Diversity December 2013

The Business Case for D&I

Diversity and inclusion can boost the bottom line

• Thoroughly analyse staff satisfaction survey
• Diversity often a factor in proposal requests

I am constantly surprised by the number of conversations I have with organisations that are beginning to deliver diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives without having any sense of their business case for embarking on these measures.

Therefore, I thought it relevant to offer some ideas on how to assess and articulate sound supporting reasons for D&I programmes within an organisation.

Taking the time to craft a convincing, company-specific business case is crucial. The chief executive needs to be able to sell the idea to senior executives in a way that allows them, in turn, to persuade their teams of the initiatives’ value to them and the firm.

Below are five key areas to consider when assembling your business case.

Hiring the best from the widest talent pool
Firms want to attract the most talented people to join their workforces. But, what they often don’t realise is that they unconsciously eliminate more than half the available talent pool through bias in their selection processes, and by failing to convince diverse groups that they can have a thriving career in the organisation.

If candidates are not presented with convincing evidence that “someone like them” is doing well, they will vote with their feet.

Unconsciously, recruiters and hiring managers believe that, in their search, they are getting the best employee out there by looking for people who match what is typically a very limited success profile.

Hiring managers tend to employ people like themselves, often because of affinity bias, while recruiters can be reluctant to put forth candidates who don’t fit this typical profile because they want a successful placement.

Appealing to a wide and diverse pool of talent increases the likelihood that you are truly hiring the best person available for the job.

Retain talent by increasing engagement
There is a direct link between diversity, inclusion and engagement. When people feel included and that they are being treated fairly, their level of motivation, productivity and pride in their place of work is usually high.

Imagine what the impact on the bottom line would be if your organisation had less attrition and people were more productive.

Organisational traditions, systems and policies on many occasions favour the typical success profile. People who do not match that profile often become disengaged.

If possible, analyse the results of your employee satisfaction survey by comparing across gender, age groups, nationality, ability, background and other aspects of diversity. Inclusive systems, managers and corporate culture are key to cultivating and retaining a highly engaged, diverse workforce.

Market opportunities
This market-based argument varies depending on a firm’s industry.

Who are your clients? In what ways are they diverse? Does your organisation have people who can easily relate to clients and share their perspective?

Do you have a workforce made up of employees who can adapt to a range of expectations in terms of business culture? Have you considered the values of your clients?

Increasingly, organisations are beginning to include questions about diversity and inclusion in their requests for proposals. Sometimes candidates’ responses to these questions can count for up to 10–20% of their total score once proposals are assessed.

Unless your firm can show you have effective D&I initiatives in place, you may very well lose out on business opportunities, no matter how strong your proposal is.

Improved innovation
People with different backgrounds and perspectives have their own individual ideas, which can be widely disparate. However, our human need to belong often results in “group think”.

This calls for an environment and leaders that encourage different opinions, out-of-the-box thinking, constructive challenges and dissent.

If every member of a team feels included and that they have a voice in decision-making, together they have the potential for more creativity and more innovative thinking.

Rising to, or above, the competition
It is highly likely that many of your competitors already have a D&I agenda in place, in which case you need to catch up fast.

In industries and markets slow to catch on to the benefits of diversity and inclusion, you have the opportunity to be the pioneer—if you don’t claim that prize, your competition certainly will.

Your organisation’s specific approach to D&I can be a strong differentiating factor, and position your brand favourably for attracting new business and human capital management.

Much more than simply saying D&I initiatives are “the right thing to do,” elaborating on the vision and actually implementing programmes—as a business imperative—can give your firm a competitive advantage, as well as have a positive impact on the bottom line.