The Rise of HR

Rise of HR front coverI recently had the honor of participating in an effort to crowd source real business wisdom about how Human Resource practices sit at the center of some of the most important decisions in business and are rapidly impacting the workplace, talent, culture and business success. Three titans in the HR space, Dave Ulrich, Bill Schiemann and Libby Sartain – together with the support of the HR Certification Institute – invited a who’s who of HR from business, academia, government, consulting and the non-profit world to weigh in on what business leaders need to know to be effective in creating sustainable, long-term growth for their organizations. The 73 essays included in The Rise of HR provide a blueprint for business leaders and HR leaders alike to successfully face the challenges looming ahead of us.

The seven broad categories of essays are:

  • Context To Strategy
  • Organization
  • Talent Supply
  • Talent Optimization
  • Information & Analytics
  • HR Governance
  • HR Professionals

And with authors like Josh Bersin, Wayne Cascio, Ian Ziskin, Sue Meisinger, Diane Gherson, Arvind Agrawal – and too many other true thought leaders to list – this collection of essays should be on the top of the reading list of every CEO and every CHRO – and every person who aspires to be a CHRO.

My essay on page 179, “CEOs Want Better Performance. Great Culture Can Make It Happen,” draws from my own experience as a CEO as well as the research and analysis from the Great Place to Work Institute. I think you’ll find it compelling if you’re trying to improve your organization’s performance.

Check out The Rise of HR. Unlimited copies are available in PDF and EPUB which are sharable on nearly every device. If you read one essay a day for the next 73 days you will be so much smarter and will be able to identify solutions to the issues that are fast piling up on all of us. This crowd-sourced collection is a win-win-win-win for the HR profession, for HR professionals, for business leaders and for employees everywhere.

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Our Shaky Millennial Education Foundation

It’s the definition of a counter-intuitive statement: the Millennial generation has attained the highest levels of education of any previous American generation, yet on average demonstrates weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments compared to their international peers. This is a tough realization to stomach for a number of reasons. Not only is it disheartening to hear, and confusing considering the exorbitant and rising costs of education in the U.S., but Millennials are estimated to make up 50% of the employee population by 2020 and will shape the economic, political and social landscape for years to come (so their skills are important, to say the least). What though, will the impact of the predicted skills shortage look like? A new report by The Educational Testing Service (ETS) begins to answer that question, bringing to attention a topic that is of growing interest to a broad range of constituencies.

ETS’s report uses data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to explore this topic. ETS asks why we should we pay attention to these findings, when some argue that comparative international assessments do not yield valid results. The PIAAC though, is not the only study to raise these concerns. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as well as organizations such as The College Board and ACT, all report similar findings. In 2013, the NAEP found that 74% of U.S. 12th graders were below proficient in mathematics and 62% were below proficient in reading, and the College Board reported that 57% of SAT takers failed to qualify as “college ready.” Additionally, ACT recently reported that close to 31% (1 out of 3) high school graduates taking the ACT exam failed to meet any of the four college readiness benchmarks in English, math, reading, and science. These findings – besides the fact that any question of inadequate education or skills for our nation’s youth and future generations should always top of mind – tells us that yes, we should pay attention to such findings.

The PIACC is unlike school-based surveys (which focus on specific ages or grades of in-school students) and was designed as a household study of nationally representative samples of adults age 16-65. ETS’s report disaggregates the PIAAC data for Millennials (young adults born after 1980 who were 16–34 years of age at the time of the assessment). Let’s take a closer look at some of the top findings.

