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Most Companies Are ‘Going Through the Motions’ of DE&I

Corporate attempts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are falling short, according to new research that raises serious doubts about traditional approaches to the business and social issues surrounding DE&I.

“Roughly 80 percent of companies are just going through the motions and not holding themselves accountable,” according to the report, Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion

The report is based on survey responses from 804 HR professionals working in a range of industries as well as interviews and one-on-one conversations about the findings with leaders around the world. Josh Bersin.com, an Oakland, Calif.-based HR consultancy specializing in workplace analysis, conducted the research in partnership with Perceptyx, a global survey and people analytics company based in Temecula, Calif.

They mapped 84 DE&I practices to determine the five essential strategies and 15 practices that have the greatest impact on business, organizational and workforce outcomes across all industries, geographies and company sizes.

DE&I as a Business Strategy

Organizations, it said, tend to resort to legacy tactics of bias training, diversity recruiting and programs that sometimes backfire and contribute to more division than unity. The survey found:

  • 76 percent of companies have no diversity or inclusion goals.
  • 75 percent of companies do not have DE&I included in the company’s leadership development or overall learning and development curricula.
  • 40 percent of companies view diversity work as a way to mitigate legal, compliance or reputational risks, with HR in an enforcer role.
  • 32 percent of companies require some form of DE&I training for employees; 34 percent offer training to managers.

“What we discovered is that DE&I training, recruitment practices, employee resource groups and many other DE&I interventions add value—but not as much as you may think,” the report said. 

“In fact, our biggest finding is very profound. The most powerful strategies to drive inclusion and diversity come from the business strategy, not HR programs. When the business has the right focus, the HR practices add value. When done in isolation … the practices have little or no long-lasting impact.”

The report cites The Coca-Cola Company as a cautionary example.

“The company spent years addressing the issues of racial disparities in leadership and pay (driven by a class action lawsuit for almost $200 million in 2000) and made major progress pushing diversity. But despite the commitment from the CEO, the company’s culture did not change, and today Coca-Cola is revisiting its entire 20-year effort to focus on inclusion and behavior change.”

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