Diversity & Inclusion: Five companies getting it right
The world of work may have a long way to go in the fight for equality, but some notable businesses are taking important strides in the journey to an inclusive workplace
In our final installment of our ‘Driving genuine diversity and inclusion’ six-part blog series, we discuss what companies are getting Diversity and Inclusion right and what it takes for them to successfully achieve this.
Businesses are beginning to see the link between more diverse and inclusive workplaces and commercial success. Not only are diverse organisations more likely to succeed financially, have more engaged employees and better reputational standing, they are also best placed to cope with future talent challenges.
Generation Z, who make up 25% of the global workforce and will be the largest generational cohort by 2030, put diversity and inclusion (D&I) agendas at the front of their mind when thinking about brands. According to a 2020 study by McKinsey, 75% of Gen Zers would boycott a brand that discriminates against minorities in its advertising campaigns.
With this in mind, here are five companies getting D&I right.
1. JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle)
Global real estate company JLL topped the Forbes 2021 Best Employers for Diversity list, focusing on a top-down approach to diversity. More than 75% of the company’s directors represent gender or ethnic diversity and in January the organisation hired Ingrid Jacobs, its first global head of D&I, with a focus on building an even more inclusive practice.
This approach trickles down to the employee base too, with more than 8,000 employees across the Americas taking part in over 80 local business resource groups, including those aimed at Black, Asian and female employees.
2. Eli Lilly
Back in 2015, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly realised its diversity initiatives were having little effect on closing gender and ethnic minority gaps in its leadership team. Progress was so slow that the company estimated it would take 70 years for equality to hit the boardroom. To change this, the company turned its expertise on patient journeys inwards to look at employee journeys, bringing to light the barriers some employees faced in progressing their careers. The organisation commissioned professional actors to portray real employees’ workplace experiences, created innovation labs for managers and employees to build actionable solutions, and invested in a chief executive-led sponsorship programme for Latina, African-American and Asian women at director level.
The result? Female representation in the C-suite grew from 29% to 40%, with female senior directors increasing from 34% to 42%.
3. Marriott International
Hospitality chain Marriott International has been a regular fixture in Diversity Inc’s list of most inclusive organisations. It does this by adopting two core cultural themes: inclusion by surfacing commonalities, which looks at the shared desires employees and guests have despite their differences; and inclusion by surfacing differences, which celebrates what makes each employee unique. An example of the former comes through Marriott’s own workforce data, which shows little difference in job satisfaction regardless of gender, race or age. As the organisation offers thousands of opportunities for its employees to move within the chain, many with a low entry barrier, career progression is offered to a wider group of employees.
Marriott has also worked on its structural inclusion, opening Courtyard Muncie in Indiana as a training hotel for people with disabilities, the first of its kind in America.
Technology companies don’t have the best reputation when it comes to D&I, but messaging platform Slack has been ahead of its competitors since founding in 2009. It proactively recruited from outside traditional programmer universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford, partnered with all-women or under-represented coding camps like Hackbright Academy and Code2040, and removed face-to-face coding tests for those done at home in a bid to remove bias.
That’s not to say they’ve got everything right. The 2021 Diversity at Slack report shows an overall decline in under-represented minorities despite continued hiring. To address this, they’re partnering with a diversity consultancy and analysing exit interviews to see where they’ve taken a wrong step.
Starbucks took an aggressive stance on D&I issues in 2019 after an employee called the police on two African-American men waiting for a friend in a branch. The high-profile incident forced the coffee chain into a public apology, after which it took the unprecedented step of closing all 8,000 US shops for a half-day unconscious bias training course. Companies like Starbucks often come under pressure for ‘solving’ exclusionary attitudes with quick fixes like Unconscious Bias training.
But for Starbucks, driving genuine inclusion seems to be the agenda. Since then, the organisation has taken steps to link executive pay to diversity initiatives, launched a mentorship scheme connecting employees from under-represented backgrounds to senior leaders and is aiming to double the number of employees who identify as Black, indigenous or people of colour in its corporate wing by 2025.
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