Diversity – It’s true, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy

These three best practices from Deloitte & Touche can be used as a blueprint for any organization committed to creating a diverse workplace.

I am proud to say that right now the organization I work for is the most diverse it has ever had in its history – certainly a lot more than it was 29 years ago when I first walked through the doors. And I’m confident that, like many other companies across America, we will continue to become more diverse as time goes on. Diversity Offers Big Benefits: Organizations like Catalyst and Diversity Inc have calculated the higher returns on equity of companies with more women or minority leaders, respectively. At my organization, we find that our clients are increasingly concerned to determine whether we have a robust diversity and inclusion program before engaging with them. And it’s entirely appropriate that our clients want to know if the organization they are reaching out to shares their values ​​of diversity.

But just because variety is the right thing doesn’t mean it’s easy. The truth is that for a number of people working in American business today – at every level of every organization – diversity may not come naturally. The generation now entering the workforce – Generation Y – seems to accept and even demand diversity as a natural part of their lives, but their parents and grandparents who are still in the workforce may still need to work on it a little more.

Fortunately, the more we managers increase diversity in both our rosters and our thinking, the more natural it becomes in our organizations. At Deloitte US Firms, we have been guided by three best practices and while implementation may differ in other industries, I believe the core ideas underlying these commitments are applicable to any business situation:

1. It is critical that the highest levels of leadership show visible and unequivocal commitment to diversity and inclusion.
2. The corporate culture must embrace the diversity that its leaders invite.
3. Managers must make a conscious effort to manage the talent in the organization’s pipeline.
Let’s look at these in reverse order:
Management of the talent in our pipeline

We need to be smarter about managing the talent in our pipeline. Many companies do a good job of hiring talented people from all backgrounds, but too many companies have paid less attention to what happens to those new hires after they sign the contract — which explains why America’s boardrooms are still largely white and male.

Hiring people is just the first step in building a diverse organization. The real work of managing a diverse talent pipeline doesn’t happen in HR, it happens in the offices, in the field, in the day-to-day running of the business — as we develop our people’s talents, giving them real-world knowledge and work experiences that expand their skillsets.

As managers, we have to help all of our employees to find their niche in the organization – based not only on their skills but also on their passions. And we need to make sure that when we staff projects, we consider more than just the needs of the client—we also look closely at the needs of our employees: will the role steer them in the right direction? advance your career?

We must encourage our employees to build the formal and informal networks that help them get their jobs done. And it’s important that at every stage we remain open to learning from each other and gathering information about the opinions and experiences of different people in our organizations. This information can help an organization become even smarter in its diversity and inclusion efforts.

Ensure that the corporate culture accepts diversity

Any company working on diversity must ask itself a difficult question: Is our corporate culture truly embracing the differences it invites?

Is it really okay for employees to have flexible working hours, or do we see people who choose this option as wrong? Are we really embracing the different perspectives that arise from the increased commitment to minority recruitment, or do we secretly believe that this is all just the “politically correct” course of action? We must answer these questions honestly, because no change can really take off if it is encouraged on one side of the organization and hindered or diminished on the other.

Some smart companies, like Coca-Cola, have enlisted outside help to help them ask and answer the tough questions about diversity and culture change: they have set up an external Diversity Advisory Board. Deloitte’s US firms have done the same. It is a resource for management, providing us with insights from multiple perspectives and forcing us to be accountable to ensure the progress we are making is real.

Lead from above

The third issue companies need to address is integrating diversity and inclusion into the company’s DNA. To me, that means we must ensure that diversity is a conscious part of every hiring decision, every team put together for an assignment, every educational opportunity, every promotion and compensation decision.

If you want to be successful, diversity is not a part-time job. You can’t separate it from the “real” business of the company. If you want to be competitive, you have to be a diverse organization. And if being competitive isn’t a company’s core business, then I don’t know what is.

We need to make sure managers know, up and down, that we hold them accountable for their work to promote organizational diversity – both formally through tools like “scorecards” and informally through face-to-face discussions with leadership.

When I travel to the various offices of Deloitte’s US firms, I always make sure that diversity and inclusion is on the agenda. When I first ask managers what they are doing to support the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals, they may be surprised. But they know that the next time the question is asked, I expect them to have something substantive to say – and to report serious progress.

Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” He talked about ensuring greatness for a country, but I think it’s the same for a company. If we want our companies to remain competitive, if we want our companies to be great idea generators and problem solvers for our customers, or creators of innovative products for our customers, and if we want to be great places to work, we have a responsibility to ensure that efforts to Diversity and inclusion are successful.