By all accounts, 2020 was an unpredictable, unprecedented, and eye-opening year. COVID-19 emerged as a serious threat to public health and the global economy, and revealed how much work there is still left to do when it comes to addressing racial inequality and inequities across the globe. Given these events, many companies have begun to re-examine their diversity and inclusion initiatives. Yet Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leaders have many of the same goals and mechanisms to affect change as before, so what’s different now?
In conversations with 10 D&I and HR executives from businesses around the world, this report will highlight the answers to the following questions:
- What were the driving factors that made your company focus on diversity and inclusion?
- What are your 2021 D&I priorities and why are you focusing on them?
- What have been your biggest challenges as you pursued your D&I programs?
- What have been your most effective D&I programs to date and how have you measured their success on your overall business performance?
- What is your vision for the future of D&I and what can be done today to realize that future?
The 10 companies interviewed for this report include Marriott, DHL, Schneider Electric, Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Boston Scientific, Nielsen IQ, Anthem, General Motors and Siemens Energy.
These D&I executives emphasized that now more than ever, D&I must be more than a program—it must become deeply embedded in company culture and incorporated across the organization. Companies are using a variety of tactics to bring this vision to life. Some have dispersed the Chief Diversity Officer title across their organization, requiring ownership of D&I among several executives across multiple disciplines.
Others have taken steps to address the perception gap between how companies think they’re doing versus how employees actually feel. One study found that while senior leaders estimated that 98% of their employees felt included at work, in reality, only 80% of employees reported feeling included. Similarly, 68% of respondents said they believe they create inclusive environments, but only 36% of employees agreed.
But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to D&I, nor is there a single way to benchmark results and know that D&I initiatives are helping achieve organizational objectives. D&I and HR leaders emphasized that every company needs to determine the appropriate D&I strategy for themselves, based on organizational culture, strategy, industry and regional nuances, and more. In addition, the objectives of D&I initiatives must go beyond meeting compliance goals to effectively drive a sense of belonging and positively impact the business.
For D&I and HR leaders, the business and social imperative around diversity and inclusion is finally coming into focus. Employees expect leadership and action, customers are taking their business to companies with a proven commitment to D&I, and a growing number of laws and requirements are further advancing the cause. In today’s hyper-competitive economic environment, organizations must evolve or risk shrinking candidate pools, a smaller market share, and ultimately, lost profitability.
When asked, “What are your 2021 D&I priorities and why are you focusing on them?” Here’s what Tina Mylon, Senior Vice President, Talent and Diversity of Schneider Electric had to say—
“I’m still in collaboration with our management and our board on what our key priorities are, but I will start with a couple. For us, one overarching theme is creating more equity. And that’s why we keep enhancing the “E” part of DEI and are working toward creating equal opportunity for all our people, regardless of background profile and location. It sounds very grand, but the way we make it more granular and practical is by truly taking a DEI lens to every stage of the employee experience—from the moment they are attracted to us and know about Schneider, to all the life stages that they experience with us. So overall, that is how we create more equity and a more equal chance of success for all our employees around the world: through their experiences, through processes, and through policies. That will continue to be a big priority for us.
I think the other things that are really accelerating in 2021 are our new ways of working and flexible work. We know that especially for diverse talents— whether it’s gender, whether it’s home life situation, whether it’s generation— it’s key that they’re able to work with more internal flexibility, an internal gig mindset, and with more inclusion and more trust.
Just last fall in Q4, we rolled out our refreshed global flexibility policy to address new ways of working. The policy establishes a global standard, and for all countries to meet that standard or to surpass it, we want to formalize and really endorse a hybrid work model of work-from-home and work-from-office. Given our very diverse population, this is quite a big ambition for us.”
Read the full report and explore various D&I initiatives taken by business and HR leaders.
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