HR Best Practices
HR Best Practices

New Approaches to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)

Through our daily work with over 1300 organisations, we see many examples of innovative thinking in HR. In this series of 14 best practices we define true “best practices” in HR nowadays. In this eighth case study of this series we will focus on new approaches to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) with five examples of Top Employers which all focus on D&I.

Diversity & Inclusion enables a Top Employers’ business success. When employees feel respected and connected, they create a richer ideas and better approaches to problem-solving. This helps companies to attract and retain high-performing people.

New approaches to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the Female Beauty Industry

Given that this Top Employer (Global, 40,000 employees) is a global brand selling cosmetic products to a predominantly female customer base, it positions itself as a female-friendly employer in the highly competitive beauty industry. In 2014, this company began a Global Women Strategy. Key elements include bi-annual checks on salary and bonus levels to ensure gender pay equality; a leadership development programme for women, including mentoring by senior female leaders and caregiver-friendly working policies (which are set at country level).

The impact of these activities resulted in a rising number of women filling critical roles worldwide. For example, in managerial roles, the percentage of women went from 38% to 46% globally. In 2016, 39% of successors for senior leadership roles in the talent pipeline were women, up from 37% the year before. Over the past few years, the company has received several awards for the its D&I practices. It has also benefited from a lower staff turnover because of the flexible work policies it has introduced.

The limitation of this practice is the female labour supply available in some domains, which may make targets difficult to reach. The gender diversity targets can be accessible for activities such as marketing, sales and the like, but may be more difficult for technical or manual-labour functions.

New approaches to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the Construction Industry

As a way to promote intergenerational collaboration and knowledge sharing, this Top Employer (Europe, 20,000 employees) decided to pilot a reverse mentoring programme in its offices. The objective? To help senior leaders understand the main challenges of the digital world and give visibility to young talent without having to set up traditional training. The programme comprised six one-hour sessions for each pair of participants, with regular meetings between mentors and the project team to monitor progress and refine the practice. The pilot programme proved successful, with positive feedback from participants and mentors. Because of this, the company will now roll out this programme across Europe.

This is an extremely interesting and enlightening experiment as it showcases an ideal way for different generations to connect with each other. Top Employers in different sectors may consider using this practice to close the Digital gap between people of different ages.

New approaches to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the Consumer Goods Industry

This Top Employer (Eastern Europe, 400 employees) has a unique challenge; it has a very young workforce and only 1% of employees hired over the past five years were aged 46 years and above. As a result, the employer needs to increase its age diversity. As a way to create a more inclusive culture for older staff members, it hired three retired people in 2016 on half-time contracts. It also hired three disabled people and offered coaching to the line managers involved, so that they could manage this diversity effectively. The pilot was successful and the programme is expected to be repeated in the future.

This practice may be useful for young, start-up companies looking to diversify. The most successful start-ups leverage diversity of all sorts - including age - to fully understand the global market they are serving.

New approaches to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the Banking Industry

This Top Employer (Asia, 200 employees) runs a workshop to train managers to overcome “unconscious bias” to promote awareness of diversity issues. Topics covered in the workshop include implicit stereotypes (male vs female) and the unconscious “prototype” of an ideal leader (white/male). Rather than simply educate, workshop participants also discuss actions they can take to overcome their personal biases as a follow up on what they learned in the sessions.

In this example, we find the most impactful outcome of this style of training is to apply the knowledge learned. The limitation for other companies considering introducing such training is that if the employee does not have any practical way to implement the new knowledge, the impact of the training could be limited.

Therefore, such trainings appear to be best directed towards managers rather than the general employees.

New approaches to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the Telecoms Industry 

Unfortunately, people with disabilities suffer from negative stereotypes in the workplace. Some co-workers may be uncomfortable around employees with disabilities because they simply don’t know how to act or what to say. Disability training can help employees and disabled people understand each other. For example, training sessions can include tips for interacting with employees in wheelchairs, such as not assisting them unless they ask for help. Educating managers and employees about disability also helps prevent stereotyping and possible unfair judgments.

Some companies are going one step further. One of our Top Employers (Eastern Europe, 1000 employees) explored an innovative way to help employees (and customers indirectly) to understand disability issues. The company, which sells telephone packages to consumers, equipped their retail outlets with virtual reality headsets showing a five-minute simulation of what it feels like to be in a wheelchair. The outcome was that customer-serving staff became better aware of how to serve customers with special needs.

The limitation of this example however, is the cost involved. Cultural sensitivities are also important here. It could be that in some countries, disabled co-workers might perceive such an initiative as an uncomfortable or patronising experiment.

Our Conclusion

Diversity & Inclusion is an increasingly visible strategic imperative for businesses worldwide and this is positive attribution for their employer branding. Research shows that this also has a measurable impact on business performance.

While we have covered various isolated best practices here, we believe that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling diversity. Employers need to plan initiatives, taking into consideration their specific industry, their current workforce and, of course, the social/cultural context they operate in.

Many organisations are champions in creating diversity, but many have yet to find the way to make their work environment more inclusive. Leaders often hire ‘people like them’ and they tend to promote people because they share similar and traits and common norms. To neutralise exclusion, Top Employers should proactively review the access of all groups with regards to employee to training, professional development and networking. This will ensure all employees have the same chance to be recognised for what they achieve.