In the UK, studies show that engaging in inclusion and diversity efforts can dramatically affect organizational performance and culture. But how do companies attract and retain diverse talent? Sinead Fox, a partner with Bain's Retail and Advanced Analytics practices, and Clare Gordon, a partner with Bain's Consumer Products practice, outline the five actions that companies can take to achieve success with their inclusion and diversity goals.
Read the Bain Report: Take Action, Gain Traction: Inclusion and Diversity in the UK Workplace
Read the transcript below.
CLARE GORDON: The positive impact that diversity has on corporate performance and decision making is increasingly well accepted and documented. Most organizations now are asking about the how—how do I attract and retain a more diverse employee population?
We surveyed over 5,000 UK professionals to get a better understanding of the corporate actions that are having impact and driving this agenda. We took a broad definition of diversity—gender, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic background, carer status and sexual orientation. We also worked pragmatically with a series of FTSE 100 companies on their own diversity and inclusion agendas to see what was working for them and engaged a series of specialist experts.
SINEAD FOX: Progress in the UK is happening, but it's slow. The number of women that are entering senior executive positions vs. the number that are entering the workforce—the drop-off is marked. And when we look to try and understand the situation in minority groups, the data is rarely available.
It's not just underrepresentation, though. As we looked in our survey, we saw that these underrepresented groups feel less included. They feel less engaged. And although they have the same aspiration to reach senior leadership positions, they feel less confident they can do so.
CLARE GORDON: There are five actions that we saw corporations taking, having an impact on diversity and inclusion. The first was to really focus on facts. Many organizations have myths about what is happening through the talent pipeline of diverse populations. And we saw organizations that, when they mined data on this issue, were able to focus resources on areas that were originally different from those that they thought they should be focusing on.
Secondly, lead from the top. Treat diversity and inclusion like any other corporate change initiative. Show commitment from the leadership team, cascade through the line managers, promote and encourage desired behaviors, and track the results.
Thirdly, mitigate bias systematically. Bias exists. It's very difficult to train away, but we've seen that structural interventions can have an impact. For example, replacing unstructured interviews with more structured, job-based capability assessments.
SINEAD FOX: The fourth action is to focus on the initiatives that matter to all groups. And they are flexibility, sponsorship and carer support. And the final action is to communicate inclusively and intentionally. So link inclusion and diversity back to the corporate agenda and communicate inclusively to all groups. We've seen some companies shift from targeting flexibility to mums or parents and now opening it up for all.
In our survey and in our research, we see these five actions, taken sustainably over a long period of time, make a difference and increase the number and representation of diverse groups in leadership teams. We believe that by taking these actions, you can gain traction.