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​Diversity and Inclusion in Today's Business

Is your organization a reflection of your values?

Sue Townsen, Chief Diversity Officer, KPMG LLP
Sharon Whittle, Principal – Human Capital Services, Grant Thornton

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​Why should CEOs and boards be concerned with diversity and inclusion?

WHITTLE Why wouldn’t they be concerned about diversity and inclusion? We have a diverse world and a diverse talent pool. Many studies have shown that diverse teams perform better, and for teams to be successful, they must have diversity of thought, not just visible diversity. If you’re a business owner or CEO, and you consider who your customers or clients are, you should recognize that they’re a very diverse population. Therefore, having diversity among leaders and among teams helps you better serve them as you can better tailor your products or solutions to meet their specific needs. Customers and clients also can look to companies and say, “Am I doing business with a company that respects diversity and inclusion, and that looks like me or my company?”
TOWNSEN Inclusion and diversity are both critical talent and business issues. To be an employer of choice, and to have fully engaged employees, you need a genuinely inclusive culture. Feelings of exclusion lower productivity in employees and increase turnover. Inclusion can unlock the power of diverse teams, bringing different perspectives and helping to drive innovation. In addition, the demographics of our country have changed. To get the best, you need to be hiring the best. Stakeholders, customers, and clients also are demanding it. Customers are diverse and companies need the best thinking to help solve complex business challenges or identify new market opportunities.

What should a diversity/inclusion program include?

TOWNSEN Organizations should concentrate on three main areas to be successful. First is driving inclusion in a company’s culture. Inclusive behaviors should be developed in all leaders who, in turn, are accountable for demonstrating those behaviors. Second is to focus on key human resources processes, including talent acquisition, development, and performance management. Together with a strong diversity recruiting strategy, it’s important to mitigate any potential bias in these processes. Finally, organizations need vibrant, inclusive networks with defined objectives. This is where connectivity happens. People stay when they feel they belong. Networks can be designed to help drive development of diverse professionals, provide networking opportunities, and encourage retention. They provide safe places for groups to discuss challenges. Networks also can be instrumental in connecting with clients and the larger community. When all is said and done, a relentless focus on measurement and governance helps ensure that defined objectives are being met.
WHITTLE Determining the pieces of a diversity and inclusion program will depend on where the organization is in its evolution of a diversity and inclusion strategy, what its culture and values are, how its approach to diversity aligns with that, and how it is going to measure its progress. At Grant Thornton, diversity and inclusion is an imperative, and it’s embedded in our culture. They are embedded in not only every aspect of the talent life cycle, but also in the client experience, as well as our involvement in the community.

What if the organization doesn’t have a program?

WHITTLE First and foremost, if you don’t have a program you should be examining “why?” Start with your organization’s vision and values. Do your current vision and values support having a program? Or, do you need to rethink them? Vision and values drive culture, which forms the true foundation of the organization. Think about the potential impact of a program on your organization’s stakeholders.
TOWNSEN It isn’t about a program, it is about whether it is a business imperative. If it is, companies must approach diversity and inclusion as a strategic priority and put appropriate resources behind it. There are many avenues to get support to develop an approach, but the first step is understanding and communicating the business case to the organization.

What should be included in a diversity/inclusion audit?

TOWNSEN From an audit perspective, some of the key lenses include strategy and governance, regulatory, and process. A few considerations include: Is there a clearly defined diversity and inclusion strategy? Are the appropriate stakeholders involved and being held accountable? Are results measured? Another approach to consider is to audit talent processes to assess for unconscious bias. For example, organizations can look at performance ratings and promotion rates of diverse talent compared to nondiverse talent to uncover insights.
WHITTLE Metrics that should be in an audit include recruiting, hiring, retention, promotion pattern, training and development, succession planning, mentoring and coaching, and leadership development. There are other issues that should be considered. Is there a communications plan for how executives and others will communicate with the rest of the organization? Is there a diversity statement? Are there measurable goals? Is leadership united and consistent in its level of program support? Audits should be conducted across multiple geographies and countries, business lines, and divisions to determine the level of consistency. Defining accountability also is important. Accountability for these programs should be defined in writing in job descriptions, performance evaluations, and promotional goals. Accountability can drive the experience so that stakeholders wake up every day and live it.

How should internal audit approach diversity/inclusion within its own ranks?

WHITTLE In the same way diversity and inclusion is important for diverse teams, it’s equally important in internal audit. Some studies on brain science, particularly around gender, and how men and women approach problems differently, provide additional evidence for having diversity and a complete spectrum of skills for teams to be successful. The ability to have people on a team who think differently and are willing to challenge each other is vital. Internal audit is about asking the right questions and being skeptical and willing to challenge. It’s difficult to achieve that if you don’t have a diverse group of individuals working together who have very different ideas.
TOWNSEN No differently — internal audit is just like any other function. There’s value in diversity and working together, particularly in harnessing unique perspectives to add value and find solutions.

How does your company approach diversity/inclusion?

TOWNSEN We are proud of our inclusive culture at KPMG. For us, this means our people feel free to bring their full, authentic selves to work every day and share ideas and passions in ways that enrich our teams, spur innovation, and drive the firm’s success. Our commitment to inclusion and diversity influences everything we do, including the way we recruit, train, and develop our people. To continually strengthen our workforce and impact, we established several strategic priorities that include driving increased diversity, instilling inclusive leadership, and developing next-generation leaders at KPMG and beyond. At every level, our people take ownership for creating an inclusive culture — leading and inspiring our teams, enabled by a framework of national diversity advisory boards, local networks, and inclusion councils. Together, we help create an environment of dialogue and action, addressing the challenges and capturing opportunities that matter most to our firm, our clients, and our communities.
WHITTLE We approach diversity and inclusion as part of our culture and a key part of who we are. We look not only at someone’s outward, or visible diversity, but also at someone’s diversity of thought, background, and experience. Those characteristics carry so much importance. Our strategy also includes measuring and assessing certain retention, advancement, and promotion statistics. We’ve also placed importance on education, skill building, and leadership as well as benefits and work-life flexibility. For us, it’s about employee engagement and being able to advance diverse groups within the organization. One example is being able to advance more women into leadership roles within our firm.

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