Overcoming diversity fatigue
Companies pour a huge amount of effort into D&I, but those efforts are often not customised or communicated well enough
HR Magazine published a bylined article, “Overcoming diversity fatigue” authored by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant
Veena Marr. She explains how companies invest huge amounts of effort in D&I, but those efforts are often not customised or well communicated. The article is excerpted below.
Thanks to changing social norms as well as national regulations, it is now routine for corporate leaders to profess their commitment to D&I, and back it up with such actions as hiring chief diversity officers, disclosing firm-level data, setting up employee resource groups and launching special mentoring programmes. Promisingly, in a Russell Reynolds Associates’ Diversity and Inclusion Pulse survey of more than 1,800 executives worldwide, nearly 80% of executives across all sectors agree that D&I will improve the performance of their organisation.
However, when it comes to specific results, such as creating diverse teams and inclusive environments, the numbers drop precipitously. Just 40% of employees see their leaders setting and communicating D&I goals, suggesting that lofty goals are not translating into actions. And fewer than four in ten (37%) believe their organisation is effective at actually retaining diverse talent, meaning the majority of firms fail to effectively follow through on programmes.
When good intentions and hard work don’t produce results both leaders and employees begin to feel diversity fatigue.
To overcome diversity fatigue – or avoid it in the first place – leaders need to work smarter, not harder on their D&I initiatives. Here are three ways they can begin to do that:
Diagnose the specific D&I challenges the company is facing rather than relying on a standard set of programmes or initiatives
Far too much effort is spent on the wrong solutions or even in addressing perceived challenges without taking the time to uncover where the real problems lie. This is frustrating for all concerned. Effective D&I strategies start with understanding the unique pain points within an organisation, defining the groups of people who most need to be served and making investments based on this data. An open and honest dialogue with a broad and diverse range of stakeholders is critical to success.
Encouragement from the top is crucial, but organisations also need to ensure functional and business unit leaders are reinforcing the importance of D&I in daily operations
Many CEOs have stepped up to show their support for D&I – an essential and irreplaceable part of making it an organisational priority. However, if the next tier of leaders across functions and business units is not actively promoting D&I in the daily operations of the company, few employees are likely to feel the effect of the organisation’s D&I investments. Leaders can be visibly inclusive in their approach by simply being open to different ideas and seeing the value in a range of perspectives.
Make D&I relevant to everyone in the organisation, not just diverse groups
One common failing of D&I initiatives is that they focus exclusively on diverse groups and fail to engage those who may not consider themselves diverse. As a result, a significant portion of the organisation may not know how to support D&I, or even how deeply others are affected by a broken culture. For example, men are about twice as likely as women to feel there are no barriers to their organisation’s D&I strategy, according to our Diversity and Inclusion Pulse survey.
Promoting diverse and inclusive environments requires a robust commitment to change management. By approaching it thoughtfully and strategically rather than reacting out of fear or social pressure, leaders can ensure their D&I efforts will be effective and worthwhile over the long term.
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