How Leaders Can Become D&I Ambassadors

How Leaders Can Become D&I Ambassadors

It has recently become a stark realisation for many organisations that they need to do more to improve their diversity and inclusion commitment. It is clear that one-off induction training doesn’t create a culture of inclusivity. As a result, organisations are doing more to build this culture and make a change that benefits all.

One way that organisations are promoting D&I is by hiring Heads of Diversity and Diversity Leads. In fact, this is a role that is growing four times faster than HR roles, with a 107% increase in the last five years. With organisations focusing on diversity and inclusion, many leaders are now looking at what they can do to embody this culture and step up for a positive change.

Diversity Challenges

In leadership, there are huge concerns that there is a lack of diversity in leaders. For example, just 37% of Black workers agree that Black people hold leadership positions in their organisation compared to 55% of white workers.

Another study has found that 68% of C-level executives are white men, whereas just 4% are BIPOC women.

Furthermore, research suggests that three in every five workers in the United States have experienced or witness discrimination in the workplace. Again, showing that many organisations have a long way to go to ensure an inclusive culture.

Driving Diversity Benefits

However, those organisations and leaders ready to make improvements in their diversity and inclusion will reap the rewards. A McKinsey study has found that 33% of companies are seeing high achievements in their diversity and inclusion. Those that are achieving gains can enjoy tangible results:

  • An ethically diverse leadership team is 36% more likely to be profitable
  • Culturally diverse boards are 43% more likely to achieve higher profits
  • Diverse management teams report 19% higher revenue
  • 64% of candidates say diversity is an important factor in their job decision
  • Diversity enhances innovation by 20%

What Leaders Can Do

It is easy to assume that diversity and inclusivity must come from a top-down approach. However, it is up to every individual to create a space where diversity is celebrated, and inclusivity and acceptance are the norm.

Leaders in organisations can do their own part to create a more inclusive culture not only for their team but the wider organisation.

Three Ways Leaders Can Improve D&I

1.  Where Are You Now? Gather The Data

Before leaders can take steps to improve D&I, it is important to understand what the experience is like now. Understanding how employees really feel and what they actually experience is vital in creating positive changes for the future.

It can help to start with the quantitative data. For example, what is the current status of the team? Once you have the data, you can start to work out the percentages you are striving for. For instance, this could be to increase leadership diversity by 20% over the next five years.

As well as the team statistics, it is also vital to look at the qualitative data. What does the team really think and feel about diversity and inclusion? Understanding inclusivity from an employee perspective can be vital; however, it can be subjective. With this in mind, it can help to use an inclusivity index to establish the critical pillars of inclusivity. For example, Gallup measure three main pillars: strength, respect and trust.

There are lots of ways to measure inclusivity. Some themes that can be useful to explore with your team include:

  • Mentorship and support
  • Belongingness
  • Equality and recognition
  • Turnover and development
  • Pay and growth
  • Engagement and opportunities.

It is important to consider the different touchpoints throughout an employee lifecycle. Does inclusivity vary depending on the employee’s time in the business?

2.  Where Do You Want To Be? Plan Your Next Steps

As soon as you create your priorities from your data and set D&I goals, it is time to put in place the plans that will help you achieve them. As leaders, it is vital to create a team that can help steer and execute the next steps.

For an inclusive organisation, cross-collaboration will be vital. This means drawing upon a range of voices and experiences in the business. At this stage, leaders may need to reflect on whether to hire or promote D&I Leads or have committee leads.

Each business will have very different D&I needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As a result, it is important to create a robust plan that is fully tailored to the business needs. Some of the factors that organisations may wish to explore include:

  • Employee feedback mechanisms
  • Reporting tools for metrics
  • Communication plan for a collective steer
  • Accessible leaders for support
  • Events, resources and experiences (e.g. mentorships)
  • A D&I champion and sponsor
  • A charter that explains the steps to success.


3.  What Will Get In Your Way? Build Momentum

With a plan in place, businesses are set for success. However, it is important to prepare for any situations that may detract from the focus. The day-to-day can often take priority. So, to ensure organisational buy-in continues throughout the plan, it is important to build accountability.

Accountability from leaders is crucial as it is this commitment and embodiment of the plan that will cascade through the rest of the organisation. Visibility and clear actions will be crucial for sustaining momentum. As a leader that is committed to the success of the D&I plan, it will be vital to show proactive and enthusiastic communication.

Some of the ways leaders can embody their inclusive plan include:

  • Conducting wider recruitment searches to diversify and attract top talent
  • Communication and collaborative goal setting
  • Flexible working arrangements with inclusivity at its heart
  • Actions in alignment with communication
  • Being authentic and honest for employee buy-in
  • Creating employee cues and cascade actions.

The shared commitment is at the heart of an inclusive organisation, so at every step, a leader must ensure there can be a wider action that the rest of the team can support and be a part of.

Leading For Diversity

Leaders have a huge responsibility in helping organisations to embody their inclusive values. By leaders taking steps in improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, these actions can have far-reaching positive effects.

With leaders being passionate about building an inclusive culture, the whole organisation will benefit from attracting diverse talent, building a culture built on respect and understanding and ensuring employee engagement and wellbeing.

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