Crafting a diversity strategy that works

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

Diversity and inclusion are moving beyond simple corporate buzzwords and finally starting to drive active policy within organisations

For Karlie Cremin, owner and director of Dynamic Leadership Programs Australia (DLPA), diversity and inclusion are much more than words to be tacked on to an annual report; they’re approaches to the workplace that deeply inform the consulting services she provides to her clients.

“The truth is that we all need to go beyond ticking the box,” says Cremin. “Businesses who don’t embrace it in a meaningful way are going to get left behind, both as employers and marketplace performers.”

In practical terms, Cremin notes, a diversity and inclusion policy serves multiple purposes. Perhaps the first and most obvious from a strictly business perspective is that it makes good financial sense. There is hard data around this too: research from McKinsey indicates that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers, and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same. Catalyst research shows that companies with more women on their boards statistically outperform their peers over a long period of time. Additionally, Deloitte Australia research shows that inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments.

Business aside, there are moral and ethical considerations, Cremin explains. Companies should understand and reflect the communities they serve, or hope to serve. Perhaps most importantly, the modern emphasis on diversity and inclusion is also a means – if an imperfect one – of redressing past inequalities and lack of opportunities for marginalised communities in the workplace.

But how can HR leaders craft an effective strategy for increasing diversity within their organisations?

“If you don’t have a clear purpose at the heart of your strategy, it’s unlikely to be successful” Karlie Cremin, director, DLPA

Cremin points out that it’s a multifaceted process, and quick fixes are unlikely to be effective ones. But as a starting point, she has five key recommendations that organisations should consider before beginning to draft their plans for diversity and inclusion.

1. Articulate the ‘why’

It is critical to clearly articulate your ‘why’ to the wider organisation, says Cremin. Not only will it enable other staff to more effectively embrace such an initiative, but it will also provide clarity, guidance and motivation, helping them to stay the course and providing a focal point.

Similarly, successful communication is not just about broadcasting on social media channels and handing out glossy brochures. Consider how you are going to ensure the messaging from your managers and supervisors in their conversations and interactions with their teams is going to deliver the outcome you want, and increase coordinated effort.

“The big problem we see is that many organisations fail to properly articulate why they’re trying to bring more diversity to their workplace,” she says. “But as with any other area of business, if you don’t have a clear purpose at the heart of your strategy it’s unlikely to be successful.”