Driving Diversity and Inclusion from the Top
Despite the well-documented benefits, many companies still lag behind when it comes to creating a diverse workforce. In speaking with 60 top leaders, Russell Reynold Associates found that those at the top are pivotal to delivering change.
Scott A. Scanlon
The Hunt Scanlon article, “Driving Diversity and Inclusion from the Top,” quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant David Mills. In the article, David discusses the critical role of the Chair and CEO in creating a truly inclusive workplace. The article is excerpted below.
A growing body of research shows significant correlations between diverse leadership teams and better business outcomes. Diverse companies are better able to attract top talent; to improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction and decision-making; and to secure their license to operate, according to McKinsey & Company. In the majority of cases, they also improve their financial performance. And though diverse representation has been steadily increasing, much remains to be done.
Board chairs and CEOs play a critical role in driving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, according to a recent report by
Russell Reynolds Associates. In speaking with nearly 60 directors and senior executives at large global companies across 10 countries who helped foster change in their organizations, the search firm found a consistent emphasis on the vital part that the top leaders play in creating environments where everyone can thrive.
Bridging the Diversity Gap on Boards
Yet it is increasingly clear that simply hiring diverse employees is not enough to create business value, said the report’s authors, David Mills, Rachel Middleton and Harsonal Sachar, all of Russell Reynolds Associates.
An Inclusive Culture
To fully capitalize on the opportunities that diversity presents, leaders must also work to create an inclusive culture that allows all employees at every level to contribute their unique perspectives and maximize their potential. “If you have diversity, but a culture where people are unable or unwilling to speak up, then diversity doesn’t matter that much,” said Elizabeth Robinson, director of Russell Reynolds Associates and the Bank of New York Mellon Corp.
“Our research at Russell Reynolds Associates reveals that an organization’s senior-most leaders — CEOs, chairs and board members — play pivotal roles in creating inclusive cultures, regardless of their own diversity,” said the report. “In our inaugural D&I Pulse survey, we polled more than 2,100 executives about their employer’s diversity and inclusion efforts and their perceptions of and experiences in the workplace. One of the most striking findings was that when senior leadership (namely, the board and executive committee) champions D&I, key human capital outcomes improve.”
A common thread throughout the study’s conversations was the critical role that the chair and CEO can play in driving diversity and inclusion. Yet how chairs and CEOs deliver tangible results is often less clear.
For all the challenges associated with corporate diversity and inclusion efforts, the benefits that accrue to companies that meaningfully cultivate diversity and inclusion are too great to ignore, said Russell Reynolds Associates. “Diversity is vital to future-proof businesses and create organizational resilience, enabling organizations to more effectively preempt or mitigate risk and capitalize on a wider range of opportunities,” said the report. “As we look forward, it is the ability of leadership to create a culture and environment where the power of all forms of diversity can be fully realized that is the critical differentiator, and it will be one of the defining leadership attributes for the next generation.”
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