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Most D&I programs are ineffective. Here’s how to change that

80% of organizations rate themselves as ineffective at developing a diverse and inclusive leadership bench.
By: | November 5, 2019 • 2 min read
New research finds organizations struggling to develop diversity within their ranks.

Only 36% of diversity and inclusion leaders report that their organization has been effective at building a diverse workforce, according to new Gartner research, which also reveals that 80% of organizations rate themselves as ineffective at developing a diverse and inclusive leadership bench.

Gartner analysts are discussing D&I and the role of HR in reimagining the future of work to drive performance across the organization in front of more than 1,700 CHROs and senior HR executives at the Gartner ReimagineHR conference.

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According to a recent Gartner survey, only one-third of employees agree that they have the ability to influence inclusion at their organization. Furthermore, only 27% of employees feel that their organization informs them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their day-to-day work.

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“While CEOs are prioritizing and committing to the values of D&I, and want to see progress, ultimately the current measures are not moving the needle enough,” says Lauren Romansky, managing vice president in the Gartner HR practice. “Based on our research, we know that many D&I strategies are ineffective because they rely on a point-in-time training, an individual champion, or a singular experiment. Further hindering results is that these approaches are often shared only at senior levels.”

To ensure D&I initiatives are successful, organizations must make sure they are sustainable, which means the strategy is supported by the entire organization, is measurable over time, and is embedded into existing processes. Organizations that are able to enact sustainable D&I strategies can achieve a 20% increase in organizational inclusion. This corresponds to a 6.2% increase in on-the-job effort, a 5% increase in employees’ intent to stay with the organization, and a nearly 3% increase in individual employee performance.

According to Gartner research, to build sustainable D&I, organizations must focus on three key factors:

  1. D&I strategies must be aligned to and owned by the organization broadly.
  2. Organizations need to prioritize a metric that tracks overall progress over time.
  3. D&I needs to be embedded into existing talent and business processes to ensure consistent application.

Employee-centric Design

Progressive organizations take an employee-centric approach to creating sustainable D&I — focusing on what is relevant to their unique employee base and promoting employee ownership through communicating plans. To do this, organizations must first determine organizational and employee challenges, in order to design a relevant D&I strategy. Leaders then need to communicate the D&I strategy through clear messaging that promotes organization-wide ownership of D&I goals. Finally, employees must receive guidance on how they can directly contribute to helping the organization achieve its D&I goals.

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Comprehensive Measurement

A recent Gartner survey found that 85% of D&I leaders cited organizational inclusion as the most important talent outcome of their D&I efforts. Yet, only 57% of organizations are currently using that metric to track D&I progress, and many of those are not confident in that metric. While there are many D&I initiatives employers can implement, it is critical to understand which initiatives drive inclusion across the workforce.

Gartner’s Inclusion Index provides organizations with a measure of their ability to foster an inclusive work environment by testing their initiatives along seven key dimensions, including fair treatment, decision-making, trust and diversity. With this knowledge, leaders can tailor the organization’s approach to ensure they are developing and implementing the strategies that will have the most impact.

Embedded Practices

To ensure enduring and consistent D&I outcomes, organizations should embed initiatives into existing talent and business processes. Gartner research shows that 65% of D&I leaders are primarily using people to champion D&I efforts, yet 67% of D&I leaders believe that leveraging processes is more effective at achieving D&I goals. However, leading organizations are going beyond embedding D&I into just the HR function, and they are looking at other key business functions and their processes, such as finance and accounting and operations, for opportunities.

Web Editor Michael J. O’Brien has been with HRE for more than a decade and holds a degree in economics from Boston College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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