Diversity holds key for sustained business gains

Managers must take steps to foster more diverse, inclusive workplaces

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 4:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 9:53pm

There has been a shift in what we call the talent agenda: it is now the business agenda, and it means that without the richness of diversity, companies simply will not succeed. Diversity helps drive exceptional business results for a company’s people, clients, shareholders and other audiences.

But it is a commitment that must start at the top. Leadership must foster a culture of belonging that ensures its people can be successful professionally and personally, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability.

That is why in June, 150 chief executives of mostly Fortune 500 companies, but also non-profit and smaller organisations, announced they would publicly pledge to take action and support more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

The steering committee includes chief executives of Accenture, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, General Atlantic, New York Life, Proctor & Gamble and PwC. It pledges to make the workplace one where employees feel comfortable having complex discussions about diversity and inclusion, implement and expand unconscious bias education and training to help employees recognise and minimise their “blind spots”, and share best practises about what works and what does not.

What is key about such initiatives is the focus on continuous discussion and education. It is not just a hiring and promotion policy, it is an ongoing discussion.

At Accenture, we recently unveiled an internal campaign and video to spark discussion within our company about belonging and bias. It touched our people deeply, making them realise that bias could appear in both expected and unexpected ways – and they asked to share the video with their families, friends and clients.

Watch: Inclusion starts with I

In the video, various employees hold up placards that underscore issues for different people, such as one with a man, holding his two children and a sign that reads “… It’s the annoyance when people presume I am less committed to my family life, because I am a man …” Later in the short video, another employee holds a placard noting “… team performance improves by 50 per cent when everyone feels included”. The messages carry on becoming positive endorsements of why inclusion and diversity matter.

There is a temptation to avoid discussing inclusion and diversity because it can be uncomfortable and polarising. But avoiding challenges means risking losing talented staff.

So think of it this way: inclusion and diversity is part of the talent/business agenda. You will not lead in your industry without quality people. And quality people are drawn to a quality ethos.

Gianfranco Casati is Accenture’s group chief executive for the growth markets