Most companies seem to agree, at least on paper, on non-discrimination and providing equal development opportunities to individuals. But how can an organisation ensure that this actually happens in practice? As boundaries blur and human interconnections multiply, DEIB initiatives are no longer an option but a part of company culture.

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What are DEIB policies?

Despite the undoubted benefits that inclusion and diversity policies can bring to a company, there are times when their implementation can go wrong or fall short. A hypothetical example is when these policies are used to meet quotas or superficial metrics, rather than to foster a truly inclusive and diverse work environment.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) policies seek to redress this with a much more holistic view. These initiatives aim to create and maintain a work environment free of discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion or any other characteristic.

  • Diversity refers to the presence of and respect for differences between people within an organisation.
  • Equity seeks to ensure that all employees have equal opportunities to grow and prosper.
  • Inclusion is about creating an environment in which all people feel valued, respected and supported, regardless of who they are or what background they have.
  • And belonging refers to the feeling of being valued and connected to a group or community.

If adopted by every organization altogether, these four guidelines can ensure a work environment that is representative, welcoming and free from discrimination. By implementing these policies, organisations can benefit from a greater diversity of ideas and perspectives, which can drive innovation and business performance.


DEIB policies drive organisational success

There’s a considerable and growing body of research demonstrating the positive correlations between higher DEIB and improved benefits and employee experience. This is described by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in this 2021 report.

In an ILO survey of nearly 13,000 companies in 70 countries, 57% of them said that initiatives to promote gender equality had helped improve their business performance. Similarly, strong feelings of inclusiveness among employees have been linked to a reduction of up to 50 % in the risk of job turnover, according to HBR.

On the other hand, research conducted by McKinsey in 15 countries shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity within their executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability compared to companies in the fourth quartile. While companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers in terms of profitability.


Moreover, as the ILO report notes, research conducted in 171 German, Swiss and Austrian companies of various sectors and sizes found that those with inclusive business cultures and policies are more likely to report increased creativity and innovation and better assessment of consumer interest and demand.


How to drive an effective DEIB strategy

More and more companies are committing to becoming more diverse, inclusive and equitable, but for many it is difficult to make meaningful progress in these areas. McKinsey sets out five key steps to achieve and drive a robust internal DEIB strategy:

  • Align with the vision.
  • Build the fact base.
  • Develop the plan.
  • Take action. Mobilise capacities and resources.
  • Moving forward. Measuring progress to expand and maintain momentum.


STEP 1: Aspire

Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging objectives, according to the consultancy firm, should be ambitious, but also realistic and achievable. To accomplish this, it’s important that the DEIB goal is linked to the overall goal of the organisation and does not become an isolated priority.

One agricultural company, for example, set out to create gender parity in its organisation by 2030. Leaders conducted a thorough analysis of employee retention and promotion trends and realised that, to meet that goal, 80% of new hires in the next few years would have to be women. Given the state of the industry, the leaders realised that this would be difficult to achieve, so they revised the aspiration to make it more realistic, while maintaining an ambitious target.


Step 2: Evaluate

Often, companies undertake DEIB initiatives without a clear vision of the problems to be solved, the most effective strategies or the criteria for success. To gain a better understanding of the current state of the organisation and the direction of its goals, McKinsey advises that leaders should take the time to establish a quantitative and qualitative benchmark.

Quantitative analysis focuses on hard data such as historical trends in recruitment, retention and promotion for each demographic group. This data can provide a clear picture of employee representation in the company and help identify areas that require more attention.

On the other hand, qualitative information can provide a deeper and more personalised context to this data. Through focus groups, interviews and anonymous surveys, organisations can gain a richer understanding of employees’ experiences and needs. Together, these two types of analysis can help organisations design and implement more effective and meaningful DEIB initiatives.


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Step 3: Design

After establishing a clear aspiration and baseline analysis for DEIB initiatives, it’s time to design a strategic plan. This plan should be based on the company’s own objectives and seek to address the identified challenges. It is recommended to focus on a few large initiatives that reinforce each other, adapting them to different cultures and business contexts.


STEP 4: Take action

To achieve real change, companies must have the right capabilities and resources.

* Capabilities: Organisations need DEIB experts, business leaders and change advocates who are passionate about improving diversity, equity and inclusion in their workplaces to work together to make significant progress in organisational culture. These three groups have different skills and knowledge that complement each other in achieving DEIB goals.

* Resources: Too often, widespread improvements in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are mandated without adequate equipment or budget. Quantitative and qualitative analyses can help leaders understand the degree of change they should expect across the organisation and therefore the resources that may be required for a successful DEIB transformation.


STEP 5: Move forward

Progress on diversity, equity, inclusion and inclusion initiatives must be measured and evaluated with clear metrics. Transparency is crucial, and leaders should regularly share progress on DEIB, although detailed HR data should be kept confidential. Sharing goals, progress and success can help inspire and raise awareness among employees.

In conclusion, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging policies are more than a passing trend or a simple fulfilment of requirements. They represent a structural change in organisations. Effective implementation of these policies can result in more diverse and innovative teams, a more respectful and equitable work environment, and a more inclusive society. However, it’s important to remember that these policies must go beyond paper and become tangible and sustainable practices. The journey towards diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is continuous and requires the ongoing commitment on everybody’s part.