Evolving D&I: Five Lessons from South African Organizations

Evolving D&I: Five Lessons from South African Organizations

According to our research at CEB, now Gartner, even though 85 percent of CEOs believe it enhances business performance, only one third of employees are satisfied with diversity and inclusion at their organization, while nearly 60 percent of heads of HR believe their D&I strategy is ineffective. Many organizations are focused on making their cultures more inclusive and ensuring compliance with evolving legislation, but aren’t always seeing the results they had hoped for.

At our recent summit for HR executives in Johannesburg, more than 100 HR executives from 45 organizations had the opportunity to share ideas and hear from a panel of their peers how progressive organizations in South Africa are addressing the challenge of enhancing and evolving their D&I strategies.

1) Bring the Outside In

When defining what successful D&I looks like, our participants highlighted ideas and innovations, deliberate dialogue and co-creation, and thinking about diversity in all aspects: clients, products, and employees alike. The more integrated these are, the greater the impact. Many companies find that hiring employees from more diverse backgrounds gives them a way to engage new markets through new products, ideas or services. By bringing new perspectives into the organization, companies were better able to address the needs of both employees and customers.

2) Tackle Systems and Processes

Organizations that have made progress on D&I stressed the value of accelerated development programs that have yielded results in nurturing internal talent, including C-suite executives developed from within the organization; as well as the need to make hard decisions such as suspending the promotion process because the pool of candidates was not diverse enough.

Even though 91 percent of S&P global companies offer D&I training with 46 percent of organizations conducting their D&I training to mitigate unconscious bias, but as one participant shared, “It’s hard to catch bias in the moment.” One way to mitigate bias is by creating accountability for decision makers. For example, rather than expecting a hiring manager to make unbiased decisions independently, organizations are using a diverse panel when interviewing candidates. (To learn more, CEB Recruiting Leadership Council members can read our research on Driving Diversity Through Talent Acquisition.)

3) Adopt a “One Employee” Paradigm

While a number of organizations are starting to implement initiatives to support mothers returning from maternity leave, one organization also spoke about an inclusive approach to support both men and women coming back from a career break, and another of the need to start from a place of inclusion, rather than difference, when employing people with disabilities. To leverage the diversity of a multi-generational workforce, one organization has created a council chaired by the CEO that includes employees from all different age groups to advise on decisions that affect the workforce. These innovations reflect a shift from D&I as being solely about representation and compliance and toward a bigger goal of creating an inclusive environment for all employees.

4) Build Inclusive Leaders

When it comes to operationalizing D&I, participants recalled the lessons they learned about building managers’ confidence and capability to have tough conversations and the value of working with teams to tackle D&I issues. We can’t assume managers know how to manage diverse teams. Look at the big decisions that drive your business, and make sure diverse perspectives are included in these decisions. This kind of open decision framework has been implemented by Red Hat to hold leaders accountability for always making inclusive decisions—CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can read our full case study on Red Hat’s system.

5) Make Data Your Ally

When it comes to measuring D&I progress, most organizations have robust measures to comply with requirements of legislated scorecards, and have also incorporated D&I measures into recruiting, development and retention processes. Others are leveraging ERGs and diversity forums to get feedback on what is working or not, and to recommend solutions. “Data is your friend,” one participant mentioned, pointing out that when you are able to present attrition data to a leader that clearly shows large numbers of people from a certain group have left the business unit, while others have not, this enables you to address the issue using evidence, rather than anecdotes. “You can’t argue with the facts.”