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Freshly released research findings have raised considerable doubts about traditional approaches to to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

The report – based on more than 800 responses from HR professionals from across the globe – revealed that 40% of organisations consider diversity and inclusion as a risk mitigation and compliance issue and have no comprehensive DEI strategy.

The 50-page report, Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion, from advisory firm Bersin & Associates found that less than 12% of companies compensate or even acknowledge senior leaders for achievement of specific inclusion or diversity goals.

Other key takeaways included:

• 76% of companies have no diversity or inclusion goals of any kind.
• 75% of companies do not include diversity & inclusion in their leadership development.
• Only 32% of companies mandate DEI training for employees and only a third offer such training to managers.
• Only 22% of respondents believe their company’s DEI efforts have raised awareness among employees or customers.

C-suite commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is crucial.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is a hotly discussed topic and clearly essential to business success. However there are no clear guidelines on how to effect lasting, meaningful change,” said Josh Bersin, a global industry analyst.

“The entire domain is highly complex, and many companies turn to legacy tactics of unconscious bias training, diverse recruiting and other directives that can backfire and even contribute to more division than unity,” he added.

“It’s time for CEOs and CHROs to define their businesses in diverse, fair, and inclusive ways.”

One of the most important findings of the report is the importance of focusing on inclusion and belonging, which in turn makes diversity sustainable. An organisation can drive workforce diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, or gender, but still have a culture in which minority employees feel disenfranchised.

Technology solutions can help organisations monitor feelings of inclusion among employees in a variety of different ways – ranging from targeted pulse surveys to network analysis.

A ‘hiring-only’ approach to addressing DEI issues is not effective. Minority candidates tend to leave a company if they feel excluded or see no diverse role models in leadership and management. Inclusive process design must be built into performance evaluations, rewards and pay, and development opportunities as well as all aspects of talent acquisition, the report stated.

“Across industries, geographies and organisational sizes, the most successful organisations are listening to their employees, and hear and act accordingly,” said Kathi Enderes, VP of research at Bersin & Associates.

“They also have strong, highly capable HR people to consult on DEI with leaders at all levels. These companies also have set clear, measurable goals that go beyond diversity representation and instill accountability across all levels.”