Four organisations share their journeys to a more inclusive workforce.
By Simon Kent
Make no mistake, creating and maintaining a diverse workforce is both a business imperative and a huge challenge for today’s employers. Researching the subject back in 2012, McKinsey found companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity experienced 53 per cent higher returns on equity, on average, than those in the bottom quartile. Forbes has also identified diversity as a key to innovation, claiming “diversity is no longer simply a matter of creating a heterogeneous workforce, but using that workforce to innovate and give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
More recently, research from the Boston Consulting Group suggested that people who do not believe their company is committed to diversity are three times more likely to leave their job in the next three years than those who do.
It is not sufficient, therefore, to treat D&I as a tick box exercise, nor is it a case of simply bringing in a diverse workforce and letting them get on with it. HR leaders must be proactive in ensuring their businesses retain that diversity and make the most of it in every way they can.
“HR has a significant influence in creating a healthy, authentic work environment,” says Kirsty Adams, global HR director at Resource Solutions. “We need to ensure that our employee value proposition is reflective of the needs of our workforce. We live in an era whereby we have a multi-generational workforce in play and HR has a responsibility to ensure that not only diversity but inclusivity is embedded into every process to ensure it permeates through an organisation’s culture.”
For Adams, this means everything from creating smart working policies to assessing the way employee feedback is taken and responded to.
“By ensuring that your existing staff are aware that you embrace diversity and inclusion as a business, you may be able to reach candidates from a broader range of backgrounds who can introduce unique skills into your workforce,” she says.
Hilde Haems, CHRO at global payroll and HR company SD Worx, warns that companies may not want to trust high recruitment and retention rates as a metric for diversity success. “If recruitment and retention rates are positive, businesses risk being blind to other opportunities for improvement,” she says. “This is where practices such as gathering regular employee feedback are so important in gaining insight from teams on how best to integrate people from different backgrounds and with different outlooks. Furthermore, HR teams need to do more than just attract diverse talent, recognising that it’s onboarding and development that will require different approaches if the D&I strategy is to be successful.”
At Fujitsu, Sarah Kaiser, employee experience, diversity and inclusion lead in EMEIA, explains that getting the right communications around D&I has involved building inclusive networks around the company, including “Shine” (their LGBT+ employee network), the cultural diversity network, the gender network, and “SEED” (Support and Engage Employees with a Disability). “All of these networks are designed to enhance the capacity of our employees to achieve their full potential,” she says.
However, Kaiser is clear that any D&I initiative will be compromised if it doesn’t key into business progress and success in the company: “We address this through the use of workforce analytics,” she says. “This ensures Fujitsu is taking an evidence-based approach, setting meaningful targets, and designing interventions that will enhance the capacity of employees to achieve their full potential and deliver what matters to customers.”
In recent years, Philip Morris International (PMI) has undertaken a radical change within its business, and the journey continues with D&I at its very heart. Having committed to becoming a smoke-free business, the company is reinventing itself around diversity. Indeed, so important is this issue that HR Director Charles Bendotti’s department has been renamed to “People and Culture.” Bendotti would also rather address inclusion before diversity since: “Diversity is pretty easy to do. Creating a mix among your workforce is straightforward but inclusion is much more complex. That’s about how the mix works together.”
Whilst recruiting a more diverse workforce, PMI has had to challenge and change their existing culture. The switch to smoke-free has required new skills -particularly in the field of technology -but the challenge has also been to alter the makeup of the workforce to address the gender balance. PMI strives to become truly multi-cultural, a particular issue since some in the organization felt that being a multinational business made the company “diverse by default.”
Having started with a programmatic approach to diversity and inclusion, Bendotti and his team realised they needed to address company culture. They did this through an initiative that reached nearly 10,000 employees across the business. These employees were asked what aspects of the organisation should be maintained and where change should occur as they moved forward.
Using this to define the new culture, the next move was to embed that culture across the business. This started with talent acquisition but has since been adopted in practically every other area of the business. Consequently, the process has touched everyone in the business, with particular attention being paid to the leadership team. “Now what we do not only embeds diversity into talent acquisition but it’s there in every learning experience you may have at the company, every assessment, and every meeting,” says Bendotti. “We went from a programmatic approach to one which means inclusion is considered everywhere.”
By starting down the road and taking clear strong diversity initiatives, HR can help organisations become automatically inclusive in their everyday business.