U.S. Millennials scored lower in literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE (problem solving in technologically rich environments) than their global counterparts. Out of 22 participating countries, U.S Millennials:

  • Ranked above only Spain and Italy in literacy
  • Ranked last in numeracy (alongside Italy and Spain)
  • Ranked last in PS-TRE (alongside the Slovak Republic, Ireland, and Poland)

March 24 2015 PIAAC Proficiency Levels

ETS compared top-performing and low-performing U.S Millennials with their global counterparts and examined the inequality in score distribution and found that:

  • Top-performing U.S. Millennials (90th percentile) scored lower than top-performing Millennials in 15 of the 22 participating countries (only scoring above Spain)
  • Low-performing U.S. Millennials (10th percentile) ranked last along with Italy and England/Northern Ireland (scoring lower than Millennials in 19 participating countries)
  • There was a higher gap in scores (139 points) between U.S. Millennials at the 90th and 10th percentiles in the U.S than in 14 other participating countries (signaling a high degree of inequality in the distribution of scores)

March 25 2015 Numeracy Score Gaps 10th-90th Percentile

ETS also explored how Millennials with educational attainment perform over time and in relation to their peers internationally. They found that since 2003, the percentages of U.S. Millennials scoring below level 3 in numeracy (the minimum standard) increased at all levels of educational attainment.

ETS’s data highlight that despite rising levels of higher education attainment by U.S. young adults since 2003, the numeracy scores of U.S. Millennials, whose highest level of education is high school and above high school, have declined. ETS additionally found that:

  • S. Millennials with a 4 year bachelor’s degree scored higher in numeracy than their counterparts in only two countries (Poland and Spain),
  • The scores of U.S. Millennials whose highest level of educational attainment was either less than high school or high school were lower than those of their counterparts in almost every other participating country, and
  • Our best-educated Millennials (those with a master’s or research degrees) only scored higher than their peers in Ireland, Poland, and Spain.

Demographics also play a role in the performance of U.S. Millennials, and ETS noted that:

  • There was a strong relationship between parental levels of educational attainment and skills in all countries
  • Across all levels of parental educational attainment, there was no country where Millennials scored lower than those in the U.S.
  • The gap in scores between U.S. Millennials with the highest level of parental educational attainment and those with the lowest was among the largest of the participating countries.
  • In most countries, native-born Millennials scored higher than foreign-born Millennials (however native-born U.S. Millennials did not perform higher than their peers in any other country)

As ETS puts it, their “…primary concern is not to bemoan the nation’s declining status…. [but instead to] highlight deeper social issues concerning not only how we compete in a global economy, but also what kind of future we can construct when a sizable adult population—especially the millennials—lacks the skills necessary for higher-level employment and meaningful participation in our democratic institutions”. This report contains tough, but extremely meaningful data, and should be a huge indicator to the business, academic and political leaders of the U.S that our policies around education need urgent and major overhauling. As a business leader, I can’t grow my business unless my team has the skills needed to grow my business. It’s that simple. The sustainability of business in the U.S. is built on an unsustainable and very shaky educational foundation. We all need to ask ourselves: “what are we doing about this?”

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Deloitte’s HR Wake Up Call

Deloitte recently released its 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, their annual comprehensive study of HR, leadership, and talent challenges compiled using data from surveys and interviews taken by 3,300+ HR and business leaders in 106 countries around the world. The report identifies 10 major trends that emerged from the most current research, and cites the capability gap (measuring the distance between the importance of an issue and organizations’ readiness to address it) associated with each, as well as practical ideas for how to help organizations combat theses challenges. Ranked by importance, the top ten talent challenges reported for 2015 are: culture and engagement, leadership, learning and development, reinventing HR, workforce on demand, performance management, HR and people analytics, simplification of work, machines as talent, and people data everywhere.

Deloitte’s data highlight considerable gaps in capability among all 10 trends, with the majority of capability gaps getting larger compared to last year. Global Importance vs. ReadinessLet’s take a look at the top five talent issues for 2015: Culture and Engagement ranked as the #1 issue overall for 2015 (not a surprise to us at Great Place to Work®), barely edging out leadership, which ranked as the #1 issue in 2014. This highlights organizations’ recognition that understanding their culture and focusing on building great cultures is a critical need in the face of a potential retention and engagement crisis. Building Leadership ranks as the #2 talent issue for 2015, with close to 9 out of 10 respondents citing the issue as “important” or “very important.” Despite this, Deloitte’s data show that organizations have made very little progress towards meeting this challenge since last year. Learning and Development jumped to the #3 talent challenge in 2015, up from the #8 spot last year. And while the number of companies rating learning and development as important has tripled since 2014, the readiness to address it has actually gone down (!?). Reskilling HR came in as the 4th most important talent issue for the year, with business leaders rating HR’s performance 20% lower than HR leaders’ ranking (and that is with both HR and business leaders ranking HR performance as low on average). Workforce on Demand was the #5 talent challenge for 2015, with 8 out of 10 respondents citing workforce capability as “important” or “very important” in the year ahead.

