Global Diversity Strategy

How Lead Diversity Works with Strategy Clients

At Lead Diversity, we always collaborate with a guiding coalition of organizational leaders and the strategy process always cycles through three stages: assessment, formulation, and implementation. It can range from:

  • A comprehensive assessment and formulation process which deeply engages key stakeholders, takes two or more months to complete, and results in a comprehensive, multi-year strategic plan to
  • An accelerated, quick liftoff strategic process of one or two part-day sessions which result in an annual strategy with key objectives, the core activities to achieve those objectives, accountabilities assigned, and outcome measures in place to
  • Every level of complexity in between.

Based on its analysis of the assessment, Lead Diversity always makes strong recommendations. Those recommendations recognize that strategy is contingent upon the unique environment, current situation, and strategic imperatives of the client. What is a best practice for one organization might not be a sensible practice for another. Therefore, Lead Diversity always crafts recommendations in a spirit of collaboration and adaptation to fit the unique context of each client.

Lead Diversity guides clients through the intricacies of implementation. This can range from providing full guidance, project management, and facilitation for the client’s implementation team to ongoing coaching and thought partnership with the senior diversity leader and accountable implementation team members.

The Ten Elements of Global Diversity Strategy

Effective Global Diversity Strategies incorporate ten elements. The first four — Leadership Commitment, Values & Beliefs, Global Context, and Change Management create the framework and conditions for strategic change. The next five — Metrics & Analytics, Communications, Programs & Policies, Infrastructure, and Diversity Climate are the major components of implementing strategic change. The linkage between the first nine elements and Competitive Advantage in product/service and talent markets sets the stage for the return on diversity investment.

Global Diversity Strategy

1. Leadership Commitment

The gateway to a successful diversity initiative is leadership commitment. Lead Diversity starts with the top management team. Top leaders typically want compelling answers to four questions before they commit to diversity as a priority:

  1. What is diversity (the definition)?
  2. Why should we invest in diversity (the business case)?
  3. How can we ensure that our investment in diversity is successful (global diversity strategy)?
  4. What do you want me to do (diversity leadership)?

Leaders take five steps to guide the development and implementation of a diversity strategy. They are presented in detail below in the order recommended. Depending on the unique situation of the organization, Lead Diversity assists the leadership to select the steps that are right for them and place them in the proper order.

The first step for senior leadership is education, answering the four questions above and increasing their self-awareness about their own biases and attitudes toward members of underrepresented groups.

Lead Diversity offers a variety of learning platforms for leaders, including highly interactive action learning experiences and guest speakers who are knowledge leaders or who have led successful diversity initiatives as CEOs, CHROs, and CDOs.

The second step is making three framing decisions, if not previously completed, based on a series of alternatives developed by the external consulting and internal diversity team:

  1. Definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  2. Articulation of diversity values and beliefs (see Values & Beliefs)
  3. A business case that is unique to their particular organization

The third step is for senior leadership to understand the current state of diversity in their organization and its subunits and agree on a strategic framework and process for moving forward. This is often based on a comprehensive assessment process that includes reviewing and analyzing existing organizational data, a diversity climate survey, and interviews and focus groups. At minimum, it includes interviews with all or a robust sample of senior leaders. After being vetted with key diversity stakeholders in the organization, the analysis of the assessment and recommendations for action are presented to the leadership team in a highly interactive and engaging work conference out of which comes the framework for a diversity strategy and agreement on an action pathway.

The fourth step is the refinement of the work conference outcomes into a global diversity strategy and implementation plan. These typically cover two to three years, depending on the horizon that makes sense for the organization. The strategy will ordinarily include a unique diversity framework followed by an analytics section that articulates the current state of diversity in the organization and, then, the strategy, built around strategic objectives. Each strategic objective includes a success measure, targets, and core activities to achieve the targets. The strategy concludes with an implementation plan that details the deliverables, project plan, and accountabilities.

The fifth step is for senior managers to agree on their roles and responsibilities for implementation and on mechanisms for accountability. At minimum, top management’s role includes aggressive internal communication of the organization’s unique business case for diversity and its diversity strategy. That role also includes holding managers at all levels accountable for the success of the diversity initiative.

2. Values & Beliefs

At the foundation of every diversity initiative are values & beliefs, including a diversity philosophy and core meanings, to which the organization aspires. They communicate to employees what the organization fundamentally expects of them and establish the essence of the diversity brand with external publics.

Lead Diversity assists in making the connection between an organization’s existing values & beliefs and its diversity initiative, creating a leadership statement of diversity philosophy, pinning down the definitions and meanings that make an organization’s initiative unique, and, if they don’t already exist, formulating values & beliefs.

3. Global Context

The global context of diversity raises the complexity of diversity strategy exponentially. National and regional laws, definitions and meanings of diversity, the populations that are underrepresented and excluded, and national cultures and languages all vary significantly across the globe. This variation is further complicated by the inequalities that can arise from the vast physical distances and time zone differences separating managers from workers, colleagues from colleagues, and organizational unit from organizational unit.

Lead Diversity collaborates with its clients to sort out these complexities, especially around the design of a global diversity strategy process; the competencies required for effective cross-global leadership and management; the global structure of the diversity initiative, focusing on the degree to which diversity authority should be centralized or country or region-focused; and the integrating mechanisms for making the chosen structure work.

4. Change Management

Formulating and implementing a diversity strategy is a process of intensive and intentional change at the individual, team, and organizational levels. Lead Diversity assists:

  • Individuals to increase their self-awareness and understanding of diversity and learn more effective attitudes and behaviors,
  • Team leaders to leverage the advantages of difference, and
  • Organizations to develop the committed leadership and establish a unique strategic diversity process that engages stakeholders, conduct the analysis that motivates change, develop the philosophy and business case that sustain it, and implement the organizational mechanisms that institutionalize it.

