Diversity matters more to companies now than ever before
With lasting global impact from the pandemic and growing expectations for hybrid work, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has been brought to the forefront of every business agenda. A new report, Employees at the Center: What It Takes to Lead on DE&I Now, released by Heidrick & Struggles, a premier provider of global leadership advisory and on-demand talent solutions, reveals that 56 per cent of Australian executives said their DE&I efforts contribute to their business success to a large extent, a large improvement from the 27 per cent three years ago.
Driven by a shift in the role of corporations in society, growing trust in governments to address DE&I, climate change, and geopolitical instability, businesses are expected to step up and advance their DE&I efforts. Surveying 420 executives across eight different markets, the report finds that 96 per cent of Australian leaders view DE&I as more important now than in early 2020, compared to the global average of 93 per cent. Companies are continuing to progress in their approaches to DE&I efforts, where leaders are showing a strong and intentional commitment to clarity and culture in creating a systemic, whole company focus on inclusion and strong example set from leadership.
“Through the events of the past years, it is undeniable that senior leadership in Australian businesses across different sectors are increasing their focus towards inclusivity in the workplace,” said Graham Kittle, Managing Partner at Heidrick & Struggles Australia. “With the increased amount of emphasis and expectations on employers to invest in developing DE&I practices, it is a pleasure to see more companies committing to strategic DE&I initiatives and promoting a more inclusive culture that will benefit their employees in the long-term.”
Driving a stronger focus on inclusive leadership
As companies have witnessed an increasing level of empathy and purpose driven initiatives, especially at the senior management level, there is a greater push for creating an inclusive culture and workplace for employees. Compared to other markets, the survey found that Australian companies seek to include more types of people in their DE&I policies, taking race and ethnicity, religion, age, parenthood or primary caregiver status and nationality into consideration when examining their approaches to DE&I.
Leaders are looking to improve overall employee engagement, attraction, and retention, citing employees as the critical connection between DE&I and business success. Consequently, more leaders are realising that an inclusive culture is at the heart of a truly productive workforce.
“With an obvious increase in executives who state that DE&I efforts contribute to their business success to a large extent, with clear goals in place, the next step for boards and senior leaders is to examine how their companies can approach executive search, leadership development and company culture in newer, more inclusive ways,” says Gaby Riddington, Partner and Consulting Leader for Australia and New Zealand at Heidrick & Struggles. “Businesses will benefit from setting clear succession planning strategies, enhancing coaching and support programs to enable more diverse workforces, and strengthening strategic DE&I initiatives for long-term growth.”
Leading companies are beginning to consider engaged employees as more central to their corporate culture than ever. During ongoing talent shortages, organisations will need to continue refining their strategies to ensure there is a strong commitment to whole-company inclusion as progress for DE&I become table stakes. Implementing a company-wide rollout to ensure DE&I is embedded into the organisation’s culture, with a focus on inclusive leadership and tracking progress of strategies will be the necessary next steps for best-in-class companies to enhance their DE&I efforts.