Perspectives

Moving diversity and inclusion from categories to completeness

A Boston Business Journal series

Why aren’t formal diversity programs enough?

Moving diversity and inclusion from categories to completeness

An employer’s perspective, as shared by William K. Bacic, New England managing partner, Deloitte LLP

Our modern workforce sees a commitment to workplace diversity as table stakes, much like the commitment that is given to employee safety. Inclusion has the potential to truly unleash human potential and drive strategic business outcomes for your organization.

However, while the importance of creating inclusive workspaces is known, many organizations are struggling to fully leverage the business benefits of a diverse workforce. In fact, nearly one-third of respondents to the Global Human Capital Trends survey said they are unprepared in this area.

But why is the business community so unprepared? One thought is that many organizations see diversity primarily as a matter of compliance—a regulatory box to be checked. In fact, the most popular diversity initiative in companies today continues to be the use of business resource groups (BRGs), groups specifically created for and targeted to distinct demographic populations. BRGs’ primary aim is to help people identify shared experiences through a single dimension–the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation. While BRGs have provided safe spaces for many to share their unique challenges, many have done little to advance these professionals in the workplace.

It should come as no surprise then that these formal diversity programs may not be working. The new workforce is focused on being valued for the multiplicity of their identities—their whole self—as opposed to just the singular conventional delineations to which they belong.

As business leaders, we should consider taking the next essential steps to create a work environment that promotes inclusion in all its variations. Organizations should move from simply meeting minimum regulatory requirements for diversity to building an inclusive workplace that inspires employees to perform at their highest level.

Instead of focusing only on the visible aspects of diversity, such as gender, race, and age, business leaders should incorporate invisible aspects of diversity, such as diversity of thought, style, preferences, and veteran status, into their inclusion strategy. Including both the visible and invisible aspects will likely help create an inclusive workplace where employees can thrive and contribute as their full selves, rather than just those conventional delineations to which they belong.

To achieve greatness, organizations require participation from all members of the workforce. Thinking of diversity and inclusion holistically helps organizations see value and be conscious of the risk associated with sameness, especially in senior decision-makers. If organizations don’t position themselves to fundamentally change the conversation of diversity, they will likely lose talent.

As business leaders, we should stop looking at “the problem” and look forward to how we build future solutions—perhaps most importantly, our leaders need to engage those they are designing for (our employees) in defining both the problem and the solution. This will likely enable organizations to meet demands of the workforce and enable better business outcomes.

 

Nearly one-third of respondents to the Global Human Capital Trends survey said they are not fully prepared for Inclusion.

HR today requires a new playbook

Read the full Human Capital trends report to learn about leading in the new world of work.

Global organizations today navigate a “new world of work”—one that requires a dramatic change in strategies for leadership, talent, and human resources. More than 3,300 organizations from 106 countries contributed to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 survey, assessing the importance of specific talent challenges and their readiness to meet them.

Human capital trends

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