Through data analysis and extensive conversations with organizations around the world about these challenges, Deloitte arrived at six key findings that give us a bird’s eye view of how organizations are approaching talent and work:

  1. “ ‘Softer’ areas such as culture and engagement, leadership, and development have become urgent priorities.”
  1. “Leadership and learning have dramatically increased in importance, but the capability gap is widening.”
  1. “HR organizations and HR skills are not keeping up with business needs.”
  1. “HR technology systems are a growing market, but their promise may be largely unfulfilled.”
  1. “Talent and people analytics are a high priority and a tremendous opportunity, but progress is slow.”
  1. “Simplification is an emerging theme; HR is part of the problem.”

Each chapter in Deloitte’s report takes a deep dive view into the 10 talent trends they uncovered through their research with some interested findings. For example (in looking at the #4 trend, reskilling HR) Deloitte notes that nearly 40% of new CHRO’s now come from business, not from HR. Why are CEOs bringing in non-HR professionals to fill the role of CHRO? The answer may lie in their sinking belief in HR’s capabilities and abilities to provide solutions to people-related business problems.HR Performance

Deloitte puts it bluntly: right now HR is just not keeping up with the pace of business, and a reskilling of HR professionals while reinventing the role of HR is becoming critical. This need however, also creates an unprecedented opportunity for HR to play a big role at the highest levels of business strategy. But where do organizations start? Deloitte offers the following advice:

  • “Redesign HR with a focus on consulting and service delivery, not just efficiency of administration. HR business partners must become trusted business advisors with the requisite skills to analyze, consult, and resolve critical business issues.”
  • “Rather than locating HR specialists in central teams, embed them into the business—but coordinate them by building a strong network of expertise. Recruitment, development, employee relations, and coaching are all strategic programs that should be centrally coordinated but locally implemented.”
  • “Make HR a talent and leadership magnet… Create rigorous assessments for top HR staff and rotate high performers from the business into HR to create a magnet for strong leaders.”
  • “Invest in HR development and skills as if the business depended on it… Focus on capabilities such as business acumen, consulting and project management skills, organizational design and change, and HR analytical skills.”

There are very useful insights in this report – as there are every year. But this year the insights also serve as a warning to HR. A warning that it’s losing the confidence of CEOs and other C-Suite executives. That 40% of all CHROs are coming from functions other than HR should be sobering. That the top capability gaps are growing larger, not smaller, should be cause for concern. Without bringing furniture into the conversation, this report is a credible and important HR wake up call!

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Who Really Cares About Employer Branding?

Data Point TuesdayIn a recent report by Universum, a tactical view of how organizations are attracting talent and combating problems is given with some fresh insight. The report: State of Employer Branding is part one a four-part 2020 Outlook series, based on responses from 2338 interviews conducted in the winter of 2014 in 18 different countries. Respondents represented a variety of industries and job functions with more than 50% working within HR, 16% being the CEO of their respective organization, and 23% working for organizations with more than 1000 employees in the country. Universum’s report starts by posing a necessarily blunt question to its readers, “How long have executives argued over the need to make talent attraction a corporate strategy rather than an HR strategy?” Point taken, talent acquisition remains an ongoing point of struggle for organizations, but is a critical strategy for organizations to remain competitive.

March 10 2015 Talent Acquisition Concerns

As Universum makes clear, we’ve known this for a while, so what are organizations doing to step up to issues relating to talent? Let’s take a look at the meaty details of Universum’s report….

