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Create a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy that works

August 12, 2021

Organizations that want to build a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy need to get buy-in, achieve alignment, and understand the perspective of all employees, including underrepresented groups.

Feedback of people across the organization with different characteristics, backgrounds, and experiences can offer powerful information.

Capturing data from a variety of employee demographics

Demographics are key to understanding inclusion and equality, according to Kirtzman. So, it’s important for organizations to consider the differences in perception through the lenses of various demographic groups.

Before they collect any information, organizations need to carefully think about what they plan to gather. “Cultural and legal implications exist for this data collection, particularly when organizations span different countries and regions,” Kirtzman cautioned.

Organizations also should view differences between survey responses for demographics as valuable insights. “It doesn’t matter whether the aggregate results are all favorable. Gaps reveal opportunity areas,” Kirtzman noted. “What matters is that there’s an inequity that’s visible in scores, and it’s important to dig deeper there.”

Sometimes these differences in experiences and perceptions show that the organization needs to take a deeper dive into other aspects of an organization, such as how talent flows from hiring to promotion to exit. This data gives us a full picture for us to examine, so we understand the impact on various groups and how those groups are represented throughout the organization.

The differences between leaders and employee's perception of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies

The panel was asked whether there’s a pattern in how leaders and employees perceive the work to build a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.

Royal commented that he’s seen a variety of perspectives. In some organizations, he noted, “There’s a leadership bubble, so there are some surprises for leaders as they compare their own perceptions with employees. That can be very powerful.” For some companies, leaders and employees are closely aligned, “which can be reinforcing, especially when they’re in the early stages and have a road ahead to full maturity,” he added. And sometimes employees can be more positive than leaders.

For example, Royal recently worked with an organization where employees thought the company was connecting well with its diverse customers. But, he observed, “Leaders were challenging the organization and saying ‘We need to do more to connect with external stakeholders in new ways. We need to leverage diversity, equity, and inclusion to help us do that more effectively.’” Regardless of how it plays out, all of these are useful insights, Royal said.

Getting buy-in for a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy

While building a DE&I strategy is an initiative often started from the top down, Kirtzman observed that the exercise “can also be an initiative that gets buy-in from leaders.”

That’s because assessing your organization and evaluating that data against a maturity model yields data, which is so critical to convincing leaders to move forward with a strategy.

Kirtzman added, “It’s great if you have buy-in up front. But if you run a survey, if you run an assessment and an audit and see all of the discrepancies among demographic groups, that’s data that the leadership team can’t ignore. That data shows the impact on productivity, an impact on retention, and an impact on all of those other metrics that everyone is interested in.”

Polonskaia added, “With that data, you don’t have to start at the enterprise level. You can start within a specific business unit, where you already know they understand the importance of DE&I and have the right energy and readiness. And then you can start the project in a way that will create momentum for the rest of the organization.”

With the right data, you don’t have to start at the enterprise level. You can start within a specific business unit, where you already know they understand the importance of DE&I.

How to optimize your organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy

Before you embark on your diversity, equity, and inclusion journey, you need to understand your organization’s current state. Only then can you sort out your priorities and determine how to reach your goal of a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

To get started, watch the full webinar, How to create a DE&I strategy that works, and think about where your organization falls on our DE&I Maturity Model.

Next, you’ll need true insights into your employee experiences and perceptions. That’s why you’ll need the Korn Ferry DE&I Compass, a simple yet powerful 15-minute survey that can chart a course for moving forward and measuring your progress. Our specialists will also design a roadmap to guide you along your journey to optimizing your diversity, equity, and inclusion maturity — contact us for more details.