Years ago, when organisations talked about D&I practices, most of the time it simply referred to gender diversity. Today, however, D&I clearly goes beyond that - it extends beyond genders to include people with disabilities and mental health conditions, of diverse cultural backgrounds and age groups, mums re-entering the workforce, and more.

In light of that, organisations are constantly reviewing their policies and practices, thus impacting how employees feel about their organisations. On that note, the latest 2019 Pulse Survey by Russell Reynolds Associates has found that when an organisation has advanced D&I strategies, executives working there are about 30% more likely than others to feel highly loyal, innovative, and set up for top performance.

As part of the survey, close to 850 executives around the world (5.43%, or 46 respondents, were from APAC) were asked about their perceptions and experiences regarding D&I at work.

They were then asked to classify their organisations' efforts into one of the three maturity categories: Firstly, the early stage, whereby D&I is treated primarily as a compliance issue, and the D&I strategy is largely reactive. Secondly, the intermediate stage, wherein D&I is treated as a talent issue and the organisation focuses on diverse employees. Thirdly, the advanced stage, where D&I is treated as a business and organisational issue, and engages all employees.

Of the respondents, about 21% considered their organisations to be in the early stage, while three in 10 (30%) found their firms in the intermediate stage. Lastly, 15% considered their firms advanced.

On the other hand, three in 10 respondents said their organisations had no D&I strategy, while a lower 4% were not sure whether theirs had one.

What makes for an "advanced" organisation?

As seen in the report, what makes an organisation advanced is when it is better at hiring, retaining and developing diverse talent and creating inclusive leaders and cultures, as well as implementing unbiased talent management processes.

These organisations, in fact, are able to experience better business outcomes than less-advanced organisations, as seen below:



In line with that, the report has identified the five best-practices that advanced organisations have implemented in their D&I strategy, which can serve as a food-for-thought for organisations looking to build a more diverse and inclusive organisation.

#1 Hire, retain, and develop diverse talent

Whether an organisation is in the beginning stages of its journey, the middle, or the end, it is important for leaders to make the extra effort to be intentional about diversity.

In particular, these leaders should make a visible commitment to D&I, and create authentic partnerships with diversity-focused organisations to have access to the broadest pools of talent.

Once these leaders have hired diverse talent - across cultures, age groups and more, they should actively sponsor these talent and ensure they are provided with the much-needed visibility and stretch opportunities to advance in the firm.



#2 Build inclusive cultures

Based on findings, leaders in advanced organisations are nearly twice as likely to feel that their organisation is effective at fostering an inclusive culture. They are both able to identify a certain demographic that tends to leave the firm, and also get to the root of why this population is leaving.

Additionally, these leaders are able to tackle the top barrier to having an effective D&I strategy - which is, as identified in the report, a culture that is resistant to change. In doing so, the organisation is able to thus actively build a more inclusive culture by holding the right people accountable to changing organisational norms and values.



#3 Develop inclusive leaders

With a lack of leadership accountability and commitment to D&I identified as another top barrier to an effective D&I strategy, it is important that leaders lead inclusively.

These leaders are able to create opportunities for collaboration, leverage diverse perspectives, and ensure an environment where employees can safely voice their opinions. These leaders also develop other inclusive leaders, to create a culture that focuses on D&I as a business value.


#4 Create unbiased talent management processes

These leaders take a rigorous, data-driven approach to talent management, and are able to understand specific D&I pain points in their processes - from recruitment, to compensation, and retention.

To address this, these leaders make it a point to implement a plan that helps reduce or eliminate any bias in the organisation, and make the necessary changes to their D&I strategy and broader talent efforts.



#5 Create a sustainable D&I operating model

Last but not list, leaders of successful D&I organisations understand that a self-sustaining inclusive organisation has to have an appropriate D&I operating model. This comes in the form of governance, structure, and accountability and resourcing to cater to these D&I objectives.

These leaders also realise the importance of both a long-term holistic approach, as well as a focus on short-term metrics and incentives in meeting key milestones.

At the end, they are then able to make the right investments that support their culture, leaders and talent.


Lead image and infographics / Russell Reynolds