Nearly half of senior-level diversity and inclusion (D&I) leaders responding to a Weber Shandwick study said their D&I efforts are "aligned" with their organizations' goals but had room to improve, while 39% cited theirs as "well-aligned" and 14% said theirs was "misaligned."
The study showed that 79% of respondents with well-aligned programs think alignment positively impacts a company's reputation, and 66% think it positively impacts a company's financial performance. It also positively impacts talent acquisition, according to the report; well-aligned companies had a significantly higher rate of acceptance by stakeholders than aligned and misaligned companies. Misaligned companies had the highest turnover rates, the study said.
Two top D&I challenges for respondents included the organizational culture and making the business case for D&I. More than half of respondents think support from internal stakeholders can help overcome challenges to D&I initiatives, which depends on interactions with leadership. CDOs in the study reported meeting at least once a month with the CEO and about 10 times a year with the board of directors.
Organizations with CDOs are becoming more common, driven in part by investors who are worried about the number of discrimination claims against firms. A study released earlier this year by management consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates agreed that D&I initiatives must be aligned with business objectives, communicated effectively and have the support of company decision makers. The report concluded that appointing a CDO isn't enough; organizations must leverage analytics to measure performance and maintain D&I as a priority.
Of course, D&I efforts do not always work. Although about 98% of respondents in a Boston Consulting Group report said their company has a diversity program, about a quarter of workers in diverse groups – mainly women, people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ – did not see any benefits from these programs. The report attributed the problem to leaders who underestimate the obstructions to recruiting, retaining and promoting people from underrepresented groups, often resulting in resources not being allocated to D&I programs.
Experts have said that advancing diversity without inclusion may prompt D&I efforts to fail. Jenn Labin, chief talent and diversity officer at MentorcliQ, previously told HR Dive in an interview that certain markers will reveal signs that D&I might not be working. She said, for example, that if a company isn't seeing enough promotions among qualified diverse employees or if those employees are quitting their jobs, there's a problem. "That's an indication you need to do exit interviews and see where you're missing the mark, and that's where you focus," she said.
The Weber Shandwick research recommended that organizations:
- Appoint a D&I leader.
- Get on the CEOs "radar screen."
- Start diversity at the organization's top echelon.
- Make D&I part of the culture.
- Connect D&I efforts with the company's success.
- Integrate D&I with marketing and communications.