The 9 “Levers” to Pull If You’re Serious About Inclusion

These levers all have to be implemented—and at the same time.

Inclusion is a crucial differentiator for companies. It was back in 2004 that research first proved that, if you had more than 32 percent of women in the top three layers of your organization, you would have better financial results. And McKinsey has estimated that closing the gender gap alone would add $28 trillion to the value of the global economy by 2025—a 26 percent increase. But figures like that have made little difference.

At the current rate of progress with inclusion, it won’t be our daughters who stand the same chance as our sons of being the next CEOs. It won’t even be our granddaughters. It will be our great-granddaughters who finally stand the same chance as our great-grandsons—but, even then, only if they are Caucasian and heterosexual; otherwise, it will knock it back another generation.

There are many inclusion “levers” we talk about implementing. But they all have to be implemented—and at the same time. You can’t be a little bit pregnant—just like you can’t do a little bit of inclusion. You’re either doing this work and pulling the levers or you’re playing at it. Here are the 9 levers you need to pull if you’re serious about inclusion:

1. Watch your language.

It’s important to be clear about what the terms, “diversity” and “inclusion” (D&I), actually mean and what they do—and look at the separate effects of each of them on your business. Diversity is something that, if it were possible to ask—and people were willing to share—could be measured. In other words, you could put a number to it. Inclusion is about creating an environment where everyone with the capability to excel can do so.

2. Articulate the business case.

Much has been said about the business benefits of diversity and inclusion, but people are still not buying into it. We have given the illusion that things like enhanced creativity and innovation happen as if by magic when we create an inclusive environment. But people are not listening any more. It’s time to clearly articulate the business case for inclusion.

3. Measure wisely.

Inclusion often is described as a soft option you cannot measure. But measuring is critical—if you are not measuring it, you cannot prove it. Employment engagement surveys are a useful tool and hiring numbers are important. But it’s also crucial to measure talent velocity—the speed at which diverse talent permeates through your organization.

4. Make the procurement director your friend.

Procurement directors have successfully held their organizations to account over things such as modern slavery and sustainability. It’s now time for them to do the same for diversity and inclusion. We need to get to a situation where companies look down through their supply chains and insist they all meet a certain standard.

5. Make training and embedding mandatory.

Research suggests that mandatory training on topics such as unconscious bias does not work on its own. It’s no good running a great training program and hoping that word spreads. Embedding the training is crucial. The way to get results is to make it compulsory for managers to discuss with their teams afterwards what they’re going to do to drive things forward.

6. Drive through performance management.

It is one thing to put quotas in and expect managers to hit them—encouraging them to put pressure on your recruitment agencies, for example, by measuring how many diverse candidates you hire from them. But it’s more effective to encourage inclusive behavior by driving it forward in your organization—you then find individuals going out of their way to attend employee resource group (ERG) meetings or mentor someone of a different gender group.

7. Ensure D&I and HR are empowered.

Councils, committees, and ERG groups can play a valuable role in driving inclusion, but it’s important to make them accountable. Ensure there is a direct line between their activities and business outcomes—and get them to draw up a comprehensive business plan, including specific impacts they can have on the organization.

8. Get rid of the bias from your processes.

Identify the “pinch points” of bias in your processes. Look at your criteria for hiring, for example, as keeping them to a minimum will attract the most diverse group of candidates. And think about how interviews are conducted. Build in a set of criteria you are interviewing for and score them independently.

9. Make sure the C-suite means it.

You can’t create diversity on a shoestring. If your diversity and inclusion (D&I) leader is starved of resources in terms of people or finances, then all the good intentions in the world will not make a difference. Think about who your D&I leader reports into. If it is not directly into your CEO, you have to ask whether it is seen as strategic or just a “nice to have.”

These 9 levers are critically important. If you don’t have someone with their hand on every one of them pulling right now, then what you are trying to do is to be “a little bit pregnant.” Doing a little bit of inclusion is just as much of an illusion.

Angela Peacock is CEO of worldwide diversity and inclusion training consultancy PDT Global.