of diverse groups experience problems later when they are already employed.
Subtle biases which come into play daily and which are experienced most acutely by members of diverse groups are often the cumulative reasons why members of these groups decide to leave. Training on unconscious bias can be extremely useful but only so if it is done in a systematic and comprehensive way . Such training must incorporate actionable strategies to counteract the biases that exist and are inherent in human cognitive processes.
Practical stratagems which are tailored and implemented consistently and sustainably will render the most positive results Different diversity initiatives may achieve different degrees of success for each of the three diverse groups surveyed. And in support of this argument the authors set out in a table the most effective diversity initiatives as ranked by female employees; employees of colour and members of LBGTQ. A significant portion of the article deals with helpful and detailed descriptions of what are considered the most effective programs and how some of the most successful D& I initiatives have been carried out.
Whether indeed this article has truly pinpointed “ the solutions” to the somewhat intractable problem of reaching plausible levels of diversity in organisations remains to be seen. But there is a good deal of food for thought in it and many of the suggestions offer sensible and practical modes of implementing diversity strategies.