Diversity and Inclusion programs and initiatives are ubiquitous.  While many organizations are making strides in the right direction, too many fall short of their goals and aspirations. 

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is that too many people still think about the lack of diversity as a problem to be solved versus an opportunity to be seized.  The research has been clear; diverse organizations and teams make better decisions and outperform those that are less diverse.

To improve results and seize the opportunity there are two areas that need to be addressed.

  1. Too Little.  When thinking about diversity and inclusion, organizations need to take a more holistic view of the organization; many organizations focus their efforts too narrowly on talent practices and do not consider the broader organization design.
  2. Too Late.  The focus on “fixing” a talent problem comes too late.  Talent problems are result of organization design decisions related to organization strategy and broader organization design issues.  To fix those you need to clearly understand the underlying systemic issues and organization design decisions that have led to the issue in the first place.

Too Little

The STAR Model

Diversity in companies is an organization design issue and it needs to be addressed as such.  The Star Model provides a holistic view of to look at the diversity opportunity and it starts with strategy.

Strategy

Many organizations have a diversity strategy as part of an overall talent strategy but fail to incorporate diversity considerations into their other strategies.  They need to consider the strategic implications or opportunities of diversity relative to customers, products, brand, geographic footprint. Viewing diversity solely through the lens of a people or talent strategy misses the real strategic opportunity.

Capabilities

Organization capabilities are organization muscle, built through a combination of structure, process, metrics and rewards, and people practices.   Again, many companies are building capabilities related to diversity and talent development and are reaping some results but have not gone the next step to incorporate diversity implications into their other capabilities including things like capturing the positive impact of diversity on innovation, agility, and organic growth strategies to mention a few. 

Structure

Without deliberate consideration of diversity, structural choices can lock out whole portions of the employee population resulting in limitations on how high, and how fast diverse populations can grow in an organization.  Conversely, structural choices can open up new opportunities.  Breaking down hierarchical structures and designing and staffing multifunctional, multilayer teams can bring a diverse perspective to business challenges.   Creating intentionally smaller GM development roles can provide growth opportunities for all.  Aligning internal teams with targeted diverse customer groups or geographies can help to build greater insights while enabling growth and opening up talent development opportunities.   

Process

When it comes to process alignment, many organizations focus their efforts on talent recruiting and development processes and networks and miss the opportunities to rethink key management and business processes.  Redesigning management and oversight processes to include a broader diversity of voices to inform decision making can help to drive better decisions while providing development opportunities to those who typically would not be involved.  Rethinking business processes like stage/gate, portfolio management, budgeting, and strategic planning to include a lens on diversity and broader spectrum of voices likewise can improve decision making and accelerate the development of key talent.

Metrics and Rewards

A lot of good work is being done in companies around of metrics and rewards, but more can be done in this area.  Many companies are tracking results relative to progress against diversity targets and how well they are doing creating a climate that promotes diversity and inclusion.  Some have started to measure the correlation between diversity and business results, but more is needed in this area to build momentum and broader commitment to D&I programs.   

People Practices

This has been the sweet spot for the majority of D&I programs.  This work must continue.  It is necessary to build a diverse and inclusive organization, but it is not sufficient.  As in any organization design, all of the elements of the Star Model need to be aligned.  If not, it is difficult, if not impossible to drive sustainable organization results.

Too Late

5 Milestone Design Process

Too many diversity efforts are conceived independently of a broader organization design effort.  They start with a discussion of Talent and Leadership. 

When we take a methodical approach to organization design, talent and leadership is the fourth milestone we address.  It comes after executives have made decisions on the problem to solve, organizing logic, and integration mechanisms.  Waiting until all of those decisions have been made, makes is more difficult to force fit diversity programs focused on staffing into an organization that was not designed for diversity.

Moving forward

Heightened awareness of the issue of diversity and inclusion is a good thing.  But awareness isn’t enough and doubling down on diversity and inclusion programs that are narrowly focused on people practices can only take you so far.  To solve the problem, or more accurately, to seize the opportunity, organizations must address diversity and inclusion from a broader organization perspective.

Tom Falkowski

Kates Kesler, part of Accenture