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[Re]Think Diversity Webinar: A 10-Point Framework For Excellence in DE&I

By Dave Anderson - April 21, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged, so too did inequality. The demand to study and understand DE&I has increased with the social, political, and economic challenges of the past year. Research from Perceptyx and Josh Bersin Academy shows that organizations have a long way to go to make DE&I progress—but effort is skyrocketing.

One of the challenges organizations face is wading through all the DE&I resources suddenly available. In part two of our [Re]Think Diversity Webinar series, Brett Wells, Ph.D., Director of People Analytics at Perceptyx, partnered with Kathi Enderes, Ph.D., VP of Research at Josh Bersin Academy, Kristy Lilas, Senior Director of Inclusion & Diversity, Office of the CEO at Cengage, and Davinder Johal, Senior Consultant at Perceptyx, to cut through the noise and share research-backed insights for DE&I excellence.

There Isn’t a Common Definition for DE&I

There is not yet a widely accepted definition for DE&I. Why is this a problem? Organizational leaders are unclear of exactly what they need to achieve, preventing them from ever excelling at DE&I. 

Josh Bersin Academy analyzed five of the “Best of DE&I” lists (lists that rank companies on DE&I success) and found that only one of the 205 total companies appeared on all five. The competing “Best of” lists that focus on other business success areas (e.g., financial performance, brand strength) have more overlap because there are objective, agreed-upon criteria. 

10 Research-Backed Points for DE&I Excellence

Perceptyx collaborated with Josh Bersin Academy to create a research-driven framework for DE&I excellence. A total of 838 organizations were surveyed on 84 DE&I practices, and the results were correlated to a variety of business outcomes. The findings were shared and discussed with senior DE&I executives from large companies to understand what works and how the research could be turned into practice. The extensive study resulted in 10 key findings:

1. DE&I excellence is spotty.

Some industries are much better than others at implementing a DE&I strategy. And only one in five companies holds themselves accountable to DE&I results. 

2. Employee listening is the top driver of excellence. 

Listening to employees and acting on their feedback is the top driver of DE&I outcomes. Why? Listening switches DE&I from a compliance program to one focused on performance and growth. When leaders listen empathetically and respond, their behavior is naturally inclusive.

3. DE&I skills must be improved in every HR role. 

While DE&I is an organizational-wide initiative, HR plays a big role in it. However, about 80% of HR professionals are DE&I beginners who need to expand their knowledge and skill set. 

4. DE&I must permeate the talent chain.

Hiring diverse candidates isn’t enough. DE&I practices must continue through the talent chain to onboarding, training, professional development, performance management, and workforce planning.

5. C-Suite commitment, not diversity training, makes a big difference. 

Many studies show diversity training raises awareness but has little impact on results. The reality is DE&I is not a training problem, it’s a strategy and culture problem that requires commitment and direction from the C-Suite. 

6. Metrics and goals are mandatory for success.

Metrics and goals must be set for there to be DE&I progress. Defining DE&I benchmarks, setting goals and outcomes, and communicating metrics internally lay the foundation for DE&I excellence. 

7. The business must be accountable for DE&I.

Accountability must happen at all levels, in and outside the organization, as no one person or group can achieve the desired outcomes alone. There must be a DE&I ecosystem that extends through the workforce to suppliers and other external business partners. 

8. Executive focus drives results.

DE&I must be an integral part of the overarching business strategy. When leaders set the DE&I vision for the organization, and model inclusive behavior, employees feel comfortable being their authentic selves, speaking their truth, and sharing their perspectives. 

9. DE&I excellence absolutely drives superior business performance.

Companies that excel at the most impactful DE&I practices are more profitable, have higher customer satisfaction, and drive innovation in their industries. Every employee is empowered to do their best work when they feel a sense of belonging, which has a positive effect across the business.

10. Inclusion is the goal, diversity is the result.

DE&I isn’t just about increasing diversity in the workforce. It’s achieved through a behavioral and culture shift that is inclusive to different perspectives, mindsets, and orientations—then diversity follows. 

DE&I Excellence Starts With Employee Listening

When Josh Bersin Academy correlated the 84 DE&I practices to business outcomes, they found employee listening was by far the best predictor of excellence. 

Mindful listening is a naturally empathetic and inclusive behavior. What does that mean for organizations? There needs to be a culture that values actively listening, hearing what’s said, and acting on the results. Employees feel valued knowing their thoughts, opinions, and perspectives matter and that leadership takes their feedback to heart. 

The Four Levels of DE&I Excellence

This 10-point framework demonstrates that organizations must take a holistic approach to DE&I. While some have made strides, there are four organizational maturity levels when it comes to achieving DE&I excellence:

Level 1: Risk Mitigation & Compliance

DE&I efforts are only in place to mitigate legal, compliance, and reputational risks. HR acts as an enforcer of policies and rules and the business doesn’t take much ownership for DE&I results. 

Level 2: Listening & Responding

Leaders believe in the benefits of DE&I. They listen to employee feedback and make some effort to resolve DE&I-related issues. 

Level 3: Strategic Focus & Commitment

The CEO and leadership team provides direction on how to drive DE&I in all aspects of the business and people programs. 

Level 4: Accountability & Outcome-focused

The organization meets all the criteria of the previous three levels, while also holding itself accountable to DE&I outcomes. 

40% of companies say they’re still at level one. While most organizations have progress to make, remember that DE&I is a never-ending journey. There will always be opportunities to listen to employees and take positive actions. 

To learn more, and get an in-depth explanation of all 10 points, watch the full session on-demand.

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