Kay Formanek is intimately acquainted with societal attitudes towards diversity: she grew up in South Africa during apartheid, was raised alongside a differently-abled sister, and was, personally, often relegated to underrepresented groups throughout her career. Over the last 30 years she has worked in more than 50 different organizations to advance their diversity journeys, and founded a leadership coaching firm called Diversity and Performance.
Below, Kay shares 5 key insights from her new book, Beyond D&I: Leading Diversity with Purpose and Inclusiveness. Listen to the audio version—read by Kay herself—in the Next Big Idea App.
1. Five elements are required for diversity performance, but common practices focus on only two.
Organizations focus primarily on diversity and inclusion, but these two elements are not adequate. We are missing an integrated focus on equity, leadership, and purpose.
Equity is achieving fairness by acknowledging the unconscious bias that exists in every environment, and ensuring fair access to resources: networks, opportunities, or investments. The element of leadership exists when diversity is led through personally committed individuals who believe in the case for diversity and actively contribute to the journey. Lastly, the purpose element exists when diversity is linked to the very mandate of the organization, its strategic goals, and when there is a unanimous understanding of the case for diversity.
With these five elements in place—diversity, inclusion, equity, leadership and purpose—there is a virtuous circle of performance.
“Equity is achieving fairness by acknowledging the unconscious bias that exists in every environment, and ensuring fair access to resources: networks, opportunities, or investments.”
2. Five evolutionary stages of diversity performance exist, but leaders typically assume one stage.
A rigorous review of hundreds of diversity journeys, in various types of organizations (commercial, nonprofit, government institutions), reveals five distinct evolutionary stages in obtaining diversity performance. Which stage an organization achieves is substantially linked to the intent within an organization, so it is important to know which stage you aspire to attain and the stage at which you currently are. Once the stage is identified, there is a clear mapping to diversity capabilities, and the richness of those capabilities that need to be in place to support the specific stage of performance.
- Stage 1: diversity to avoid legal or regulatory penalties.
- Stage 2: diversity so that organizations are not penalized by their customers and employees.
- Stage 3: organizations seeking improved bottom-line performance.
- Stage 4: organizations seeking agility and transformational capability.
- Stage 5: organizations that pursue diversity as a means of supporting a broader societal value of leaving no one behind.
Naturally, the higher the stage of performance, the more robust the capability needs to be; the higher the stage, the more work that must be done. By identifying ambition based on the stage of diversity your organization aspires to, and then identifying the current stage, leaders have clarity on their existing stage gap, and can focus on closing it through capability development.
“The higher the stage of performance, the more robust the capability needs to be.”
3. Six capabilities support diversity performance—not ad hoc actions.
Leaders are applying billions of investments to advancing diversity, but are failing to move the needle. Around 75 percent of these investments are missing the mark because they don’t translate to more inclusion, equity, or diversity performance. The reason for this is that the investments most organizations make are ad hoc, and are not linked to the desired stage of diversity performance—nor linked to the six capabilities.
Six capabilities are required for sustainable diversity performance. There are a cluster of interventions required to deliver on the capability for one’s selected stage of performance to be achieved. The six capabilities are:
- Mitigating Bias
- Building the Strategic Case for Diversity
- Embedding Inclusive Behaviors and Rituals in the Organization
- Supporting Diversity with the required Policies
- Measuring and Monitoring Diversity
- Celebrating and Sustaining the Diversity Journey
“This generation will increasingly punish those organizations that are reactive in their diversity leadership and those that are opportunistic in seeking diversity.”
4. Don’t forget about the ethical and societal value cases for diversity.
For the last 50 years, organizations have largely built a case around diversity around the legal requirement to comply and advancing bottom line performance. Yet, our youngest generation (those under 22 years of age within Generation Z) and the younger Millennials are extremely diverse and committed to equity, equality, and sustainability.
They want to be convinced that organizations are not only pursuing diversity to avoid legal penalty and for growing profit. They wish for assurance that an organization is pursuing inclusion and equity because it supports a more sustainable society, where no one is left behind. This generation will increasingly punish those organizations that are reactive in their diversity leadership and those that are opportunistic in seeking diversity.
5. Diversity is a journey, not a project.
When organizations look at diversity as a “check-box action,” they tend to look at it with a start or beginning, like a project. However, when organizations lead diversity strategically, they understand that it is a journey.
It is a journey that requires courageous leadership, a clear strategic narrative and goals, the allocation of clear investments, the implementation of the capabilities that support the advancement of diversity performance, and adaptability of the diversity approach to new circumstances within the organization and its surrounding context.
As a result, leaders that are advancing diversity need to see it as a journey that runs hand-in-hand with the sustainability of their business, organization, and stakeholders.
To listen to the audio version read by author Kay Formanek, download the Next Big Idea App today: