Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Build diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace
Embedding diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is a journey. Start this journey by understanding your organization’s DE&I maturity.
August 17, 2022
Build diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace
Inequality isn’t just a social issue; it’s also a business issue. Companies today must act to create a world that respects everyone’s dignity and makes equal opportunities available to all.
While this is the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. Businesses cannot sit idly by in the face of unrest and pressure from stakeholders, which includes their employees, boards, customers and communities. Nor can they ignore the tangible benefits of investing in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace.
Korn Ferry's research shows that most organizations have accelerated their DE&I efforts over the last two years. But it’s hard for companies to know where to start — or what their end goal should be.
That’s why we partnered with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to research the DE&I challenges facing businesses. WBCSD’s Vision 2050: Time to Transform identifies mounting inequality as one of three critical challenges facing the world today.
Using our DE&I maturity model, we interviewed WBCSD members to learn where they are on their DE&I journey. Here’s an overview of why businesses should focus on DE&I in the workplace using our DE&I maturity model, and a preview of what we learned from our interviews.
Many businesses know by now that efforts to support DE&I are critical for a variety of reasons. For one, stakeholders expect businesses to address inequality. A failure to do so can harm a business’s reputation and create operational risks.
Secondly, inequality in income, wealth and well-being is rooted in unequal opportunities. And the differences in people’s prospects rest largely on factors outside their control: their personal characteristics and backgrounds. Employers should remove these roadblocks so everyone can enjoy equal access to career opportunities.
But, beyond leveling the playing field, businesses find that embedding DE&I into their culture, purpose, and practices gives them a competitive advantage. Research shows that:
Prospective and current employees also expect that their workplace should promote DE&I. Given today’s war for talent, labor shortages, and resignations, DE&I strategies are an essential part of attracting and retaining employees. The opposite is also true: organizations that don’t take meaningful action on DE&I initiatives may undermine employee loyalty and trust.
In addition, consumers care whether businesses invest in socially conscious marketing strategies. Research from Microsoft shows that 70% of consumers are more trusting of brands that represent diversity in advertising. And a 2021 FleishmanHillard study showed that over three-quarters of consumers expect companies to provide a diverse, inclusive work environment.
Achieving DE&I goals requires organizations to transform from within. But, as with any journey, it’s important for organizations to assess their current level before setting goals and building strategies. They also must be able to measure their progress to understand how they can continue to improve. That’s why we created our DE&I maturity model.
Organizations can use our DE&I maturity model as a strategic roadmap for developing their processes and approach towards DE&I in the workplace. The model offers a DE&I framework to help organizations understand the progression of their DE&I journey. It also shows organizations how they can navigate toward improved performance.
In our experience, the DE&I journey tends to progress in four distinct stages. Our maturity model reflects these stages:
To advance through these levels, organizations should develop practices that support behavioral and structural inclusion. Behavioral inclusion describes inclusive mindsets, skillsets and relationships. Structural inclusion describes equitable and transparent structures, processes and practices that work for all employees and customers.
The DE&I journey measures progress in behavioral and structural inclusion across five DE&I dimensions:
For examples of leading behaviors in each dimension, download our Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace report.
Organizations that succeed in progressing their DE&I initiatives begin by studying data to learn what practices and behaviors do and don’t work. They also identify the root causes behind any lack of progress in organizational DE&I efforts. They reinforce their initiatives with proactive training that builds inclusive leadership capabilities and embeds behavioral and structural inclusion.
The most successful organizations realize that DE&I maturity is the shared responsibility of all internal stakeholders. Key corporate functions must take responsibility for each dimension, but all functions must be on board for the DE&I journey.
As part of our research, we interviewed a variety of WBCSD members. We asked them how they integrate DE&I considerations into the workplace and address emerging DE&I challenges.
While most organizations labeled themselves as “progressing,” we learned that no two DE&I journeys are alike. Factors affecting their journeys include business and talent priorities, leadership commitment, resource allocation, desired speed of change and industry dynamics.
Most organizations are focused on the dimensions of DE&I awareness and talent integration. Meanwhile, the operations integration and market integration dimensions are less developed.
For example, one company learned it had gender diversity issues after conducting a global DE&I assessment. The company realized it needed to build a culture that attracts, retains and promotes women. So, the company set two goals: improving management of gender diversity and enhancing the retention of women in production fields.
To achieve these goals, the company changed its recruitment policies. The policy set targets for women to hold 30% of senior management positions and 50% of overall management positions by 2030. Additionally, the company introduced mentoring, networking and leadership training for women. It also organized diversity days to raise awareness of bias and business challenges among managers.
The company implemented dashboards and performance management scorecards with metrics to track its progress. So far, the company has increased visibility around the career movement of female talent. It also built in manager accountability for retaining women. Female representation in middle management has also jumped from 16% to 32% and in senior management from 5% to 7%.
As your organization prepares for a DE&I transformation, it’s essential to know two things. First, where are you on your DE&I journey? Second, where do you want to go? Only then can you build a roadmap that will take your organization to the next level.
Our Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace report includes practical ideas for building a more equitable and inclusive organization. It also describes indicators you can use to gauge your current state and plan future initiatives. Finally, it shares case studies on how nine companies have accelerated their DE&I transformation.