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Inclusive Leadership: How DEI&B Practices Propel Business Growth

In our work with clients and organizations across various sectors and countries, we frequently encounter policies and value statements related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B). Often, these are seen as mere 'poster-speak' or ethical obligations.


However, DEI&B isn't just about ethics -it's a secret weapon and a strategic differentiator that savvy leaders use to gain a competitive edge. In fact, it's a potent strategy that organizations can harness, actively leveraging differences across dimensions such as gender, orientation, ethnicity, education, age, physical and mental ability.


To understand what DEI&B is, imagine an orchestra:

  • Diversity is having musicians who play different instruments

  • Equity ensures each musician has appropriate sheet music and access to the stage

  • Inclusion invites everyone to play, and

  • Belonging makes everyone feel that their music matters


That's how you create a symphony.


Recognizing a Healthy DEI&B Culture

A flourishing DEI&B environment can be identified through key indicators:


1.       Diverse Representation: At Salesforce, diversity is evident at all organizational levels, especially in leadership. The company publishes annual diversity reports showcasing their progress.

2.       Inclusive Practices: Adobe has implemented inclusive practices by forming employee resource groups (ERGs) that provide support and advocacy for various communities, including women, LGBTQ+ employees, and people of color.

3.       Equitable Policies: Unilever has introduced equitable policies such as equal parental leave, flexible working arrangements, and comprehensive anti-discrimination policies.

4.       Sense of Belonging: Airbnb fosters a sense of belonging by regularly conducting 'Belonging & Inclusion' surveys to measure and improve employees' sense of inclusion.

5.       Psychological Safety: Google’s Project Aristotle highlighted the importance of psychological safety in high-performing teams, fostering an environment where team members feel safe to express their ideas.

6.       Accountability and Transparency: Microsoft sets clear DEI&B goals and publishes detailed annual reports on their progress, ensuring transparency and accountability, across multiple dimensions


Benefits of DEI&B

Research shows that companies that actively implement DEI&B practices outperform on several dimensions:


1.       Innovation: Diverse teams are idea factories. Statistics show that companies with higher diversity levels are 45% more likely to grow market share.

2.       Collaboration: Inclusion breeds trust. Google’s Project Aristotle found that psychological safety is the cornerstone of high-performing teams.

3.       Resilience: Diverse teams are more adaptable to change because they draw from a broader range of experiences.

4.       High Performance: McKinsey’s research shows that gender-diverse companies are 25% more likely to outperform their peers. For ethnic diversity, that number jumps to 36%.


Leaders who make DEI&B Work

Leaders of some of the world’s most admired organizations already use this secret weapon:


  • Tim Cook at Apple champions diversity and inclusion, key factors in Apple being a frontrunner in the tech industry.

  • Julie Sweet at Accenture has guided the firm’s consistent thought leadership by committing to diversity across all dimensions

  • Satya Nadella at Microsoft has embraced inclusive hiring and employee resource groups, fostering a culture of innovation and growth through DEI&B.


These leaders’ efforts go beyond compliance; they actively cultivate diversity of thought and capability as competitive advantages in serving their clients' needs.


Implementing DEI&B

To start embedding DEI&B within your organization, consider these foundational steps integrated with the core cornerstones of a successful DEI&B strategy:


1.       Invest and Support: Establish focused accountability for diversity at the executive level and create a supporting network through employee resource and affinity groups.

·       Initial Action: Start with leadership commitment and form a DEI&B task force. At Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg has been a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion, leading initiatives to support women in leadership.


2.       Educate and Train: Regular communication, awareness, and sensitization are key.

·       Initial Action: Implement training programs to raise awareness and educate employees about DEI&B. Starbucks provides comprehensive bias training for all employees.


3.       Listen and Learn: Your team’s experiences are a goldmine. Listen, adapt, evolve.

·       Initial Action: Conduct a DEI&B audit to evaluate the current state and identify areas for improvement. Intel conducts regular inclusion surveys and uses the feedback to shape their DEI&B initiatives.


4.       Walk the Talk: Set DEI&B goals and demonstrate accountability from top-down at every level -in your teams, business units, and across the organization. Make it part of your DNA.

·       Initial Action: Develop a DEI&B strategy with clear goals, timelines, and accountability measures. Accenture has made DEI&B a part of its core values and business strategy, setting ambitious goals for gender parity.


By recognizing the presence of a healthy DEI&B culture and taking initial baby steps, organizations can begin their journey towards creating a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplace.


DEI&B is not just about doing good; it's about fostering an environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to the organization’s success.



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