Inclusion and diversity: lead as a forward-thinking company

in Advisory, 23.04.2021

The past year has transformed nearly every aspect of our world. Hundreds of millions of people have lived through lockdowns, working from home sometimes at a day’s notice. We have been witness to the considerable economic consequences and new ways of working that will certainly endure.

Now, one year on, organizations have started to reshape priorities and ways of working. As outlined in our article “Reimagine the workplace to make Diversity, Equity & Inclusion a post-pandemic priority” published in March 2021, companies are facing business disruption and stressful situations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, they must be proactive and take action to implement strategic inclusion and diversity (I&D) practices.

The fundamentals of I&D

A way for organizations to drive cultural transformation, foster innovation, increase appeal to a broader customer base, strengthen stakeholder perceptions, attract high-performing talent, mitigate organizational risk and drive performance.

Inclusion is about everybody. It is defined by environments that strive for equity, value differences and respect every individual, regardless of gender, age, origin, background or experience. Diversity is about individuals. It is about recognizing and respecting the unique experiences, perspectives, qualities and richness that every person brings to the team.

I&D also cover common and uncommon elements. Gender, race, language, ethnic origin or sexual orientation, for instance, are common elements. Uncommon elements, including values and expectations, socio-economic status, diversity of thought, life experience or multi-generational differences, are as important. All these elements need to be understood and taken in account to ensure a company promotes equal opportunities and equity, meaning fair and just treatment for its employees. Equity requires commitment to strategic priorities, resources, respect, and civility, as well as ongoing action and assessment of progress toward achieving specified goals.[1]

Why I&D matters

Organizations must understand that they can capitalize on diverse teams and inclusive culture. Fostering diversity enables them to attract the best talents, and inclusion allows to engage all employees effectively. Together they lead to creativity, innovation, increased productivity, profitability, workforce commitment, customer-centricity and brand reputation.

There is no doubt that motivations for championing diversity are driven by two main perspectives:

  • Moral case: conscious choice to reduce systemic inequities and foster a safe, welcoming environment for everyone
  • Business case: employees who feel a sense of inclusion show increased performance and decreased turnover risk. Like numerous studies, Cloverpop’s study reports that teams that are gender, age and ethnically diverse make better decisions up to 87% of the time.[2]

Benefits of capitalizing on a diverse and inclusive culture

  • Ability to attract, retain and develop the best talent
  • Drive innovation through global experiences and cultural understanding
  • Ability to combine a broad range of skills and experiences
  • Engaged employees who bring their whole selves to work are more productive
  • Competitive advantage gained by taking the lead role in I&D
  • Build brand reputation based on people. People should be able to apply all their qualities to strengthen the brand and the organization’s reputation
  • Improve quality of service for clients

EU and local regulations target more and more diversity issues, requesting companies to report gender balance, gender pay gap, board/management diversity, etc.  Based on a recent KPMG survey, 48% of participants reported having a diversity policy in place which included diversity-related data covering gender balance, age, nationalities, backgrounds, etc. Just a small proportion, however, consistently monitor and follow up on the I&D programs and their progress.

In fact, companies struggle with effectively measuring the results of I&D initiatives. Even if I&D programs are often considered to have “intangible” results (as explained above), they are proven to have a significant impact on productivity, growth and profits. Assessing an organization’s culture to understand where the gaps and areas of opportunities are is crucial.

Leveraging on cultural assessment – our strategic approach

Defining a clear and pragmatic approach is key. Drawing on more than four years of expertise, we can build an assessment by using a holistic equity-focused and evidence-based I&D methodology. This methodology provides a score and level of maturity which helps organizations to identify gaps and areas of focus for their I&D journeys.

As a guiding principle, we are prudent in how and when we engage and communicate with the organization and its staff. What’s important is access at the top since the top management needs to encourage adherence, go beyond ethics and ensure active participation from all levels in feedback.

To embrace workforce diversity and foster an inclusive culture, an organization must open itself up to the idea of identifying and removing barriers faced by some individuals in the workplace, and understand the benefits of capitalizing on the diversity the organization already has.  That’s why we promote organization culture assessment not only based on a short-term approach (e.g. focus group interviews, surveys, etc.) but also on the long-term approach, since our aim is to ensure the success of its implementation.

In the longer term, we help organizations put an employment equity framework in place, using our evidence-based I&D methodology which:

  • focuses on building more inclusive and equitable workplaces using evidence-based approaches
  • helps better understand the organization’s existing gaps and opportunities
  • designs a plan with the main achievements
  • tracks progress over time thanks to regular, customized review

An organization will embark on a true “journey” to reach a point where everyone feels valued, respected and supported by a sense of belonging. Organizations need to hear the voices of their people, include them in decision-making, as well as invest time, energy and budget to ensure that the changes they make stick. The outcome? Positive impact, higher revenue and enhanced employee performance guided by a long-term vision.

KPMG expertise

KPMG’s approach and methodology are designed to support you on this journey. Our People & Change team are here to advise you and answer any questions. Get in touch!


People and Change
People and Change