In a previous post, we discussed new research conducted by HR.com and sponsored by Ceridian about the state of diversity and inclusion programs today. The report, The state of diversity and inclusion, found that while HR professionals agree that the workforce is more diverse than it was years ago, there’s still a long way to go in terms of diversity and inclusion program maturity.
In this post, we’ll dive further into the report, which includes responses from more than 800 HR professionals, focusing on how leadership and programmatic initiatives stack up, and what successful organizations are doing in this regard.
In summary, the report found that there’s room for improvement with when it comes to leadership diversity and diversity-friendly benefits. Here’s why – and what you can do to improve your own initiatives.
There are few organizations with programs focused on developing diverse leaders
One potential reason for less diversity in senior ranks could be that few organizations have leadership development programs that are focused on improving D&I in leadership positions, according to the report.
However, diversity talent development expert Sherryl Dimitry states in the report that simply having more women or minorities in these roles isn’t enough to make diversity stick – it’s more about whether “diverse contributions and opinions will be valued, accepted and assimilated into the culture at large.”
She adds that an area that organizations neglect is giving early career opportunities to diverse individuals that will allow them to advance into leadership roles, because they might not get the exposure to people who assign key projects.
There’s a lack of incentives, mandates, and training
The report also found that most companies don’t mandate diverse leadership in their ranks – in fact, just a third of HR professionals have the directive to increase diversity in these senior roles. And only 36% of respondents said they provide training or leadership development that is focused specifically on improving diversity and inclusion in leadership.
Further, most respondents reported that in their companies, there are few tangible benefits for increasing diversity. For example, only a handful of participants tie progress related to diversity and inclusion to manager ratings (13%), promotions (8%), and compensation (6%).
Some diversity-friendly benefits are offered more commonly than others, the research found.
Many of the respondents said their organizations offer paid time-off (77%) and flexible work options (69%) – and over half provide benefits for partners (56%), paid parental leave, and telecommuting (both 54%). These options appeal to all employees, but have the advantage of making it easier for parents of either gender to better balance work and family lives, the report states.
However, only 19% provide family building and fertility benefits, and a small percentage offer paid gender reassignment surgery. This indicates that there are still opportunities from a benefits perspective for employers to make it easier for diverse employees to work at their organizations.
Offering diverse benefits is important, but so is creating a culture in which they’re used. “Even when organizations offer diverse benefits such as a flexible work environment, many employees will not want to use them because they think their careers will be negatively impacted if they do,” says Dimitry. “Diversity-friendly organizations communicate to employees that it’s okay to actually use proffered employee benefits.”
The report also provided insight into differences between high performing organizations – those who said their D&I programs are advanced or vanguard – and lower performing companies, whose programs are still in various stages of development.
High performers set goals and provide incentives to develop leaders
The findings indicate that organizations with greater D&I capabilities often set goals for D&I and provide needed incentives for achieving them. They’re also more likely than lower performers to create leadership development initiatives that are focused on improving D&I in leadership ranks. In some cases, these programs work in tandem with organizational mandates to increase diversity and inclusion in leadership.
Additionally, successful organizations are much more likely to home in on diversity goals related to succession planning – and this often goes hand-in-hand with leadership development. Coupled with using technology and data insights, these companies are better positioned to set goals for diversifying leadership ranks over time.
The report adds that this does not mean lowering standards to meet specific quotas. Rather, it means ensuring that diverse groups of employees have the skills and experience required to assume such positions over time
Successful organizations provide the most diverse benefits
High performer organizations are more likely to have broad definitions of D&I that include unique demographic and social characteristics – so it shouldn’t be a surprise that high performers are also more likely to offer broader family-focused benefit plans such as paid parental leave, family/fertility benefits, and benefits for domestic partners.
In addition to ensuring that companies have a strong culture in which employees feel secure in using these benefits, the report also recommends that employers look at cultural and demographic trends to determine what kinds of benefits are increasingly attractive to today’s multicultural workforce.