5. Metrics & Analytics

Metrics are the numbers collected, whereas analytics give greater depth and meaning to metrics. Many organizations have powerful metrics at their disposal, e.g., EEO-1 and HRIS data, that have not been analyzed effectively.

Lead Diversity assists organizations with:

  • Diversity assessments that create “burning platforms” for action and empower strategic change
  • Analytics that help determine organizational inequities and root causes of diversity defects
  • Diversity climate measures (see Diversity Climate)
  • Diversity dashboards that assess outcomes of the diversity initiative and provide the evidence on which course corrections can be made and the next round of planning can be based.

For one of Lead Diversity’s federal government clients, the diversity dashboard included measures of accountabilities, vendor diversity, diversity climate, representation, talent development, and competitive talent market advantage.

6. Communications

Internal Communications

Top management has two immediate communication goals: communicate the business case and diversity strategy intensively throughout the organization. Lead Diversity assists communications staff and the senior team to craft internal messages and processes for delivering those messages and also assists in crafting ongoing communications, such as annual reports on diversity, diversity newsletters, and Intranet sites.

External Communications

Lead Diversity works under the assumption that all external diversity communications are branding messages whether intended or not. We partner with internal communications staff and external PR firms, communications consultants, and advertising agencies to develop branding strategies and assist organizations to identify the audiences with whom they wish to communicate, specify the goals they want to achieve, and develop the messages and identify the media to most effectively reach and move each audience. Media include press releases, advertising, sponsorships, charitable contributions, websites, annual reports, and disseminating speeches and presentations by organizational leaders.

7. Programs & Policies

Through the assessment process, Lead Diversity assists its clients to identify the policies that should be reviewed, the policy revisions that should be made, and the programs that should be initiated or improved. Key policy domains that should be reviewed include recruiting; performance management and recognition; succession planning; employee, career, and leadership development; and compensation.

Program initiatives include:

  • Task Forces and Employee Resource Groups, including structure and objectives, formation, and operation.
  • Mentoring and On-boarding Programs, including formal, traditional mentoring, peer mentoring, group mentoring, virtual mentoring, and high speed mentoring and on-boarding programs that focus on cultural adaptation and long-term retention.
  • Recruitment, including assistance in identifying community recruiting partners and recruiting firms that specialize in diversity, aligning recruiting partners and firms with diversity objectives, targeting recruiting efforts to particular populations, and making hiring decisions equitable.
  • Equity Management, assuring that all human capital decision making processes, including recruitment, interviewing, hiring, performance evaluation, development, promotion, and retention, are merit-based and equitable across all employee
  • Community Partnerships, including setting specifications, identifying qualified community partners, contracting, project management, and evaluation
  • Work-Life and Dependent Care, including assessments, program development, flexible work policy development and training, dependent care audits, and project management.
  • Career Management, including self-managed career development, career management programs and training for employees and managers, succession planning, and job posting policies.
  • Learning, including initiatives aimed at developing an enlightened top leadership team; creating self-awareness, understanding, and behavioral strategies around bias, privilege, micro-inequities, inclusion, and equity among all employees; and equipping team leaders with the knowledge and skills to lead inclusively and leverage team member differences for competitive advantage. Lead Diversity offers:
    • Cutting edge content to a client’s learning organization, which develops and delivers the content
    • Tailored or custom designed and developed learning programs, which the client delivers
    • Design, development, and delivery of learning on a global scale.

8. Infrastructure

Organizations require an infrastructure to plan, organize, and manage the diversity initiative. Lead Diversity assists organizations to design a structure that fits them, define roles and responsibilities, and develop the mechanisms for integrating the activities of organizational units. For smaller organizations, the infrastructure might be an assignment to one person on top of their other responsibilities, while in larger organizations it might include a diversity council, a diversity office, employee resource groups, the roles and responsibilities of each of these entities, and the reporting relationships among and within these entities and with senior management.

Typically, diversity organizations have three major roles: compliance, strategy, and operations. In some organizations, particularly in federal governments, these responsibilities might reside in three different organizations. A methodology for integrating and coordinating the activities of these organizations is critical to diversity success.

9. Diversity Climate

Climate is the perception by the workforce of organizational practices and behaviors and their impact. Diversity climate typically examines the meaning employees attach to diversity and the degree to which differences are valued and sought after, inclusion is fostered, employment decisions are based on merit, the organization reflects its customers and communities, and the workforce is free from harassment, discrimination, and intolerance and to speak up without fear of reprisal. In addition, climate also assesses broader organizational practices such as leadership, supervision, communications, career development, and performance management.

Lead Diversity measures diversity climate through an employee survey supplemented by interviews with senior leaders and focus groups with a representative sample of the rest of the workforce. In many cases, an existing employee survey is sufficient and can be supplemented by a small number of additional survey questions, interviews, and focus groups. In other cases, where organizations have been “over surveyed,” interviews and focus groups are often sufficient.

10. Competitive Advantage

The primary intent of the previous nine elements, in addition to creating a workplace where every employee thrives and excels, is to achieve sustainable competitive advantage through differentiation in talent and product/service markets. Talent differentiation through diversity can expand the talent pool; raise the quality of talent; strengthen team problem solving and decision making; improve the efficiency and effectiveness of recruiting, hiring, evaluation, retention, development, and advancement of employees; increase employee engagement; and boost productivity and innovation, while lowering the costs of retention. Diversity can expand product/service markets and increase market share, while improving product/service quality, marketing, sales, product development, and customer relationship management, and raising the corporate social responsibility profile.