The current picture
Over two-thirds of HR leaders are prioritising the advance of underrepresented talent in their companies. At least that’s according to a Gartner survey of HR leaders. A similar cross-industry survey by PwC found that 75% of organisations consider D&I a stated value or area of priority.
On the face of it, it seems that all industries are mostly working to improve on their values, recruitment processes, policies and practices to better address diversity and inclusion.
Or are they?
Those two surveys returned some food for thought. The Gartner survey, while highlighting the intent of HR leaders, also found that nearly 90% of them felt their organisation has been ineffective or unresponsive at increasing diversity representation. PwC reported that 32% of the organisations they surveyed consider diversity initiatives as a barrier to progress. 80% of leadership engagement in D&I remained at basic or emerging levels. How can leaders successfully cascade the importance of D&I to their employees when their own engagement remains so embryonic?
Building the business case
There is obviously a strong moral case that already exists for a company to invest with increasing commitment into diversity and inclusion. It’s important to recognise that the business case is equally robust. A survey by Harvard Business Review found that a team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is far likelier than another team to better understand and address the client’s needs. Think about the possibilities of this when applying this concept to sales or recruitment, and you might realise how your sales team could better relate to, and understand, their clients.
McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report is even more compelling. This global report found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. Companies that are placed in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have a financial return above the median.
Their conclusion is that a company that takes action on D&I – beginning with a commitment to more diverse leadership and management teams – enter a ‘virtuous cycle’ of increasing benefits. Those companies stand a better chance of reaching out to a wider talent base, improving their customer orientation, employee satisfaction (and thus retention) and decision-making. This was based on an assessment of companies that gained a competitive advantage by investing in employees of a more diverse gender and age range, ethnicity, sexual orientation and varieties of experience. Companies that work to improve their diversity and inclusion values will escape the dangers of an echo chamber by incorporating employees who bring different experiences and skillsets to the table. A diverse management and sales team will also help to overcome issues such as unconscious bias.
Christian Gruppo, a founding partner of Continental Search Alliance, notes that ‘We can clearly see that more and more our clients are resetting their strategies and adjusting to the reality of how our society should be represented in their workforce. Diversity in Recruitment is becoming an instrument to create diverse and more successful teams, and above all creating the awareness that we have always needed to escape the risk of hiring all look-a-like type of people with a similar view on how to manage and tackle challenges and problems. I myself come from a very diverse family with roots across 5 countries. I recognize that making diversity and inclusion a norm will ultimately elevate the well being of our society and our corporations…
We at CSA are a very diverse team of people from different backgrounds, genders, religion, countries and continents. We can clearly experience first hand on how our diverse point of views when discussing business and strategies leads us almost always to good decision making, well accepted across a wide spectrum of characters and personalities.’
The simple truth is that as industries take on more comprehensive D&I policies and values, your company is at risk of being left behind if it neglects this issue. Any company that fails to implement a robust D&I policy will be at a disadvantage in acquiring the best talent, which will have a negative effect in all areas of the organisation. This is why starting with a diverse management and sales team is so essential – the values you implement in management can cascade down from the top, while sales teams represent your company’s external face. When people look at your company and try to determine what its values are – what perception do you want to give them?
Continental Search Alliance recruits for mid-level to C-suite executive positions from scalable startups to the world’s largest tech firms, combining tech and digital expertise with extensive reach across EMEA and APAC.
Written by Tom Boughen for CSA.