Talent acquisition and retention is a complex equation involving (among other things) talent management and development, employer branding, and analytics to measure effectiveness. Part of the problem with employer branding is where responsibility lies:

  • 60% of CEO’s feel they own employer branding.
  • 58% of HR executives, 63% of talent acquisition executives, and 57% of recruiting executives say HR owns employer branding.
  • 39% of marketing executives point to HR owning the role and 40% to the CEO owning the role.

Why all this variability? Universum underlines repeated studies that have shown CEOs don’t believe HR is up to the task, as well as studies that say HR itself is not confident in their current approach, or do not feel their approach is innovative. Greater stakeholder cooperation is another broadly identified need when it comes to employer branding efforts:

  • 70% of senior executives see a closer need for stakeholder cooperation in the next 5 years.
  • 77% of HR executives see a closer need for stakeholder cooperation.
  • 53% of CEO’s see stakeholder cooperation as a growing need.

Though this is an identified need, without changing CEOs’ confidence in HR to solve strategic talent challenges, HR will be hard pressed to effect change in this area.

Universum asked respondents about their employer branding objectives, and how these objectives will change in the next five years.March 10 2015 Employer Branding Objectives

Interestingly, of all the objectives listed, none earns much more than one third of respondents’ votes. The most critical need is “to fulfill our short-term recruitment needs” but is claimed by just 36%. This should lead us to ask why so few executives (and CEOs in even lower numbers) are prioritizing such objectives? Universum offers the following explanations

  • Organizations face a lack of clarity about which objectives matter most
  • There is a perceived lack of ownership for the discipline of employer branding
  • Employer branding is not viewed as a critical priority when organizations face many other pressing challenges

To better understand their commitment, Universum studied how organizations are currently investing in employer branding:

March 10 2015 Employer Branding Budget

Overall, we see that organizations are overwhelmingly focused on external employer branding efforts. KPIs, however, often measure almost inclusively internal factors (presenting another potential issue).

Organizations also face a perceived gap when it comes to the association between consumer and employer brands. Recently there has been a concerted effort to more closely align employer and consumer brands, yet when executives were asked how closely they feel these are aligned, the responses indicated there’s still much work to be done:

  • 19% say their employer and consumer brands are the same
  • 36% say “there is a connection today”
  • 17% say there is no connection at all

When marketers were asked this question though, the answers were remarkably different, with marketers much more likely to report a connection between the employer and consumer brand.

How do organizations more forward with an employer branding and talent strategy when there appears to be little consensus about how to do so? Universum’s report cites from PwC’s global CEO survey, which reports that while 93% of CEOs say they know they need to change their strategy to attract and retain talent, 61% say they have not taken steps to do so yet. The first step towards addressing “the talent gap” may just be to get organizations to accurately recognize areas of misalignment and differing perceptions. Employer branding, as we see from this data, is certainly one of these areas. Organizations must also commit to an investment strategy; as Universum states: “If talent is as important to competitive might as capital, it must be managed and measured with the same disciple applied to financial planning and management.”

This report makes me think we have a massive showdown coming between HR and CEOs. I don’t know about you, but I think I know who’s going to win unless something big happens. And the only thing big I see happening is Marketing swooping in to save the day. HR, if you think you’re hearing footsteps, you probably are!

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The Recognition Landscape Isn’t Changing Much

Data Point TuesdayRecognition programs are vital tools in an organization’s total rewards strategy, but beyond the knowledge that “recognizing employees is a good thing to do” we can look to data that back up recognition programs as an important part of an organization’s culture. WorldatWork and ITA Group’s Trends in Employee Recognition 2013, is a good example of a data driven look into why recognition programs are important. Their report summarizes the results of a survey sent globally to 5,520 WorldatWork members, which aimed specifically to measure specific types of recognition programs and the impact on the workforce. Respondents were randomly selected members who had designated responsibilities at the executive, top or senior level and members that specified total rewards as their specific function area.

While many functions and structures of the workplace are shifting as the world of work becomes more global, tech-enabled, and demographically diverse, recognition programs remain steady as a utilized tool among organizations.

