Employers Struggle to Advance Diversity Initiatives Beyond Compliance, Report Says

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By Caryn Freeman  

April 2 --Employers value diversity and inclusion initiatives, but many still struggle to advance them beyond basic compliance requirements, according to a study released March 31 by HR consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte.

The report, “Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarking Report: An Analysis of the Current Landscape,” featured more than 50 in-depth interviews with D&I professionals, as well as information gleaned from an online survey of 245 D&I leaders at organizations operating or headquartered in North America.

The report found that although a majority of organizations (71 percent) aspire, within three years, to have an “inclusive” culture, only 11 percent report that they currently have one. Further, researchers discovered that about half of organizations (51 percent) have progressed beyond a compliance-driven approach to diversity.

“Unfortunately, what leaders talk about, publicly project and desire is not consistent with the level of investment in D&I,” Stacia Sherman Garr, vice president of talent management research at Bersin by Deloitte, said in an April 1 press release.

Recruiting for Diversity

The report asserted that D&I initiatives often struggle at companies that do not have well designed recruiting processes that attract diverse employees. Over two-thirds of respondents (70 percent) reported their organization promotes itself as being diverse and inclusive, but only 10 percent “strongly agree” that the recruitment process is designed to attract diverse employees.

According to the report, employer reliance on employee referrals as their main recruitment source can attract the same workforce demographic as their current employee base.

Garr told Bloomberg BNA April 2 that for employers to improve their diversity recruiting efforts, and link those efforts to strategic business outcomes, the first step is to understand what challenges they are looking to solve.

“While the concept of D&I has been around a while,” Garr said, “changing demographics and individuals' expectations mean that some organizations may need to change how they attract diverse individuals.”

She recommends employers analyze their assessment and selection processes. “Some assessment and selection processes have unconscious bias within them,” Garr said.

Lack of Accountability

Most organizations (64 percent) reported leadership involvement in D&I initiatives, the report found. It said that when a new D&I initiative is deployed, senior leaders are actively involved, but respondents also revealed that their organizations routinely fail to adequately fund such initiatives.

Over half of respondents (54 percent) reported their organization either lacks a D&I function or has one that is solely staffed with volunteers. Only 23 percent of respondents indicated that their organization holds CEOs accountable for achieving diversity and inclusion goals.

Of organizations that reported having a diversity function staffed with full-time employees, three-quarters (75 percent) reported that they employ fewer than four people in that function. Garr said organizations can help to create an inclusive culture by addressing shortcomings in resource commitment, governance and talent management integration.

Though more than two-thirds of organizations (68 percent) report that they track at least one metric related to diversity, almost two-thirds (62 percent) say their organization's D&I efforts are not clearly mapped to strategic business outcomes and only 10 percent indicate that organizational goals are adjusted based on metrics, the report found.

While almost one-third of respondents (31 percent) reported that company leaders talk about the business value of inclusion, only 12 percent said leaders talk about the organization's effectiveness in reaching D&I goals.


To contact the reporter on this story: Caryn Freeman in Washington at cfreeman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com

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