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5 Diversity & Inclusion Trends For 2016

29 Feb 2016, in Diversity

2016 should continue to be a great year for corporate Diversity & Inclusion. Companies’ focus on (and commitment to) this area continues to increase, with five notable trends to this activity.

These five trends are summarized later in this article, but before we get onto these trends within corporate diversity efforts, it’s important to consider why these are happening. They result from three broader ‘macro’ trends, each helping to push diversity up the corporate agenda.

The first of these ‘macro trends’ - or underlying factors - is that societies are simply becoming more and more diverse, notably in the US and UK. Diversity is an issue that is not going away any time soon – rather, there is added pressure for organizations to reflect the societies they serve, both for practical reasons (creating products that consumers want!) and brand reasons.

The issue of brand relates to the second ‘macro trend’ – an increased consumer (and job applicant) interest in corporate diversity levels.

This is itself of course part of a wider trend of ‘consumer-power’ through increased expectations of access to information. Companies can no longer ignore striking statistics of consumer and job applicant preferences for socially conscious companies: 92% of Millennials, for example, are more likely to purchase from an ethical company.

The third factor underlying the positive outlook for Diversity & Inclusion in 2016 is the ongoing ‘war for talent’; unfilled job vacancies, and expensive incentive-driven hiring and it’s knock-on effects on turnover, engagement, and culture.

Given that talent seems to be winning this ‘war’, smart organizations are taking proactive steps to leverage diversity as part of a search for new talent pipelines to secure the future of their workforces.

These three broader factors - more diverse societies, greater consumer interest and expectations, and recruitment challenges – help to explain five key trends for 2016.


Trend 1: Greater business interest and commitment than ever before

Organizations are seeing the business case for diversity, driven by research such as McKinsey’s findings that diverse teams outperform industry norms by 35%. CEOs themselves are reporting clear business benefits: 85% surveyed by PwC report that where their organization has a clear D&I strategy, it has increased performance.

As a result, it’s no surprise to see senior leaders across different industry sectors making diversity a clear corporate commitment.  And, importantly, such commitment is not just ‘noise’ – driving D&I to the top of the agenda, it has been proven to make diverse initiatives more likely to succeed


Trend 2: Making diversity data public

A number of tech companies – Facebook and Twitter, for example – have pioneered making their diversity data public, with others now following suit. While this has opened the ‘disclosers’ up to some criticism based on current diversity levels, it has

a) set a standard for openness that others are likely to follow (or face even more intense criticism), and

b) created a further incentive for organizations to ensure there is positive news to report.

With such a focus on corporate diversity – and multiple studies in to the current state regarding different aspects within it – expect this trend to continue.


Trend 3: ‘Diversity’ is (necessarily) becoming more nuanced

To really ‘match their market’, organizations are moving beyond a narrow definition of diversity (race, gender) to a more nuanced definition that includes groups such as people with disabilities, or veterans who may otherwise struggle to enter the corporate working world. Cognitive diversity represents a particularly exciting next frontier, as diversity of this type is likely to further help develop creative, innovative teams that leverage the principle of ‘diversity of thought’.


Trend 4: ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’ unbundled

While ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ are invariably grouped together, organizations are starting to make sure they meaningfully address both of these dimensions, ensuring in particular that the ‘inclusion’ element receives due attention. ‘Diversity’ is seen to relate to numbers – it’s something that can be quantified, reported on. ‘Inclusion’, perhaps harder to quantify, is no less important – it’s about ‘making diversity stick’ by changing cultural awareness, understanding and values to ensure a people-centric workplace and effective, highly engaged teams.


Trend 5: Proactive initiatives

Organizations are manifesting this higher-than-ever commitment to diversity and inclusion through proactive initiatives across both diversity (such as specific hiring programs, reaching out to create hiring partnerships with relevant organizations, and so on) and inclusion (such as proactive staff training across multiple aspects of diversity, often within culture-change or leadership development initiatives…).

