What should a company (of any size) do to increase Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and why?
We talked about DEI with executives from ASPAL Sardegna, the Sardinian Agency for Active Labour Politics, and from Sardegna Ricerche, the Public Agency assisting the Autonomous Region of Sardinia (Italy) in implementing its policies for research, innovation and technology development.
In particular, we analyzed and benchmarked the best practices in Silicon Valley, where the Tech Industry is promoting inclusion in order to allow every community to access, and create, the technology of the future.
Metrics published in recent studies by Deloitte Insight and by McKinsey* proved that diverse teams outperform the industry median in every key aspect of the business, from revenue, to profitability and EBIT margins. So, why haven’t managers been more effective in dealing with DEI?
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
A combination of factors has traditionally made it a delicate issue to deal with.
On one hand, a lack of team-level data has made it difficult tracking success, on the other hand, the sensitivities around DEI issues, combined with a general lack of awareness about systematic bias and barriers faced by underrepresented groups, has made managers wary before taking any significant action.
Yet DEI should be a business imperative and leaders should be held accountable. The difference between success and failure is made by effective and accountable leadership.
Managers should personally engage and lead DEI within their teams, by incorporating DEI metrics into performance evaluations and using these metrics to inform decisions about promotions and compensation. Moreover, leaders should inspire their teams and equip the team members with the knowledge and the resources, which will generate long term behavioral change. Behavioral change will increase inclusivity in the company’s culture and… “culture eats strategy for breakfast”!
Companies should deal with DEI like any other business priority, setting and communicating clear DEI goals, such as increasing the representation of underrepresented groups in leadership roles. Well-defined goals, governance systems, and data to track and measure success against DEI outcomes should be part of any company’s overall business.
Belonging, instead of being included
A final consideration concerns the term “belonging” and its power compared to the word “inclusion”. Inclusion means making space in an existing institution for members of excluded groups and expecting them to adapt to the new environment and behave accordingly. Talking about belonging means that you stop asking underrepresented groups to fix the problem by eliminating their differences, and instead start giving them a voice in the culture of that organization by sharing common values and responsibilities.
We left the Italian managers with a couple of questions for future reflection: when it comes to DEI, what is your company North Star and what will success look like?
Equity is the King
In conclusion, making DEI a business imperative means committing to it as a strategic priority, and taking action to create a more inclusive culture and workforce. It means making DEI a priority in decision-making, allocating resources and holding leadership accountable to drive change.
In the last years much has been done on the Diversity and Inclusion sides. Now it’s time to move forward with the Equity challenge. To use a “party” metaphor, Diversity has been invited to the event, Inclusion has been invited to dance, Equity doesn’t need to be invited, it’s already dancing.
“The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths”, Deloitte Review, issue 22, 2018
McKinsey&Company: “Delivering through Diversity”, 2018, and “Diversity and Inclusion”, 2022