Four Essential Vectors of a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

At The Impact Seat we've examined the diversity and inclusion activities of hundreds of companies. That's a lot of activity. Our Framework for Diversity and Inclusion Database is expansive, extensive. When first assembled the data, it seemed overwhelming until we organized and analyzed it. When we examined the data, patterns emerged.

We identified four essential vectors of activity. It is our hypothesis, that we continue to test, that a company cannot successful manage diversity and inclusion unless it has substantial activity in all four vectors.

Here's what you need to know:

Talent Management: This vector, like the others, is essential for companies to create inclusion; however, many companies only focus on this area and are often frustrated by their results. We would argue that you can't have inclusion if you only focus on talent management. You certainly can't have inclusion without it, but having it be your sole focus is a problem.

Anecdotally, when we ask companies about their diversity and inclusion activities, they immediately cite some hiring programs as the main course of action. Or, they cite an anti-bias or unconscious bias program which leads us to our next vector.

Risk Management: This is another area that for a while saw most of the diversity activity, particularly as anti-discrimination laws were enacted. Now we're seeing a new wave of risk management for diversity and inclusion and that's focused on reputation risk. Companies are seeking to get ahead of any potential crisis whether from incidence like the Starbucks problem in Philadelphia, product boycotts or employee misbehavior. Moving this vector from reactive to proactive policies is the new trend in diversity and inclusion.

Moving Risk Management from reactive to proactive policies is the latest pain point in diversity and inclusion.

Social Leadership: This vector is broad and can often suffer the most from a lack of a unified vision. Decisions such as the philanthropic choices of the company, the level of supplier diversity, customer-facing messages and product design — all have a diversity and inclusion element and opportunity. However, the lack of central ownership and accountability often leads to fragmented solutions and missed opportunity.

Strategic Leadership: This is where a lot of issues around transparency, accountability, policies, rules and governance belong. If your activity in the other sectors doesn't map to measurement and accountability, there are many possible repercussions. Typically, it means a lack of credibility for the company and leadership. However, we would caution that what gets measured is incredibly important. One common shortcoming is to only measure demographics and not dive deeper into employee engagement and satisfaction or into professional development measurement.

So how do you know how your company stacks up against other companies? How do you compare your company over time to show progress?

Start simple, making an inventory of all the activity you can think of under these vectors. Look for those areas where there are gaps and see how different areas connect.

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