D&I strategies that work (how to create a work culture of high performance)

Are D&I strategies something that can be used to create a culture of high performance? As discussions about diversity and inclusion (D&I) gain more prominence, more and more organisations are creating D&I initiatives, enabling them to attract top talent and provide them with a working environment in which they can thrive.

Despite this, research suggests that many strategies aren’t having the desired impact. In fact, almost half of the UK workforce felt that their employer had made no progress in improving D&I at their company within the last three years. These figures indicate that businesses still have much to do to make impactful changes to their culture and therefore performance. But how are they linked?

To demonstrate our individuality and togetherness

What do D&I strategies have to do with high-performance work cultures?

Many see diversity and inclusivity as ‘the right thing to do’, without recognising the link to high-performance work cultures. However, there are several reasons why it should be a core, long term strategy, one of the primary ones being that businesses have increased access to talent.

Every business wants to attract and retain top talent, after all, having the best team is going to generate success and a competitive advantage. However, many factors including unconscious bias narrow the scope of talent. One study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics looked at 22000 firms globally in 2016. Looking at gender alone, they found that organisations that transitioned from having no women in corporate leadership roles to having 30% of women in leadership showed an average 15% increase in profitability. It was also found that female CEOs consistently outperform their male counterparts.

So, what does this tell us? While this study focuses on women in leadership, it reflects the need for inclusion across the board. Having the policies and processes in place to remove barriers to progression allows businesses to access the skills, experiences and perspectives of a diverse workforce and create an innovative environment where all employees are rewarded and able to fulfil their potential.

Knowing your D from your I

Any strategy based on guesswork and speculation will be ineffective, it’s crucial to have a thorough understanding of what D&I actually consists of. One study showed that while 70% of businesses believe they effectively attract and retain diverse workers, just 11% understand what it actually means.

D&I is an organisation’s strategy to nurture a diverse workplace in which everyone feels comfortable and welcome and uses diversity within the business as a driving force for growth and increasing competitive edge. So, what are some of the considerations you need to take to create an effective D&I strategy?

Get first-hand insight

Before you create a D&I strategy, it’s essential to understand the adverse impact of non-inclusive policy, process and behaviour by identifying the barriers and opportunities that influence diversity of hire and ongoing talent management.

This includes a detailed analysis of policy and process documentation for all or parts of the employee life cycle from attraction through to retirement.

Making assumptions about the issues experienced by your workforce without being in their shoes, inevitably leads to judgements that aren’t representative of how your employees truly feel.

Ensure you approach your workforce to gain their insight. Open conversations through interviews and focus groups are a great way to gain insight and invaluable data. However, not everyone will feel comfortable openly discussing certain topics, so a way around this is to get your employees to complete anonymous surveys about their experience at your business and what they think will help to drive diversity and inclusion.

As well as gaining vital information to create an effective D&I strategy, you will make your employees feel more valued if you ask for their point of view and are then able to act on it. Additionally, research shows that employees who feel valued and respected are more loyal to their company, and show increased resilience and cooperation with others, so there are plenty of benefits in asking for the insight of your employees.

A good D&I strategy needs to engage at a root and brand level of the organisation and should have a direct impact on every aspect of the employee lifecycle. Key to its success is leadership buy in to fundamental change of behaviour and culture; without this there is often little if any sustainable impact.

Measure your progress

Most businesses are no stranger to measuring results; measuring the progress of your D&I strategy is no different. Success within business can be attributed to processes and actions that stimulate sustainable growth. Despite this, the success and progression of many companies’ D&I strategies seem to have stagnated from the perspective of UK workers. A recent survey found that 74% of workers knew that their company had implemented diversity programmes, but only 33% of those who were meant to benefit said they had gained anything from the initiative.

To measure your progress, you need to evaluate where you are now and cite goals that you can work towards through your strategy. This will give you an idea of how effective the strategy is and how quickly it’s progressing. When setting goals, ensure you strike a balance between both diversity and inclusion targets. After all, you may well have a diverse workforce, but does everyone feel comfortable and empowered to put forward their opinions to drive innovation and success?

Listen to experts

If your organisation is attempting to implement D&I without external help, it can be all-too-easy to focus too much on the level of diversity rather than where both diversity and inclusion intersect to foster a high-performance work culture. This is because diversity can easily be measured by numbers. In contrast, the effects of inclusion are reflected more within the quality of work, employee engagement, levels of innovation; the list could go on. Because this is more challenging to measure, it’s at risk of falling into the shadow of a push for diversity. Without an equal approach to both, you’re not going to create a culture of high performance successfully.

As well as identifying opportunities for improvement by yourself, it’s always useful to consult experts who have substantial experience in helping organisations to build the business case for D&I. By taking this approach, you should be able to develop a watertight D&I strategy founded on a proven track record of success.

Conclusion

Overall, there’s clearly a lot more businesses could be doing to achieve growth and innovation by establishing an effective D&I strategy. A robust strategy will improve inclusive behaviours and create a culture of high performance for all, which will in turn, benefit the business significantly. If you want your business to maintain its competitive edge, adopting an effective D&I strategy should be a priority – and when you fully understand what D&I can do for your business, there’s no question of whether it’s an option or not.

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