Diversity in the Workplace: Overcoming the Analysis Paralysis

Corporate diversity is always a hot topic, regardless of industry. As I recently discussed on M&M Global, the creative world took its turn in the hot seat at the annual Cannes Lions conference earlier this summer.

A major theme of the event, creatives are well aware of the benefit of a diverse workforce. Diversity is good for creativity, staying in touch with audiences, pushing the boundaries, critical thinking and creating competitive advantage. In fact, a seminal McKinsey Diversity Matters report, proved that a gender-diverse company is likely to be 15 percent more profitable and diverse teams can boost profits by 35 percent.

So if companies – creative or otherwise – understand the value, why the delay in instigating meaningful change? Why do organizations struggle to change and why, in 2017, do we still see industries dominated by a lack of diversity?

There are multiple, complex priorities to address, and often executives don’t know where to start when it comes to putting a diversity strategy in place. Should the focus be on gender balance, or ethnic diversity? What about age diversity or socio-economic diversity? What types of diversity should be represented? Companies understandably become paralysed and locked into analysis, rather than concrete action.

When companies experience this analysis-paralysis, the only place to start is by breaking down the plan into its manageable parts. A diversity program is no different. In fact, it’s even more important with a diversity program that the strategy is transparent to all employees, and in line with the company’s overall strategy, because this promotes a feeling of inclusivity and embeds this ethos into culture.

When planning your diversity approach, consider these questions for success:

What are the objectives of your diversity program?

It could be to raise the bar on the standard of work produced, to improve team collaboration or to create a more inclusive workplace culture to attract and retain the best talent. Articulating a clear aim will mean you are more likely to be successful and engage employees.

How does your diversity strategy fit with your overall strategy?

Your diversity strategy should be reflected in all aspects of your overall business approach, starting with your recruitment process.

Which aspect of diversity is your top priority?

Organizations must decide whether to give total focus to one area at a time or have a broader focus with multiple internal campaigns running alongside each other. The key is to be clear about the plan to demonstrate leadership and assuage naysayers.

What goals are you going to set to achieve your objectives in your chosen area(s)?

For each goal, decide how you are going to measure progress as you go, ideally setting timeframes, quantitative targets and benchmarks that everyone can see. This not only gives your strategy a structure but it empowers employees to take action as well, and be inspired by their colleagues.

What processes are you going to put in place to achieve these goals?

If your objective is to eliminate unconscious bias from your recruitment process, for example, you need to be clear about how you are going to achieve this – whether from blind CVs or ensuring interviewees undergo unconscious bias training. The more tangible tools you can include in your plan, the more likely you are to succeed and inspire action in others.

How are you going to communicate your progress to all employees?

Celebrating progress in an open environment will motivate employees. As well as traditional tools like internal newsletters and posters, consider online platforms where everyone can contribute their comments and suggestions, as well as record their successes.