The ultimate goal? A cohesive approach to talent management that incorporates diversity and inclusion at every level - something akin to the ‘Inclusive Talent System’ that represents the top level in Bersin By Deloitte’s diversity maturity modelOne organization already there is Australia’s QBE Group: quoted in PwC’s survey ‘The CEO Agenda’, CEO John Neal stated:

‘What we’ve done is integrate diversity and inclusion into our leadership training, into our talent programs, into our succession planning…’

At uptimize we foresee more organizations following suit in what should be an exciting, innovative year for corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives.


Want to know more about cognitive diversity in the workplace? Check out this free eBook

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Why Diverse Hiring Is The Key To Winning The War For Talent

14 Jan 2016, in Diversity

As Deloitte University Press put it, the war for talent is over and talent has won. Firms – particularly tech firms - from Silicon Valley to Boston are struggling to attract top talent due to fierce competition.

Such competition often results in expensive, incentive-driven hiring and high turnover. It’s no surprise that issues of “retention and engagement” have risen to No. 2 in the minds of business leaders, second only to the challenge of global leadership development.

But the secret of creating an effective, dynamic, 21st century team is not to be found in ever more expensive, incentive-driven hiring from a narrow, conventional talent pool. 

Instead, it is to be found in proactive, long-term engagement with what have hitherto been minority groups in the workplace.

Talent Untapped

In 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report “Employment Outlook 2006-2016”, more than 43 percent of new entrants to the labor force will be people of color. Nearly 50% will be women.

There remain substantial pools of untapped talent; young and old, of different races, cognitive ‘wiring’, and so on. And such talent can bring unique skills and perspectives - while at the same time boosting your employer brand.

The Business Case For Diversity

The overall business case for diversity has been proven convincingly – for example in a 2009 study of 1,000 US workplaces, where personnel diversity correlated positively with sales and profits relative to competitors, and here in McKinsey’s analysis

Diverse teams are proven to be more innovative and creative, and through mirroring ‘real’ audiences, better at serving them. Consumers are increasingly vocal in their preference for ethical, diverse organizations; and minority group spending in the US is estimated at over $750bn.

Diversity boosts employee engagement and retention too – with employees becoming energized by their organization’s simultaneous search for the best range of talent AND the positive social impact of this broader and more inclusive approach to hiring*.

Driving Diversity

With the business case increasingly clear, many organizations are moving towards further action, wherever their current position on the diversity ‘maturity curve’.

Diversity begins with proactive, broader recruitment efforts – vital as people within minority groups may be ‘off the radar’ of traditional hiring channels. They may not believe that they have a chance, or that your organization is genuinely enthusiastic about integrating people like them into an inclusive and representative cultural mix. 

Hiring tactics need to help change this – for example:

  • partnering with educational institutions such as Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and multicultural professional groups
  • recruiting from specific websites focusing on a minority group, such as, developed by Autism Speaks
  • employing new, target-group-specific messaging in recruitment advertising
  • building a compelling diversity brand via a strong web and social media presence showcasing the organization’s efforts and determination
  • undertaking and marketing specific programs to bring members of a particular underrepresented demographic into a part of your organization

Making Diversity Work

Beyond tactical hiring practices, energy and resources must be committed to diversity awareness and acceptance within the company. If an organization can be made more diversity-aware and diversity-friendly internally – more understanding both of diversity itself, and the benefits it can bring – it creates a long-term foundation of broad-mindedness and inclusivity that will then be manifested in all processes, including hiring processes.

Beth Babcock, president of HEARTH, in an interview with The Bridgespan Group, says “Building a diverse team takes commitment and effort. It’s not just about recruiting diverse staff…You need to invest in diversity throughout the organization".

Such programs require 4 key elements, and none are more important than management support – both fiscal, and visible. It’s very powerful when such leaders approach diversity as a passionate, personal mission – as described in this HBR article, and as espoused by Randy Lewis, author of ‘No Greatness Without Goodness’, in his recruitment of people with disabilities at Walgreens.

