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How to not “tick the box”

Your organisation’s approach to diversity must reflect its corporate priorities, strategy and ambitions, first and foremost. The proposition that success depends on talent is not controversial, so too it should be uncontroversial for companies to remain open to all avenues and opportunities to find, train and promote the best talent, wherever that talent may be and whoever may have it (or the potential for it).

Parker makes it harder for companies to tick the box on diversity not because there aren’t any qualified candidates out there – that argument was dispelled by the review – but because it has moved the debate beyond a focus on gender and has opened the door to the broader questions about the need for a diverse workforce and management team.

With all of that in mind, here are our thoughts on how to seek, build, develop and promote ethnic diversity beyond Parker’s recommendations:

1

Revisit your diversity policies in light of your corporate strategy.

They need to be aligned and support the direction of the company. The diversity policy needs to ensure that inclusion is at its core, as a diverse population will then have a place to reside and grow. Ensure that your policies include ethnicity and emphasise the need for ethnic diversity and experience, culture and thought within your organisations. Also make sure that your policy is revisited regularly.

2

Gain endorsement by the board, the Chair and the senior executives.

Leadership has to embrace diversity, including ethnicity, openly and transparently. Leaders must “walk the walk” and ensure that the culture within the organisation truly accepts diverse thought. That is harder than it seems as leading diverse teams is a huge challenge. You may want to suggest outside training on leading diverse teams – which is distinct from anti-bias training. Reverse mentoring may also be helpful.

3

Revisit promotion and hiring criteria.

This should be done both internally and externally. Internally, each of the job positions and qualification criteria should be examined for any inadvertent or implicit bias. Companies may want to look back at the applicant pools for its positions as there can be indicators of implicit or explicit bias. Externally – with the use of executive search – be clear in your terms of reference that they are to help achieve your strategic ambitions, including helping you to build a diverse team from top to bottom.

4

Challenge where a “long” or “short” list does not reflect diversity.

Not just based on gender, but also ethnicity. There is also a need to look beyond any specific appointment, and really assess the pipeline of talent. Beyond this person, for example, “Where are the next potential candidates?” Certainly, if diverse candidates aren’t in your pipeline and you aren’t developing them, progress will be slow or non-existent.

5

Consider specific targets throughout all ranks of the organisation, and commit to them publicly.

Don’t boil the ocean, be pragmatic and realistic about first steps, but be clear and committed to the ambition. The pace of change is important and will be a measure of commitment. Targets and milestones can be helpful and powerful if thoughtfully applied, and focus on all stages of progression, not just in the senior ranks.

In summary, issues for boards to consider

One

Does your diversity policy ensure that inclusion is at its core so that a diverse population will have a place to reside and grow?

Two

Does the board “walk the walk” i.e. does it embrace diversity, including ethnicity, openly and transparently?

Three

Promotion and hiring criteria need to be revisited regularly.

Four

Parker is not just about board positions. Companies need to help create a pipeline of good diverse talent if progress is to be achieved. If diverse candidates are not in your pipeline, and you are not developing them, progress will be slow or non-existent.

Five

Thought should be given to specifying targets and committing to them publicly. What gets measured tends to get done.

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