D&I Deep Dive

By WCM | D&I Deep Dive | May 13, 2019

Survey: What Diversity and Inclusion Policies Do Employees Actually Want?

We know that diversity matters. In addition to being the right thing to strive for, having a diverse workforce helps companies acquire and retain the best talent, build employee engagement, increase innovation, and improve business performance. Yet corporate diversity still lags, especially at the top levels, which continue to be dominated by white, heterosexual men.

It’s not that effort isn’t being made. As a senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group and head of our firm’s diversity efforts, I know companies are investing in diversity programs. In fact, our research in 14 countries shows that 96-98% of large companies (above 1,000 employees) have such programs.

And yet, despite this investment, we’ve found that around three quarters of employees in underrepresented groups — women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ employees — do not feel they’ve personally benefited from their companies’ diversity and inclusion programs.

So what should companies do to make real progress?

Beyond Diversity: How Firms Are Cultivating a Sense of Belonging

In January, senior executives at Citigroup shared personal stories with the entire global organization, livestreamed in 96 countries. One told how, earlier in her career, she had routinely avoided revealing that she never went to college. She said that any time a group conversation turned to ‘what school did you go to,’ she dodged answering or changed the subject.

“You would not believe how much of a [positive] impact that [story] had on the people in the audience,” said Sam Lalanne, a senior vice president of Global Diversity and Talent Management at Citi. He noted that anecdotes — especially from high-level people —  about the struggle to fit in, or to be their authentic selves at work, can be a powerful tool to nurture a sense of belonging among an entire workforce.

Another story Lalanne re-told came from a senior executive who was of Southeast Asian descent. In an earlier job, that individual felt that he stuck out like a sore thumb among his white colleagues. His decision was to “own it,” said Lalanne: he grew a very large beard, rendering him even more noticeable. “That was reaffirmation for him that he belongs.”

Boards Are Overlooking Qualified Women. Here’s How to Fix That

Today’s gap between the demand and supply of female directors exists for two basic reasons: boards are overlooking a pool of female talent that is in plain sight, and CEOs are missing the single best way to prepare women to serve on boards.

Consider the reality that most women executives have spent their careers moving up in a single functional silo: HR. This came into sharp focus for Ram a few years ago during a talk to some 400 women in Washington, D.C. When asked who among them was in HR, almost everyone raised their hand. A career track in one function deepens a person’s expertise but historically hasn’t done much to broaden their view or to build their business savvy. That’s why many old-time board nominating committees tend to think of HR leaders as masters of administrivia and not as business leaders and strategic thinkers.

But things have changed, and perception should too. CHROs of big companies are now deeply involved in planning the company’s future. They understand the high-level business issues, and because they attend some if not all board meetings, they know how to work with a board. At the same time, their expertise in compensation, culture, recruiting, and other high-level people issues is itself increasingly valuable as boards and managements prioritize talent.

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