Arguably, both the COVID-19 pandemic and the current fight against racial injustice have brought into sharp focus a host of systemic inequities that have impacted employees who are racial and ethnic minorities for far too long.

From healthcare disparities to professional headwinds, these recent crises combined have underscored the ways in which many of these employees face barriers to success not experienced to nearly the same degree by most of their colleagues. Some leaders were already working to address these inequities, but others have now started to reckon with the lack of diversity and inclusion within their own organizations. Part of that work involves actively and intentionally seeking out—and empowering—greater diversity in the backgrounds and viewpoints of their talent. But with so many different organizational priorities all requiring attention, just how important is diversity and inclusion to managers and their employees?

The Korn Ferry Institute explored this issue in its new report, Putting Value in Value Differences, which looks at how people rate the skill and importance of Values Differences, one of 12 competencies that make up the success profile of an InclusiveTM Leader. What the Institute found is that, over the last six years, both managers and employees have rated this competency, which assesses the extent to which people recognize the value that different perspectives and cultures bring to an organization, as less important than other leadership competencies.

It’s the gap between the talk and the walk, experts say. And given the buzz around diversity and inclusion, these findings offer a sobering look into the reality of which competencies organizations emphasize most in their everyday talent decisions—and which ones, like Values Differences, are sacrificed as a result.  “Most organizations have failed the ultimate test of true inclusion—valuing the differences,” says Alina Polonskaia, global leader of Korn Ferry’s Diversity & Inclusion practice.

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