In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, prioritizing people-centric strategies and diversity is essential for driving performance, fostering inclusion, and unlocking substantial business value.

By Petter Kleppe

In today's fast-evolving business environment, a seismic change is underway, one that demands immediate attention from executives and decision-makers. As an executive coach and headhunter, I have witnessed firsthand the critical shift taking place. Increasingly, companies across industries are awakening to the undeniable truth: a people-centric strategy isn’t just desirable – it’s essential to driving performance, fostering diversity, and promoting inclusion. What’s more, it’s the key to unlocking substantial business value.

Gone are the days when HR strategies and the People Agenda played second fiddle to finance, operations, and marketing. Forward-thinking leaders now recognize that the true cornerstone of any organization lies in its people. Investing in a diverse, well-supported workforce isn't just a moral imperative; it's a strategic necessity that can catapult businesses to unparalleled heights of success.

As professional headhunters and executive coaches, we have had the privilege of witnessing transformative moments first-hand. I’ve seen executives and organizations redefine their corporate strategies by placing a People First approach at the forefront. Their remarkable achievements serve as a clarion call, underscoring the urgent need to prioritize people-oriented strategies for enhanced board performance.

Why the People Agenda?

People are the heartbeat of every organization. Companies can unlock exponential growth and value-creation potential by nurturing talent, investing in their development, and fostering an inclusive environment. A study by McKinsey & Company revealed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Moreover, a diverse and inclusive workplace significantly improves a company's reputation, increases its appeal to prospective employees, and expands its consumer base. These factors inevitably lead to better financial performance. For instance, a 2018 BCG study found that companies with diverse management teams had 19% higher revenues due to increased innovation.

Leading by Example: The PepsiCo Story

PepsiCo is an example of a company that has excelled in placing People Strategy high on its Board agenda. Under Indra Nooyi's leadership, the company implemented ‘Performance with Purpose, a program focused on delivering sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and the planet. This included creating a diverse, inclusive culture that fostered creativity and drove the business forward.

By placing the People Strategy at the forefront, PepsiCo saw remarkable results, with operating profit increasing by more than 70% and shareholder returns exceeding 162%.

Recruiting HR Experts on the Board

Including human resource experts on the Board can significantly augment a company's People Strategy. HR experts can effectively articulate people-centric issues and guide the development of robust strategies that promote a diverse and inclusive culture. Also, they can help reinvent the organizational culture to maximize productivity, foster innovation, and unlock value-creation opportunities.

Furthermore, HR professionals bring insights into talent management, recruitment strategies, leadership development, and succession planning, which are crucial for a company's long-term growth and sustainability.

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion - Vital Elements of a People Strategy

It isn't just about social responsibility or ticking off a corporate checklist. It's a strategic imperative that fosters innovation, enhances productivity, drives growth, and creates shareholder value.

Therefore, the Executive Board and Chairman should place the People Agenda at the top of their priorities. By doing so, they create a diverse and inclusive workforce that catalyzes extraordinary business growth, improves performance, and enhances shareholder value.

Asserting People Agenda – Potential for Significant Value Creation

The People Agenda embraces many initiatives, including talent management, employee engagement, leadership development, and diversity and inclusion. It forms the backbone of a company’s culture and operational success. McKinsey’s research (2021) found that companies rated in the top quartile for diverse executive boards outperformed those in the bottom quartile by 36% in profitability.

Hiring board members with critical HR insights becomes crucial to bringing in the necessary expertise to champion the People agenda at the board level. Leaders boasting HR portfolios can facilitate improved talent acquisition and retention, helping your business gain its competitive edge by having the right people in the right roles.

Why Focus on Diversity and Inclusion?

1. Better Decision Making: Diverse teams bring varied perspectives and experiences, promoting more significant ideation and robust decision-making.

2. Greater Innovation: Companies that foster diversity and inclusion often rank higher in creativity and innovation – attributes that drive company growth.

3. Enhanced Talent Attraction and Retention: A reputation for diversity and inclusion can attract top talent. Conversely, perceived exclusion can deter potential hires and result in high employee turnover.

4. Business Performance: There is a proven link between diversity, inclusion, and financial performance. Companies with diverse executive teams show higher returns on equity, earnings performance, and stock price appreciation.

5. Regulatory Compliance: Many jurisdictions have enacted laws mandating certain levels of diversity, often gender-based, on boards. Meeting these regulations aligns companies with societal expectations and avoids potential legal repercussions.

How to Adeptly Incorporate People Agenda, Diversity & Inclusion

1. Update Board Composition: Increase board diversity by recruiting members across varying genders, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds.

2. Incorporate HR Insights: Recruit board members with HR expertise to input on the People Agenda at the strategy level.

3. Review Corporate Policies: Regularly update company policies to meet evolving workforce needs, promoting inclusivity and employee wellbeing.

4. Foster a Culture of Inclusion: Promote open dialogue, respect for others’ views, and celebrate individual differences.

5. Maintain Transparency: Transparent HR practices foster a sense of fairness, especially in recruitment and promotions. It boosts morale and acts as a deterrent to bias.

6. Monitor Progress: Monitor and evaluate diversity KPIs to ensure progress. Could you share these evaluations periodically with all stakeholders?

7. Provide Training: Equip your staff with the necessary skills to embrace diversity and foster an inclusive environment. This can range from workshops on unconscious bias to seminars on effective communication.

As you reflect on your organization's journey, consider this: the People Agenda isn't just an item on the corporate checklist—it's a strategic imperative that demands intentional action and unwavering commitment from every level of leadership. Now is the time to challenge the status quo, to champion diversity and inclusion as drivers of progress, and to create workplaces where every individual feels valued, empowered, and respected.

The question remains: What role will your organization play in shaping this future? The time for action is now.

Boyden is uniquely positioned to support you in identifying and attracting experienced HR professionals, CEOs who prioritize people, and C-suite executives capable of revitalizing your board dynamics and executive management teams, thereby driving unparalleled growth and value creation. Contact us to partner with you on this transformative journey.

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