Future of work trend #6: Inclusivity

Enhancing diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) isn’t a quick fix. As we head into 2022, we expect more organisations to make purpose-led decisions that embed these values into their processes – and create lasting impact.

While organisations might have the right intentions, we’re still seeing a lot of the same common DE&I mistakes pop up, including assumptions about the DE&I gap and a lack of resources for fixing issues at a foundational level.

Too many organisations still view the DE&I gap as a risk prevention issue instead of an opportunity to make lasting change. Korn Ferry research shows 77% of organisations have developed non-discrimination, bullying and harassment policies. While such policies are great first steps, they aren’t the institutional changes required to make a lasting impact that unlocks your organisation’s true potential. Only 31% of organisations have integrated DE&I into business operations, and most companies are still in the early stages of addressing issues – developing DE&I strategy (61%) and unconscious bias training (58%).

What matters most

For DE&I strategies to have an impact, they must address the specific issues facing your people. For example, in the APAC region, gender inequality is one of the more pressing issues facing people and organisations today. We’ve seen varying levels of success when it comes to females holding executive roles. Some countries, including India, New Zealand and Australia showing recent improvement, while China’s percentage has decreased.

But DE&I is about more than tolerating differences. It’s about recognising and appreciating them – and establishing an environment that turns those differences from barriers into building blocks for success. Some of the biggest companies in the world are turning to inclusive design processes to maximise the power of those differences. Microsoft, Google and Nike all use inclusive, open and transparent design principles when innovating and developing new products. By leaning on diverse perspectives – including from those who can’t or don’t use their products – these companies can make both their internal processes and external outputs more inclusive.

Turning DE&I from words to action

Here are four ways you can become a more purpose-led organisation and embed DE&I into your company:

1. Make inclusive leadership the norm – everywhere. Our research shows only 5% of global leaders can be considered inclusive. Being an inclusive leader requires awareness and skills that can be developed; this is a key step to starting your DE&I journey. Help leaders realise DE&I is business imperative. By giving more leaders the opportunity to develop into inclusive leaders, you increase this number at various levels of your organisation – from the ground floor to C-suite – and improve DE&I overall.

2. There is no one size fits all. A systemic review of your talent policies and practices will give you the DE&I roadmap that is right for you organisation. Issues and strategies can be different for each country or office across Asia. Conducting a comprehensive organisational diagnostic will help identify your specific DE&I gaps, digging deep to expose hidden flaws and biases. Only then can you set the right priorities and goals.

3. Make DE&I part of your innovation mindset. Start deploying diverse-by-design teams across your organisation. Good places to start are research and development, marketing, and customer services. A good example of this is Nike. Its now popular laceless shoes were initially designed for customers with cerebral palsy off the back of diverse-by-design teamwork.

4. Accountability is king. Right now, only 25% of organisations have DE&I KPIs for people managers. You need tangible, quantitative ways to see if your DE&I-rich processes are hitting the mark.

The pandemic heightened our sense of societal, economic and environmental interconnectedness. The need to remain agile and adapt at lightspeed showed the power of deploying diverse teams – as opposed to siloed individuals – to tackle complex problems. At the same time, people realised how much they value a sense of purpose. They want to be part of collective efforts that drive progressive change and build a more sustainable and inclusive world for all.

The coming year will continue the shift from me to we. And only with deep-seated DE&I infrastructure in your organisation can you provide the environment for that shift.

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About the contributor

Alicia Yi is the Vice Chairman Consumer Market for Korn Ferry. Based in Singapore she is also a member of the Board & CEO Services Practice Human Resources Practice Private Equity Practice and Supply Chain Practice.

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