Elevating Belonging and Diversity Initiatives for Your Company

Business leaders have become increasingly focused on belonging and diversity across their companies in the past 18 months. In this conversation with Nicole Knott, managing director, Accenture, and an HR expert based in the UK, she discusses the importance of keeping the momentum going.

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Belonging and diversity have been thrust further into the spotlight over the last 12 months, as global business leaders, driven by myriad social factors, increased their commitment to improving their own organisations. Nicole Knott, managing director, Accenture, discusses the path to belonging and diversity with Daniela Porr, senior product marketing manager, Workday, and gives advice for organisations starting out on their equity and inclusion journey.

The following are highlights of what Knott shared with us.

In terms of belonging, diversity, and inclusion (BD&I), can you tell us how you see the landscape, given all that has happened over the last 12 months?

It's hard to believe that it’s been more than a year since the tragic death of George Floyd, which really placed the spotlight on the topic of race and ethnicity—and opened conversations that we'd never really had before in the workplace. And what we’ve seen is many companies making some big commitments to stand behind equity in the workplace. 

It’s important that we continue to build this momentum because our people, both in our workplace and in our communities, are asking for change. We need to use this momentum to really drive change. That means getting laser focused on having the right support in place for all employees, taking into account many different dimensions of diversity, such as gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic background, and the other elements that make up the conversation around diversity.

Can you tell us about Accenture’s BD&I journey and how that has evolved?

It’s been a long journey stemming from around 1995 and has been a real priority for Accenture over that time. We’re seeing it move from a standalone concept to a holistic appreciation of culture. That means understanding the concept of being culture-makers and making the creation of an inclusive culture an organisational priority. Of course, it continues to evolve, based on what is happening in the world and what our employees need, but I’m immensely proud of the work that has been done. It has really transformed from an HR priority into an organisational norm, and that speaks volumes of our progress.

For businesses that are at the start of their journey, how should they communicate BD&I’s value to the business and other key stakeholders?

It seems crazy, given some of the global events we have been talking about, that many people are still hung up on business value and being able to articulate the value of a more inclusive and equitable approach. I think most people know they should care about this, but they still need a push to turn ideas into action. 

According to Accenture research "Who We Are Is How We Grow," 42% of leaders say that the reason they don't have targets around building inclusive environments is that not all of their organisation leaders think it's important yet. And 40% of those people also say it's hard to link those targets to business priorities. Yet, the white paper “Hacking Diversity With Inclusive Decision Making” shows that diverse organisations make decisions 60% faster than non-diverse organisations.

And BD&I is current. Today, there's a big focus on the talent leakage in organisations. For a long time, people were not moving their roles, but as the market starts to open up, more and more people are considering moving roles. We’re talking about roughly 25% of people who are thinking about bolting post-pandemic.

“All of this has been an enhanced moment of truth for organisations. Are they showing up for their people and for their community in a timely way?”

Nicole Knott Managing Director Accenture

Measuring the impact of BD&I initiatives appears to be a real challenge. How should organisations think about that?

It’s really the No. 1 question we hear: “How and what should I be measuring?” My answer is that there are a number of things that a business should focus on to decrease risk while increasing growth and return on investment. From a diversity and inclusion standpoint, we have to think about the entire ecosystem, including the workforce, customers, community, and the supply chain. 

Do we know where our products are coming from, who we're doing business with, and what organisations we're partnering with to deliver to our customers? If we think about the customers, are our product ranges really inclusive for all of our customers? And finally: We’ve seen our community step up recently to support our colleagues in India, during the COVID crisis, really harnessing the power of many people working toward the same goal. 

Understanding the impact of diversity and inclusion across the whole ecosystem increases the number of opportunities to make an impact. And this is exactly what employees are looking for in organisations they work for going forward.

You spoke recently in a webinar about “HR moments that matter” during the pandemic. Tell us about that idea and the role HR has in delivering to its employees.

I think the concept of “moments that matter” still exists, but I've been transitioning more to “moments of truth.” Particularly in this last year, because when you desperately needed your organisation to show up for you, did they? Did you get the cash advance because your husband lost his job and it's going to be a tough patch? Or when you lost a loved one, were you able to get extra compassionate leave? When you were sick, did you get what you needed? 

So all of this has been an enhanced moment of truth for organisations. Are they showing up for their people and for their community in a timely way? I think moments that matter have been enhanced or heightened by the need for bending the business-as-usual rules to do what's right for the individual.

You talk about five areas business leaders can focus on when it comes to delivering on BD&I. Can you tell us about those?

The first one is to really define and communicate that business case, so everybody is aware of it, both internally and externally, and can be proud of those commitments. Next, treat diversity and inclusion the same way you treat any other major initiative. You have arrived when the board and the steering committee or executive team are championing BD&I the same way they would any other strategic business priority. The third piece aligns well with the last because it is about achieving and demonstrating a visible BD&I commitment from the leadership. Next, businesses should make this a core value. 

That's a powerful statement. If you think about core values, most organisations will have three or four core values. If diversity and inclusion makes it into that top three or four, that makes a big, bold statement. Last, but certainly not least, is to establish metrics to track progress, but also to help demonstrate the case for change.

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