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The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion


The best leaders will tell you that they don’t want a bunch of “yes men” on their team.  They encourage new ideas and debate because they understand that innovation happens not when people agree, but when there’s a difference of opinion. How can Chief People Officers help leaders create opportunities for more healthy discourse?

Diversity and inclusion.

As we move into an economic recovery, diversity and inclusion (D&I) are no longer nice-to-haves if companies are to succeed. Promoting a work environment where people feel comfortable presenting fresh and different viewpoints is the right thing to do for employees, but it’s also good for business. D&I is a competitive advantage.

“Holding equality as a value is not just a matter of fairness or doing the right thing. Nor is it about PR or ‘optics’ or even my own conscience. It’s a crucial part of building a good business, plain and simple.” – Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO

When people from different backgrounds share experiences and apply their cumulative knowledge, it results in better ideas and novel approaches to challenges. Moreover, studies have proven that diversity has a material impact on revenue.  In 2015, McKinsey found that public companies with more ethnic and racial diversity were 35% more likely to post better revenue numbers than companies with a more homogeneous employee base.

Inclusive work environments also help leaders attract top talent. Being part of a diverse workforce is increasingly important to Millennials and Gen Z; the vast majority of these younger workers citing workplace diversity as a critical factor in their assessment of a workplace. As more of the workforce is made up of these generations, the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace will only increase.

Lip Service is Out of Style

Diversity and inclusion can’t just be buzzwords. Recent events have made it clear that people are tired of giving lip service to diversity with little tangible change. D&I must be achieved authentically, and real outcomes from diversity initiatives should be reported transparently.

Start by looking within your leadership team. One of the biggest issues companies struggle with is promoting and/or hiring diverse executive teams. A 2019 study by Kisi of more than 460 companies employing nearly 20 million people, found that “white men and women represent 87% of C-suite positions. Men of color represented 9% of C-suite positions and women of color, just 4%.” It doesn’t help that the candidate pool for these leadership positions is smaller. Men and women of color fill just 33% of entry-level positions in these companies.

As a Chief People Officer, you can bring this to light by helping align the people strategy with the business strategy. Facilitate conversations about inclusive talent management philosophies, succession planning strategies, and hiring practices. Organizations that demonstrate consistently high D&I standards are consistently rated as preferred employers for top talent.

Learn how your peers are navigating the same challenges. Connect with your community and share ideas you can take back to the ELT to promote authentic D&I in your organization.

Making D&I Efforts Tangible

Hopefully, we can all agree that D&I is important. So, what now?

First, we have to avoid making the same mistakes that companies have been making for years. We have to be aware of the energy and resources required to have an ongoing commitment to D&I. It’s been said that diversity is the ‘what’ and inclusion is the ‘how.’ Don’t neglect the ‘how.’

Increasing the representation of minorities in your organization isn’t the final answer. Leaders must also focus on creating a feeling of belonging. Inclusion is where your organization develops a culture that is open to new ideas and stands out through its innovation. As a Chief People Officer, you are the company’s leading culture advocate.

Implement programs that address representation and retention issues, and, most importantly, lead by example. Many have found success by taking a diverse-slate approach to hiring, where you help ensure that hiring managers are interviewing from a diverse candidate pool. Recruiting departments can assist by examining the diversity of the current hiring process and identifying potential bottlenecks. You might find that there is a top of funnel issue, or that the pipeline is leaking. A similar exercise can be conducted for turnover. Use what you learn to attract and retain a more diverse base of top talent.

Empower employees to form D&I committees. Harvard Business Review found that “the most successful workplace diversity programs are those with higher levels of continued engagement and accountability, such as task forces, diversity managers, and mentoring programs.” These employee-owned initiatives help ensure the conversation continues well past a single event like a kickoff or townhall. The group can share the responsibility for D&I efforts by holding leaders accountable, hosting town halls, and sponsoring diversity-related outreach programs. By encouraging collaboration and ongoing discussion, D&I becomes something that everyone takes ownership of.

Diversity and Inclusion Can’t Be Performative

The reason most D&I initiatives fail is that they aren’t tired back to organizational objectives.  Sam Haskin, SVP and Group Account Director at Firewood, shares “the work needed to authentically achieve diversity and foster inclusion is not something performative.” In other words, D&I isn’t just a box you check on your quarterly goals. The business must operate with a D&I mindset.

Achieving authentic D&I increases employee satisfaction, but it can also improve customer satisfaction. Diverse viewpoints increase a company’s potential to deliver products and services that better serve a diverse base of global customers. A variety of voices and experiences also provides a better experience for your customers.

If you are seeking to revamp your Ideal Hiring Profile or update your onboarding, training, and career path programs to retain your top talent, give us a call or reach out to our Revenue Growth Help Desk. We are invested in helping you build your culture and make your number.

This content was originally published here.

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