• Jennyfer Montantin

Diversity and inclusion: the transition from words to actions

The topics of diversity and inclusion are more current than ever in business. Having said that, the reality is that the figures are relatively modest. But let’s start by defining the concepts of diversity and inclusion.

According to Thais Compoint, CEO and founder of Déclic International:

Diversity is “the mix of visible and invisible differences such as gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, different abilities, sexual orientation, religion, communication styles, education, etc. It’s very broad”.

So in effect, diversity isn’t a monolithic concept but comprises three types:

  • Surface-level or visible diversity (gender, age, physical features, ethnicity, etc.)

  • Intermediate or knowledge-based diversity (CV, experience, career, etc.)

  • Deep-level or hidden diversity(personality, cognitive style, reasoning ability, etc.)

Inclusion, on the other hand, “is a new idea that refers to a culture where people feel their differences are respected. We feel comfortable being ourselves, which means diversity can function within the company”.

Diversity and inclusion would therefore be a real driver for an organisation’s economic performance, in addition to being an asset in terms of social and societal engagement.

But what is it that stops them from being put into action? And what pragmatic and innovative methods do organisations need to develop?

Inclusion and diversity – a hot topic for companies for quite some times

Corporate diversity policies first appeared in the early 2000s as part of regulatory strengthening, especially across Europe. However, Caroline Del Torchio, Senior Manager at Identité RH, explains that in practice, there are three key motivations for their implementation in organisations:

  • A must for risk management: companies are subject to legal obligations when it comes to diversity, and beyond the financial risk, legal action taken by employees who feel they are victims of discrimination presents a major risk to the image and reputation of the company.

  • Willingness to implement an ethical and civic approach: driven by external public authorities and opinions, companies have developed CSR policies that incorporate a section on diversity.

  • Looking for economic performance: a diversified team is better able to understand the expectations of different types of client, to develop new markets and a capacity for innovation, and to adapt to change.

Why is this topic especially crucial in the current environment?

In the context of the future of work, society expresses a strong need to resort to common sense. This transformation, coupled with the challenge of climate change, causes companies to go beyond the idea of “social and environmental responsibility” and create a more assertive role in society that is directly linked with their corporate DNA and their economic agenda.

Diversity and inclusion therefore appear to be key factors in addressing this challenge. Going beyond simple social engagement, they become economic assets that enable companies to better understand their environment and respond to their clients, to develop a greater capacity for innovation and transformation, and to increase the engagement of their employees by improving the way they respond to the expectations of new generations.

A recent study by the International Labour Organization also showed that inclusive companies have a 60% higher chance of improving their results and retaining talent over the long term.

What are the obstacles to avoid in order to foster diversity and inclusion?

Despite the obvious benefits, the development of diversity and inclusion encounters numerous sticking points and obstacles within organisations. These are the most common:

  • Wanting to progress too quickly: the weight of stereotypes and prejudices is heavy because it is anchored in the collective unconscious. Rushing to recruit certain people for the sake of diversity or because they are considered “unusual” isn’t enough – it is essential to promote their integration, train managers, and build the awareness of the teams in order that the change can take full effect.

  • Short-term thinking: one of the obstacles encountered by recruiters is focusing on performance indicators. But meeting quotas by only concentrating on recruitment isn’t enough – far from it. Diversity and inclusion policy should ensure the development and fulfilment of the new employee from the moment they start, the aim being to retain talents for the long term but also encouraging their success internally.

  • Always using the same recruitment channels: companies often recruit from the same hiring pools (level of education, degrees, type of experience, specific universities or schools, etc.). However, drawing on the same networks doesn’t foster diversity or inclusion, which is expressed through life experiences and varied careers.

  • Forgetting to give life to the beauty of diversity and inclusion: diversity and inclusion should be integrated into all levels of the company and form the focus of a promotional strategy that is ongoing and appears on all available communications channels.

How do you initiate this process in practice?

According to Laurence Monnet-Vernier, associate partner at Deloitte, in order to implement a process that will bring results, inclusion must be present throughout the entire employee experience and the policies that structure life at the company: organisation and methods of working, social policy, HR policies and systems, etc.”.

Only cultural and structural transformation across all levels of a company, supported by strong leadership coming from top management, will ensure the effective and sustainable promotion of diversity and inclusion. The company needs to establish values that will guide all of its recruitment and management decisions towards open-mindedness, respect, curiosity and appreciating differences.

Who are the key players when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

  • Leaders, who as we’ve just seen need to embody the change by acknowledging individuality as a key pillar of the company.

  • Managers, who need to demonstrate open-mindedness and human intelligence in order to adapt to all types of people, but also to learn how to develop their teams without bias, by drawing on the abilities of all of their employees.

  • Employees, who need to escape the mould in which they have been cast in order to evolve and express their uniqueness as an essential contribution to the success of the company’s strategy.

  • Recruiters, who need to display inventiveness particularly when it comes to recruitment platforms and hiring pools in order to attract, develop and recognise talent in unusual and diverse profiles.

This can be achieved through structures dedicated to diversity like those at the Mozaïk RH recruitment agency, which create a different talent pool, and go beyond viewing talent as being based on a CV and “pedigree” in order to embrace a broader perspective based on creativity, resilience and a desire to succeed, or what we would today call “soft skills”.

Here are several interesting figures highlighted by AssessFirst that help us understand where recruiters currently stand:

- 96% of recruiters think that diversity is important for the success of a company.

- 60% highlight a lack of candidates as a major problem.

- 88% blame a lack of budget allocated to the recruitment of diverse profiles.

  • Candidates, no matter who they are or what their career is, need to be more assured during their application to and integration into an organisation that values their distinctiveness as a contribution towards achieving their mission.[

Here again, the figures from AssessFirst speak volumes:

- 34% of candidates think that being different can have a negative impact on their chances of recruitment.

- 50% confirm that the unusual character of their profile presents an obstacle in finding an appropriate offer.

- 40% confirm that the unusual character of their profile has a negative influence on how the interview goes, and 31%on the response they receive to their applications.

  • HR marketing: cultural transformation within and outside the company needs to be accompanied by communication and dissemination of the values and commitments of the company.

Going beyond the CSR aspect, diversity is therefore above all a question of leadership. Companies that want to progress and be closer to their clients need to voluntarily commit themselves for the long term. HR departments, on the other hand, are concerned with cultural transformation and the accompanying change on all levels: management, recruitment and communication.

However, actions taken these days are largely tentative and can sometimes be likened to marketing or communications. The areas in question are a short-term view focused on performance, the rhythm of corporate life, the psychological and cognitive bias of recruiters or that of candidate screening programs, a lack of anticipation of HR requirements and the fact that the topic is seen as secondary.

But in France in particular and under the more demanding gaze of the French population, the reasons behind the introduction of the recent PACTE law (a law aiming to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, facilitating the growth of businesses and creating jobs) could become an accelerator for diversity and inclusion across the Channel.

I’ll leave you with this video from Apple, entitled “Inclusion & Diversity”

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