3 Steps to Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion Strategies

  • March 13, 2023

Contributor: Mary Baker

D&I is a priority to which CEOs are committed, but organizations are struggling to make real progress. Here are 3 steps to a sustainable approach.


“Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has never been more of a priority in the workplace than it is today, but the most successful D&I initiatives are sustainable, meaning the strategy is supported by the entire organization, is measurable over time and is embedded into existing processes,” said Lauren Romansky, Gartner Managing Vice President, at Gartner ReimagineHR Conference in Orlando, FL today.

“Ultimately the current measures aren’t moving the needle enough on D&I”

In a recent Gartner survey, D&I was reported as the top talent management priority for CEOs, and more than 800 CEOs have signed the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion. Yet only 36% of D&I leaders report that their organization has been effective at building a diverse workforce. Gartner research also reveals that 80% of organizations rate themselves as ineffective at developing a diverse and inclusive leadership bench.

“While CEOs are prioritizing and committing to the values of D&I, and want to see progress, ultimately the current measures aren’t moving the needle enough,” said Romansky. Employees are also struggling to determine how to promote D&I. Gartner research shows that only one-third of employees agree that they have the ability to influence inclusion at their organization. Furthermore, only 27% of employees feel that their organization informs them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their day-to-day work.

3 steps to sustainable initiatives

Organizations that are able to enact sustainable D&I strategies can achieve meaningful results, including a 20% increase in organizational inclusion, which translates into a 6.2% increase in on-the-job effort, a 5% increase in employees’ intent to stay with the organization and a nearly 3% increase in individual employee performance. To build sustainable D&I, Gartner recommends that organizations do three things.

No. 1: Focus on your employees


Progressive organizations take an employee-centric approach to realizing D&I outcomes, concentrating on what is relevant to their unique employee base and promoting employee ownership. To do this, D&I strategies must be aligned to and owned by the organization broadly. Determine the specific organizational and employee challenges to enable HR and D&I leaders to design a relevant D&I strategy. Then communicate through clear messaging that promotes organizationwide ownership of D&I goals. Guide employees on how they can directly contribute to helping the organization achieve its D&I goals.

No. 2: Prioritize a metric that tracks overall progress over time


Although employers can implement many D&I initiatives, not all drive inclusion equally across the workforce. A recent Gartner survey found that 85% of D&I leaders cited organizational inclusion as the most important talent outcome of their D&I efforts. Yet only 57% of organizations currently use that metric to track D&I progress, and many of those aren’t confident in that metric. Gartner’s Inclusion Index provides organizations with a seven-question measure of their ability to foster an inclusive work environment by testing their initiatives along seven key dimensions, including fair treatment, decision making, trust and diversity. This knowledge enables leaders to tailor their organization’s approach to ensure they are developing and implementing the strategies that will have the most impact.

No. 3: Embed D&I into existing talent and business processes


To ensure enduring and consistent D&I outcomes, embed initiatives into existing processes. Gartner research shows that 65% of D&I leaders are primarily using people to champion D&I efforts, yet 67% of D&I leaders believe that leveraging processes is more effective at achieving D&I goals. Talent management processes — succession planning, recruiting, performance management — are the most susceptible to bias, and should be the starting point for embedding D&I. However, leading organizations are going beyond embedding D&I into just the HR function, and they are looking at other key business functions and their processes, such as finance and accounting and operations, for opportunities. “Ultimately, sustainable and enduring strategies are what enable organizations to make real D&I progress, which is necessary to create the diverse workforces we need to collaborate, innovate and grow our businesses,” said Romansky.


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