Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Belonging. Concepts that are finally appearing to get the long overdue attention that they deserve in the corporate world. diversity and inclusion in the workplace than we have in years — maybe ever. Even so, in many organizations, it’s still an uphill battle to move beyond a statement of commitment to actual action.
If you’re struggling to get top-level buy-in for broader diversity and inclusion efforts, it may be time to rethink your approach. Read on for some tips on how to be more persuasive in your conversations with executives and to learn how you can use technology and data to strengthen your argument.
How Executives Think About Diversity and Inclusion
If you’re concerned that more needs to be done around diversity and inclusion in your organization, then you probably already have a real passion for the subject. It might be fueled by your own personal experience or emotional connection to the topic, or maybe you’ve seen how diversity of thought has benefitted your team and how inclusion makes people feel more connected, valued and engaged in their work.
These are all valid and important reasons for investing in more systemic D&I initiatives, beyond just a training class or a statement from the CEO. But from an executive’s point of view, they don’t necessarily make up a complete and convincing business case. You’re talking about a strategic business priority here, so you need to put your arguments in those terms.
But what, specifically, does that look like? If only you could get inside the head of your leadership team to see what they’re thinking. Well, we can’t tell you what they’re thinking, but we can give you some insights into how they’re thinking.
One clue comes from our cognitive diversity research. Did you know that CEOs, on average, have the most well-balanced HBDI® thinking profiles of all occupations? That means they naturally take a wide view of issues, looking at them from all angles. If you only focus on one — the “people” aspects, for example — then you’re missing some of the key factors they want to hear about. And that means you’re going to continue to struggle to get them to fully buy in.
The same applies with your senior leadership team, which is made up of executives from various different functions. They will have different priorities and questions that they’ll need addressed.
A Four-Part Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion
You don’t have to be a mind reader — or build a thousand-page business case — to satisfy all these different stakeholders. Use diversity of thought as your guide, and construct your argument around these four elements:
Return on Investment: Business leaders want clear facts, figures and data to support any investment, including a D&I strategy. A number of studies now confirm the many tangible financial and performance benefits of diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace. To convince executives, you need to emphasize that this is a business issue, not an HR one.
Return on Initiative: One of the reasons many D&I strategies fail to gain traction is that they’re not systemic. Because they’re limited projects or siloed within HR, they don’t take hold on a broader scale. Process and accountability need to be baked into your business case, with clear ownership and expectations outlined for managers and employees as well as the leadership team. The data you’ve already gathered will give you the backup to support this important step.
Return on Interaction: A wealth of research shows that diverse teams are more effective and produce better outcomes. One of the ways you can demonstrate that this is both the right thing to do and the wise thing to do is to dig into the role inclusion plays in employee morale, engagement and the overall culture. Leaders need to understand that it’s not enough to have diversity; inclusion is the action point. It’s what creates a sense of belonging and allows people to bring their whole selves to work.
Return on Ideas: Most leaders recognize innovation as an area that demands diverse thinking and perspectives. But that doesn’t mean you can just throw people together in a room and great things will automatically happen. Your business case should educate executives on the tools and skills required to get the benefits of your team’s full diversity of ideas.
Digital Tools to Strengthen Your D&I Strategy
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Search your audience to review their HBDI® profile(s) and any personalization they’ve added about how they communicate.
And then use these insights to build your message accordingly and watch the reception of your D&I initiatives grow.
Book time with your CSM to review any opportunities to better use the digital tools already available to you.