HSM Spotlight: Understanding Diversity

Many organisations are still struggling what Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) means for them. The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule book for rolling out a successful I&D program. You can only begin your journey by learning what I&D truly is and understanding it’s value and impact to your organisation. 

One thing we note at HSM is that Inclusion and Diversity are not the same thing, which is probably why it seems hard to put your finger on exactly how to embed it within organisations. This is because we have not separated them out sufficiently. We already know that the tensions I&D face are not the same; they have different objectives, actions and people involved.  

Building Blocks of Diversity 

Diversity is really about the differences of people. The objective of Diversity is to create as much variety as possible to break things up in age, gender, ethnicity, etc., whereas the objective of Inclusion is to bring them back together to have something that goes beyond their differences, and which requires different actions. From someone who has a very diverse background, let’s do a deeper dive into Diversity. What we have heard from different organisations and insights gathered is that Diversity is about Measurement, Understanding and Communication.  

Measurement – Develop metric-based goals. To fully understand Diversity in the workplace, we must look at the data. Metrics play a key role in helping HR professionals make more informed decisions about their organisation, and diversity metrics can help to improve I&D practices. An organisation’s diversity metrics should serve three purposes: diagnose risk areas and opportunities, track the progress of diversity initiatives, and calculate return on its investments.  Accenture, a global consulting, and professional services firm which is present in over 120 countries have been known for incorporating diversity as a source of innovation and cultural change. They were the first tech company to share its workforce demographics to the public in order to help progress towards a more diverse organisation and continue attracting new talent. This also holds their organisation and leaders accountable in driving change.  

Communication – Be transparent about your goals and the process to achieve them. As well as metrics and goals, organisations should look to make processes and the outcomes of processes more transparent to both internal and external stakeholders. Organisational transparency can be defined as making accurate and goal-relevant information accessible to people, be it leaders, managers, the HR team, or even the entire organisation. 26 Silicon Valley tech firms, including Facebook, Google and Airbnb, released their employment diversity reports to the public in order to improve their organisation and employer image, and increase their attractiveness of the organisation among the present and future stakeholders. Organisations need to consistently communicate their diversity goals to ensure accountability as a response to their ever–changing organisational culture.  

Understanding – As you’ve read, accountability sits with everyone. There are a variety of roles within an organisation, so who is accountable for driving I&D? We know that metrics and goals that are not transparent are not as effective for progression towards a diverse workplace environment as stakeholders cannot hold decision makers accountable. It is important to assign accountability in order to reach each I&D goal to a specific employee, team, or the wider organisation. Research has shown that tasking specific people (such as a Head of I&D) or a team (such as an ERG’s) with achieving diversity goals makes those goals more likely to be achieved and results in increased representation of diverse candidates. In order to progress to a more diverse organisation, it is crucial that leaders, and more equally important, managers are held accountable and that they continue role modelling for a more diverse culture.  

Priorities around how diversity is addressed will differ from one organisation to another, no matter what approach you adopt, but what we do know is that it might require some organisational change and new initiatives. We believe organisations need to consider Measurement, Understanding and Communication when approaching Diversity in order to create a more diverse and fair workplace culture, and likely finding yourself better positioned to weather the complicated I&D world. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on Diversity, email me here, or connect with me on LinkedIn here.