The final installment of our series on the transforming Chief Human Resources Officer role focuses on the challenges of organizational diversity.

“Diversity of skills is certainly important, but this focus needs to be strategically driven by a particular objective. Diversity of skills for the sake of diversity of skills will result in employees that are unmotivated and lost.”

Francesca d’Arcangeli
Managing Partner, Boyden United Kingdom
Global Leader, Industrial Practice

Continuing to Push for Change

While HR executives may not be entirely aligned on what kinds of diversity are most important, there is consensus that diversity promotes growth. Nearly all (97%) of HR decision makers agree that a more diverse workforce can lead to economic growth and greater productivity, while 61% strongly agree.

The belief that diversity is critical to the bottom line has resulted in several pushes surrounding diversity in the workplace. Overall a relatively impressive 82% of HR decision makers report that their organizations prioritize efforts to increase diversity; however there are some major differences between countries.

In Mexico, this number jumps to 96%. It falls sharply, to only 29% in Canada and 24% in Australia, indicating that diversity is less of a priority in these markets.

“Diversity of skills is improved if people flip from function to function – including operational and P&L – during the earlier parts of their career, so when they get to the executive level they have a deeper understanding of the business.”
— Anna Mitchell, Business, Change and Communications Consultant

How much priority does your organization place on efforts to increase diversity in the C-Suite and Board?

“HR executives now have the opportunity to influence their own boards to ensure that a full range of diverse candidates has been considered for all positions.”

Jeff Hodge
Managing Partner
Boyden United States

Diversity efforts extend to the C-Suite, with 69% of HR decision makers saying that increasing diversity in the C-Suite is a priority. The numbers are even higher in Mexico (88%), Brazil (80%) and Germany (80%), according to the HR executives surveyed.

These initiatives often carry through to the board as well. A notable 61% of HR decision makers say that their organizations prioritize efforts to increase diversity on boards.

These numbers reach 84% in Mexico and 80% in Brazil, with over half (52%) in Mexico saying that diversity on the board is a high priority.

“Diversity is an important issue and has to be considered in a holistic sense, not as a process. I confess that I do not like the word ‘diversity.’ Rather, ‘inclusion’ is a more relevant issue. Unfortunately, we still see many organizations promoting diversity without inclusion.”
– Gerhard Bohne, Country Divisional Head, Bayer Crop Science Brazil

While there is some regional variation when it comes to the importance of diversity, executives across sectors and geographies seem to agree (88%) that inclusion needs to be a bottom-up transformation in which a diverse group of individuals comes together as architects of change at the C-Suite and board levels.

Not all HR executives see diversity as a bottom-up mandate.

As Lisa Kershaw, Partner, Boyden Canada states, “Companies of all sectors and sizes are proactively looking to hire more diverse talent. Our job is to address unconscious bias head-on and coach clients on how to be more open. Insisting on diverse candidate pools is just a start. Change must be driven from the top for diversity to really work.”

“Gender diversity in business is still is a major challenge. Companies that want to increase the number of women across all ranks should focus first on their board and C-Suite. A more equal distribution of men and women at the top level shows a credible commitment to gender diversity. This does not require giving priority to gender over skills and performance, as highly qualified women will certainly emerge if a less male-focused perspective is adopted when searching for the right candidate.”
– Christian Gollasch, Ph.D., former Deputy CHRO, Carlsberg Group

To what extent do you agree that inclusion needs to be a bottom-up transformation in which a diverse group of individuals come together as architects of change at the C-Suite and Board level?

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