Every person and talent executive I have spoken with in the past few years has referenced diversity and inclusion as a key focus area. Diversity covers a wide range of topics—it means having a diverse group of people based on gender, religion, race, generation, sexual orientation, and more. The Royal Bank of Canada has a great definition of diversity and inclusion: “In simple terms, diversity is the mix of people; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.”
Forbes Insights published a study that highlights how diversity affects innovation, productivity, job satisfaction, ability to attract and retain talent, and the like. Being diverse is simply the right thing to do and helps contribute to the overall brand image of the organization and the overall employee experience. People want to work for organizations that value diverse thought and people of all backgrounds and beliefs. This is also something that millennials and Gen Z employees care about. A study by PwC found that “millennials value diversity and tend to seek out employers with a strong record on equality and diversity.”
Karyn Twaronite is a partner and the global diversity and inclusiveness officer at EY, a multinational professional services firm with over 200,000 employees around the world. In an hourlong discussion I had with her, I asked her what she does, and her response perfectly explains what diversity and inclusiveness is all about. She said, “My role is about our firm appreciating the unique differences and talents of all our people in the 150-plus countries [where they operate] and then allowing our teams to best leverage those collective differences so that they can be higher-performing teams, provide the best client service, innovate, and deliver better solutions.” Karyn also shared that diversity and inclusiveness is not just about gender, religion, and sexual orientation, but it also includes diversity of beliefs, experience, technical expertise, and pretty much anything else that makes people different. Karyn and her team at EY also tie their diversity and inclusiveness efforts to real business impact. As a result they have seen lower turnover, higher retention, higher revenue growth and gross margin, greater team collaboration, and increased brand favorability.
Kaiser Permanente is a healthcare provider with almost 200,000 employees. DiversityInc recently ranked it as the number one company for diversity, which is a tremendous achievement. At Kaiser, diversity is embedded into every aspect of how the organization operates internally and how it interacts with customers. In fact, the chairman and CEO, Bernard J. Tyson, personally signs off on executive compensation tied to diversity, diversity metrics, and progress, goals, and achievement for supplier diversity. Looking at the Kaiser Glassdoor rankings, it’s quite apparent that this focus on diversity is not only noticed by employees but also extremely appreciated.
Sodexo is a French food services and facilities management company with over 400,000 employees around the world that also has a strong diversity and inclusion effort. At Sodexo 25% of the executive team’s bonus is tied to how well they perform on their diversity scorecard. For management the percentage is 10-15%. Sodexo credits its diversity and inclusion programs with increasing overall employee happiness and satisfaction as well as expanding its business development opportunities.
The Sodexo diversity and inclusion effort is based on four things:
Connect to the business—Build the value of the brand, attract and retain the best people, drive innovation and productivity, grow new business, and improve customer service.
Leadership commitment—All executives at Sodexo are expected to show their commitment to diversity and inclusion through their words and actions.
Top down, bottom up, and middle out deployment strategy—Grassroots efforts, executive role modeling, and the cross-market diversity council led by mid-level managers.
Accountability and measurement—Metrics such as the diversity index, which influences pay.
These are just a few examples of organizations that believe in diversity and inclusion, which makes it easier for them to attract and retain the best and brightest talent in the world.
Companies that champion diversity and inclusion create a welcoming and open environment that showcases respect and appreciation for all employees, and for people in general. To build diversity in your organization, define what it means and what it looks like, then tie the program to something meaningful. When employees feel welcome at your organization, everyone wins.
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