New research finds 92% of diversity leaders say I&D programs are effective

Yet raising awareness of I&D remains a priority for 55% of respondents

75% of diversity leaders believe they could do more to leverage data to direct resources to the most impactful I&D initiatives

34% believe that I&D issues are underreported

67% of diversity leaders fear that managers contain I&D-related complaints

To strengthen I&D strategies, accelerate progress and manage risk, having a holistic view is essential. I&D initiatives must be connected by an overarching plan and education program, informed by data and driven by culture and employee experience in order to accelerate I&D goals and overcome the barriers to change.

New research from Baker McKenzie reveals a frustrating lack of progress on Inclusion & Diversity, despite efforts to address underrepresentation and promote inclusion. The Insights from Global Employment Leaders surveyed 900 employment leaders in global organizations including representative samples in EMEA, Asia Pacific and the United States. 

Stubborn issues continue to undermine optimism on I&D

Despite 92% of diversity leaders believing I&D programs to be effective, organizations are still focused on long-held priorities such as raising awareness of I&D and increasing the diversity of senior management, even at a time when stakeholders are asking organizations to go further, faster. 

Similarly, persistent issues in recruiting and retaining diverse talent suggest that I&D programs are failing to effect real change. The data shows that organizations are on the back foot when it comes to recruiting diverse talent –– 51% of diversity leaders say that recruiting diverse talent is a priority. However, recruitment initiatives alone are not enough to balance the workforce population. The fact that 45% of organizations are also prioritizing retention of employees from underrepresented groups suggests they are facing an ongoing talent drain.

Monica Kurnatowska, London Partner, Employment & Compensation at Baker McKenzie commented, “Comprehensive training and policies are the foundations of a good program, but without a clear overarching strategy, with an emphasis on inclusion and cultural change, combined with appropriate funding directed to the areas of greatest need, diverse leadership and robust measurement it is difficult to make real progress.”

Underreporting persists despite investments in training and policies

The survey has highlighted that the number of policies and training has grown significantly in the last three years. This trend is set to continue as 63% of respondents have plans to expand this activity further. 

However, despite the growth in I&D programs across the polled regions and industries, the data also stressed that 67% of respondents fear managers contain I&D-related complaints rather than using specifically implemented reporting mechanisms. As a result, 34% of respondents believe that I&D issues are underreported, further hampering the effectiveness of I&D initiatives. This is despite that instigating a "speak up" culture remains a key priority for 78% of diversity leaders.

Yindi Gesinde, London Partner, Compliance & Investigations at Baker McKenzie, commented, “As I&D activities become increasingly central to overall corporate governance, organizations will have to demonstrate the effectiveness of their efforts with greater rigor. Rather than duplicating efforts, Compliance and Diversity teams should join forces –– utilizing the lessons of how to implement effective corporate compliance to improve I&D performance.”

Organizations are struggling to take an evidence-based approach to I&D
The Insights from Global Employment Leaders survey showcased how relatively few organizations are taking an evidence-based approach to I&D. Measurement is not a current focus for diversity leaders, and over the coming two years only 45% will prioritize assessing the performance of the training, policies and initiatives they have implemented. 

75% of diversity leaders believe they could do more to leverage data to direct resources to the most impactful I&D initiatives, but concern about falling afoul of legal restrictions on collecting and processing data on protected characteristics may explain this reluctance. 

Similarly, fewer than 50% of respondents say their organization uses recruitment diversity data, pay data or employee feedback as a way of measuring the effectiveness of actions taken.

Julia Wilson, Partner, Employment and Global Lead HR Data Protection at Baker McKenzie, said, “By taking a country-by-country approach – gathering data appropriately where possible and handling privacy considerations in accordance with local law – organizations can begin to build a measurement infrastructure over time that will deliver valuable insights and information to support their I&D programs.”

The international issues

I&D initiatives are not a one-size fits all program. Organizations operating across multiple jurisdictions often find managing local laws and cultural differences difficult and can be unsure of what nuances to consider when implementing I&D programs and how global policies should be tailored.

66% of diversity leaders agree that different legal requirements in some jurisdictions make it difficult to implement company policies consistently, and 62% say the same about varying cultural expectations. As a result, 47% say that ensuring policies are understood by the organization is a key challenge.

These findings align with the views of compliance leaders who participated in the first installment of the Mind the Gap Series, Insights From Global Compliance Leaders, launched in July 2021. 67% of those respondents reported concern that groups outside the corporate center are not always compliant with global I&D policies.

Research Methodology

Part 2 of the Mind the Gap Series is based on an independent opinion survey of 900 employment leaders in global organizations including a representative sample in EMEA, Asia Pacific and the United States and six sector groups: Industrials, Manufacturing & Transportation (IMT); Consumer Goods & Retail (CG&R); Financial Institutions (FI); Healthcare & Life Sciences (HLS); Energy, Mining & Infrastructure (EMI); and Technology Media & Telecommunications (TMT).

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