diversity diagnostics

Uncovering the real inclusion challenges and opportunities 

Photo by Sezeryadigar/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Sezeryadigar/iStock / Getty Images

When developing a diversity and inclusion strategy, we can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to the views of employees, leaders and other key stakeholders, particularly on organisational challenges and opportunities. 

Having an independent external vendor conduct this research through a diversity diagnostic not only helps to uncover organisational biases and outdated practices that inhibit progress, but also gives the organisation a path forward to overcome them, based on best practice evidence.

Over the past decade, our team at Diversity Partners has conducted diversity diagnostics and developed strategies with more than 50 organisations, involving thousands of people through interviews and focus groups. That’s taken us to diverse places around Australia and New Zealand – from mine sites, factory floors, creative agency offices, to trading rooms and boardrooms. 

 The goal of the diagnostic is to deliver a clear picture of the inclusion and diversity challenges and opportunities that then inform the D & I strategy. Our diagnostics also help articulate the specific benefits of achieving greater diversity and inclusion for the business, which builds engagement and willingness to take action.

We often add a survey to the qualitative information we collect. That ensures we’re capturing the voices of as many people as possible. As part of the diagnostic, we identify any structural barriers through a thorough analysis of talent management data and policies.

It’s a robust process, conducted sensitively and confidentially. And it gives organisations the type of robust data and evidence they would typically use to approach any major strategic decision. 

The diversity diagnostic is a robust process, conducted sensitively and confidentially. And it gives organisations the type of robust data and evidence they would typically use to approach any major strategic decision.
— Dr Katie Spearritt

At the moment, our team is working with a large global resources company to help align their diversity goals with the strategic objectives of the Australian operations and recommend a way forward for the next years.

This substantive diagnostic has reminded us that it’s not only the outcome of the research that’s valuable, but the process of getting there. The people participating in interviews and focus groups have consistently said how much they value the opportunity to share their views of cultural and structural barriers, and the type of inclusive work environment they want to work in. 

 Approaching diversity and inclusion as a core strategic issue from the start – through a diversity diagnostic - helps set the framework for a carefully-crafted strategy with appropriate metrics and governance. 

We’ve undertaken diagnostics and co-developed inclusion and diversity strategies for organisations such as Anglo American Metallurgical Coal, Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, BHP, the Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth Bank, Computershare, ExxonMobil, Golder Associates, Lander & Rogers, Maddocks, ME Bank, Rio Tinto, Suncorp, Telstra Super, Transpower NZ, QSuper, Unity Water, and state government departments.

 Here’s a selection of feedback on the value of that diagnostic work.

Diversity Partners undertook thorough research to identify ways Telstra Super could accelerate our diversity and inclusion progress and achieve the associated benefits for our people and members. In the two years since this initial diagnostic, we’ve implemented a range of their recommendations, including the review of key people policies and practices such as recruitment, flexible work, gender pay analysis and unconscious bias training and implemented a number of awareness raising initiatives.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion has resulted in an improved employee experience and an environment that genuinely supports the requirement for our people to flourish at work. We appreciated the rigour and objectivity of their feedback and recommendations to help set and refresh our course and value our ongoing partnership with the DP team.’
— Janet Brown, EGM People and Culture, Telstra Super:
The Bureau of Meteorology has taken great steps forward this year to build a more diverse and inclusive culture, and recently launched our first Gender Equality Plan. We started our journey by engaging Diversity Partners to research challenges and opportunities for us.

Their research was extremely thorough, drawing on inputs from hundreds of team members and a range of data points relating to recruitment, retention, flexibility usage, and promotion. From this, we worked with Diversity Partners to develop a comprehensive action plan.
— Dr Sue Barrell, former Chief Scientist, Bureau of Meteorology
Diversity Partners has worked in complete partnership with us from day one. They guided us every step of the way through the diagnostic and benchmarking process and delivered a high quality strategy.
— Paul Lundy, Chief of People & Transformation, Super

Uncovering the real diversity challenges and impacts

When organisations first contact us, some have a clear idea of the challenges they’re trying to address, such as a lack of cultural diversity or gender balance at leadership levels, or concerning levels of inclusion reported through engagement surveys.

What are less clear are the reasons behind these challenges, and how best to drive progress.

That’s why we recommend a ‘discovery’ process that identifies the cultural and structural barriers getting in the way of diversity progress and overall firm performance.

Organisations can then push forward confidently with a bespoke diversity and inclusion strategy and action plans.

The research we undertake for many clients includes a detailed analysis of existing policies, current demographics, external benchmarking, together with employee views captured through interviews and focus groups. We draw on global benchmarks and local industry knowledge to recommend appropriate solutions.

Recent diagnostics have taken us from mine sites to boardrooms around Australia. We’ve interviewed CEO’s, senior managers, paramedics, IT specialists, engineers, meteorologists, digital media entrepreneurs, among others, to provide an assessment of diversity challenges and opportunities.

Uncovering new opportunities

It’s particularly interesting when diversity opportunities aren’t immediately obvious to our clients. Here’s a few examples where opportunities highlighted had an immediate impact on service delivery, product design and employee engagement.

  • A global financial services firm realised their marketing programs didn't adequately reflect the needs of their increasingly diverse consumer segments.
  • Another diagnostic highlighted an overwhelming need from employees for education about engaging with different cultural groups in the community so they could provide more targeted and culturally-sensitive services.
  • One organisation discovered that managers wanted much greater guidance and tools to effectively lead flexible teams.
  • In another firm, the diagnostic showed a significant difference between employee perceptions of biases and leadership views of how the firm was tracking on diversity. Employees were strongly concerned about perceived in-action by leadership.
A global financial services firm recognised their marketing programs didn't adequately reflect the needs of diverse consumer segments. Photo license: Getty Images.

A global financial services firm recognised their marketing programs didn't adequately reflect the needs of diverse consumer segments. Photo license: Getty Images.

 

If you’re wondering what initiatives will best progress your diversity and inclusion objectives, going back to the fundamentals of ‘what are we trying to achieve’ and ‘what problems are we trying to address’ is often the best step to achieve targeted and effective solutions.

 

What we're working on

The team at Diversity Partners has been working on several client engagements in the first quarter of 2017. Here's a sample:

  • Diversity diagnostics for emergency services organisations, resources firms, water utilities and government agencies;
  • ‘Inclusive Leadership: challenging unconscious bias’ programs for organisations in the transport, rail, mining, manufacturing, legal, and financial services sectors;
  • Flexibility programs and toolkits for financial services firms and Australian Government departments;
  • Facilitating D & I Councils for a media/advertising firm and rail operator;
  • Strategic partnership with a global mining company to advance the targeted objectives and metrics for a major division;
  • Cultural intelligence programs to build the cross-cultural communications and capability of employees in the transport sector.