Key element number 2 - employee support networks, which can also help to ensure this diversity friendly ‘groundwork’ in an organization. The most progressive, diversity-aware organizations can be seen to have visible, niche support networks for every different minority group – for example, different support groups for people with different types of disabilities – and such groups can provide comfort, support and inspiration to new hires.

A third critical internal building block is training – training that goes beyond compliance basics, and that develops more informed, inclusive attitudes. Training should be as widely available as possible, and can help to turn what are currently structural barriers to an inclusive, diverse culture – for example, a lack of understanding of the experiences and challenges faced by veterans - into structural facilitators.

Key element number 4 is metrics and tracking – both of the current state of diversity in your organization, the experiences of diverse applicants and employees, and the general level of employee satisfaction and engagement across the firm. Metrics can include the % of diverse candidates interviewed by hiring managers, the % turnover rate of diversity hires vs ‘conventional’ hires within a year, and average manager satisfaction score (from a survey) after a diversity hire.

Diversity = Winning

Diversity is becoming an essential element of smart organizations’ people strategy – a way to ensure a creative, high-performing team that will out-perform the competition, and a way to maximize brand perceptions and reputation at the same time.

So smart organizations aren’t just offering more and more expensive incentives to a restricted, narrow supply of talent. Instead, they are actively exploring new talent pipelines, while laying the groundwork internally for successful diverse recruitment to become the norm.


*I saw this myself in the tech sector in London while building the Tech City Stars apprenticeships program in 2013 – an initiative that connects young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with entry-level opportunities in the tech sector. Employees within hiring companies were visibly energized by their organizations’ proactive and smart approach to hiring – and many of the ‘stars’ of the program have made and continue to make a significant impact in (and on!) their respective firms.


Interested in scalable, sustainable diversity training for your teams? Find out more about why autism awareness is the next frontier in diversity training here.

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4 Competitive Advantages of a Diverse Team

18 Dec 2015, in Diversity

In today’s marketplace, organizations are continually competing to stay ahead of the competition. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that diverse teams are the key to producing innovative, successful products and services.

A diverse team brings enriched talent from all genders, races, personalities, cognitive styles, social classes, and cultures, allowing organizations to better reflect their customers, drive creativity, reach new markets, and boost their employer brands.

Here are 4 key reasons to continue to diversify YOUR team:


1. Diverse Teams Drive Innovation

Diversity of talent allows for a broader set of perspectives to come together in any creative work, leading to more effective problem solving and decision-making. Even being exposed to diversity can change the way an individual person thinks. It’s not surprising to see more diverse teams consistently outperform less diverse teams in terms of innovation and financial performance in recent studies (such as this one by the Credit Suisse Research Institute).


2. Diverse Teams Help Businesses Reach New Markets

The increase in global diversity, particularly in more developed nations, is another core rationale for increased diversity in the workplace; such diversity enables organizations both to better reflect their existing customer base – what’s known as ‘matching the market’ – and to reach new, as yet unpenetrated markets. According to a CTI report, diverse teams are as much as 158% more likely to understand a target end user where the target end user matches in demographic someone on the team, while employees at publicly traded companies with high levels of diversity are 70% more likely to report that their firm captured a new market in the past year.


3. Diversity Brings Higher Satisfaction and Lower Turnover

Numerous studies have shown that a diverse team with the proper diversity management and training creates better company morale and reduces turnover. Nextel created a training program to increase diversity awareness with a ROI study to track the results; the study determined that the program saved Nextel over $3 million in company turnover costs and increased ROI in the first year by 163% (source: "Making the Business Case for Increased Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills," from Sage Publications).


4. Diverse Teams Create a More Positive Company Image

With the population in the US and UK becoming more diverse every day, a diverse team creates public goodwill amongst minority groups and the general public. Studies have demonstrated that consumers view ethically conscious organizations positively, and have a preference for and loyalty towards these organizations – the Guardian, for example, found that 86% of their surveyed audience stated a firm preference for buying products from companies that ‘give back’ to society.


Want to make your organization more cognitively diverse?

Find out why autism-awareness is an essential part of any diversity strategy 


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