|Getting To Inclusion From The Top Down
A truly inclusive environment starts at the top. Diversity and inclusion “must be embedded in everything a business does,” says Rita Trehan, a global consultant interviewed in August by Diversity Q.
How do you convince senior leadership to embrace and invest in diversity and inclusion?
Here are three tactics: ask the right questions, press competitive advantage, and keep moving.
Tactic #1: Ask The Right Questions
In their Forbes article, “How to Convince Executives to Embrace Diversity,” Paolo Gaudiano and Ellen Hunt argue that “one of the greatest challenges in adopting diversity is getting buy-in from senior executives.”
Buy-in, they say, is hindered when the focus is on asking if diversity is “good” for the company, such as pointing out that diversity is fair or leads to more innovation. The quick answer, “Of course it’s good!” can lead to superficial solutions such as quotas rather than embedding inclusion into the business DNA.
Better questions, argue the Forbes authors, build from “How is the overall performance of our company linked to diversity and inclusion?” By searching for a more diverse blend of talent, companies “learn to measure the value of their talent,” and “to understand how their workplace environment, policies and initiatives impact the performance of individuals and the company as a whole.” This data-driven approach helps leadership champion inclusion.
Tactic #2: Press Competitive Advantage
Advocate for inclusion by using a broad array of statistics that show the business benefits of an inclusive workplace. For example:
- McKinsey has found that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers.
- Harvard Business Review reports that diverse companies are 70% more likely to report that they captured a new market.
- A study done in partnership with Deloitte Talent Management found that companies labeled as “inclusive” had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period.
The competitive advantage of inclusion builds on itself. Trehan describes how when D&I flows from the top of an organization, it drives a growing expectation of corporate performance “with everything connected with the business: suppliers become more diverse, the customer base expands…a wider expanse of shareholders come calling.”
Tactic #3: Keep Moving
You’ve gathered influencers who are passionate about diversity and inclusion, and together you’ve begun to press leadership about making inclusion a business imperative throughout the company. What if you don’t get a positive response? As consultant Vessy Tasheva says in a March 2019 Medium post, “Don’t give up. Keep improving your case, gather more supporters, and follow up!”
No one wants to see their company “talk a big game, but ultimately fail to take action,” says Katie Burke in a July 2018 Inc. article. She urges individuals who want to foster D&I in their organizations to “do your homework,” “proactively engage” and “over-communicate” the importance of diversity and inclusion.
“The best people in any organization are those who meaningfully add to your culture by challenging the status quo,” she adds, urging leaders to listen to those who communicate from the ground up.
The Path To Convincing Leadership
To advocate for senior leadership to build a culture of inclusion, ask questions that get to the heart of the issue, show the business benefits of inclusion, and don’t give up on a cause that can lead to real change.