- While diversity and inclusion issues were reportedly important to company officials interviewed by analysts at consulting firm Forrester, such issues have "consistently failed to make the list of business priorities" and are subject to limited budgets and lack of ownership, according to a Sept. 16 report from the organization.
- Forrester interviewed officials at 19 companies, including Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and Twitter. The report identified a set of practices that may result from a failure to root D&I approaches in "proven practices or research" or from "a lack of clarity around actions and success metrics." Harmful organizational D&I practices include tokenism and overburdening underrepresented employees, among others, the analysts said.
- Business leaders cited in the report suggested that employers focus on inclusive practices — such as empathy exercises, listening programs and inclusive design for tech solutions — that allow underrepresented individuals to feel connected at work. The most successful organizational practices identified in the report also took an "iterative approach" to employee belonging, analysts said.
The current global spotlight on issues of systemic racism and racial justice has created what some in the HR industry have called a "once-in-a-lifetime" career opportunity for D&I leaders to effect lasting changes within their organizations. That's after years of executive-level personnel trends showing increased investment in D&I over time. A June report released by business-to-business database ZoomInfo found that the number of executives in its database with D&I titles more than doubled between 2015 and 2020.
Still, fewer than half of the companies included in the S&P 500 Index have a chief diversity officer or equivalent, according to a 2019 report by management consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates, and of those executives, 63% had been appointed or promoted to their roles within three years prior to 2019.
The presence of an executive role dedicated to D&I and the presence of related strategies do not mean that organizations are necessarily inclusive. A March survey by Globalization Partners Inc. found that while 9 in 10 employees described their companies as diverse, 3 in 10 said they didn't feel a sense of inclusion or belonging at work. Actually prioritizing D&I work — and ensuring workers can understand and feel that D&I is a business priority — may be part of the problem for organizations. A global survey by Accenture found that while most leaders felt they created environments in which people felt a sense of belonging, only 36% of workers agreed.
As the Forrester report identified, a focus on belonging may be key to creating more successful D&I programs and initiatives. A report published earlier this year by the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation found that college-educated professionals who rated their level of organizational belonging higher were more likely to have senior leaders with whom they shared commonalities and who served as role models.
Belonging has also received increased attention during the move to remote work at many companies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies are experimenting with "windowed work," or a more flexible approach to scheduling that allows employees to break up the workweek into blocks. Software company Range has asked workers to fill out "personal handbooks" that incorporate information such as current priorities, personal working hours and development goals, an executive previously told HR Dive. Such techniques may help co-workers understand team members' needs and connect with one another.