% orgs with recognition programsWhat shifts in the landscape of recognition programs is not the use of programs themselves (as we see from the percentage of organizations using recognition programs remaining steady over a 5 year period) but the types of programs used. Of the top 5 recognition programs in 2013, the top 3 remained the same (length of service, above-and-beyond performance and peer-to-peer recognition) but programs that motivate specific behaviors moved to the 4th spot for most used programs, with a 7% increase over 2011 to 41% (a statistically notable change since 2008). Also notable is the drop in retirement recognition programs as a prevalently used program. As WorldatWork states in the report, the data seem to indicate organizations are moving away from legacy recognition programs towards programs that can drive results (how much and fast is the landscape changing, though?).

ecognition Program ChangesWhile fresh-off-the-press data is valuable, looking at data like this (with a bit of hindsight) is also valuable in that it reminds us that data and reports around organizational culture can accurately predict trends in upcoming years, and allows us fact-check theories and perspectives. WorldatWork’s data pointed to organizations moving towards recognition programs that can be leveraged to have a more direct impact on business results (like peer-to-peer recognition, programs to motivate behaviors, and above-and-beyond performance) vs. recognition programs like length-of-service and retirement recognition programs which have been in use for many years. They note that programs to motivate specific behaviors grew every year by 16 percentage points since they survey was first instituted in 2008. We’ve seen such trends hold true, with organizations in today’s increasingly fast-paced and competitive context instituting recognition programs that can more quickly impact strategic goals. Workplace wellness programs are another type of recognition program that WorldatWork’s survey points to which we’ve seen adopted at a growing pace. In 2011 and 2013, respondents noted wellness rewards programs as “other recognition programs” that their organization use.

Some other nuggets of data to consider from WorldatWork’s report included:

  • In 2013, the top 4 recognition goals remained primarily unchanged from past years and were recognizing years of service, creating a positive work environment, creating a culture of recognition, and motivating high performance.
  • The most common types of recognition awards reported in 2013 were: certificates/plaques, cash, gift certificates, company logo merchandise, and food.
  • Organizations in 2013 budgeted an average of 2% of their payroll budget to be used for recognition programs (the same as 2011).
  • Only 12% of organizations in 2013 reported training managers on recognition programs.
  • 46% of respondents in 2013 reported management perceiving recognition programs as an investment vs. an expense.
  • Only 34% of respondents in 2013 said they believed recognition programs had a positive impact on retention.

The fact that organizations have consistently utilized recognition programs over the years reminds us that this is an important part of creating a great organizational culture and a great total rewards strategy. But are organizations reworking recognition programs to be as impactful as possible, or are they just sticking with “tried and true” methods? Do plaques, gift cards and food motivate employees to stay engaged and on board? Perhaps the respondents in this survey, only 34% of whom believe recognition programs had a positive impact on retention, are on to something. Perhaps sincere appreciation from trusted leaders and peers are more meaningful than a certificate. Perhaps a hand written thank you note from the CEO for above and beyond performance creates more stickiness than a $25 gift card. Or maybe a video message from a senior leader on a milestone employment anniversary date motivates greater engagement than a plaque.

We at Great Place to Work® certainly see positive correlations between lower levels of turnover and great workplace cultures. So if leaders don’t associate recognition programs with lower levels of turnover, there’s more work to be done. Maybe ditching the plaques and adding some human touches to your recognition programs might be something to consider. One thing is certain: everyone – regardless of generation – wants to be appreciated for their contributions by leaders they trust. It’s really not that hard to understand. But how do we make it happen?

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Automated Workforce Planning: Tactical or Strategic?

Data Point Tuesday

An organization’s most critical assets are its employees. No one bothers to argue against that point any more. An organization’s workforce is also, however, its most expensive asset, and workforce management (the development of employees, retention of skilled talent, etc.) is consistently cited as one of the top issues facing organizations today. In a recent Aberdeen report, 60% of all organizations reported a need to improve workforce planning capabilities as a driver of their total workforce management efforts.

Pressures Driving TWM

Improving workforce planning capabilities took the top spot for pressures driving workforce management efforts, but better access to workforce data (in order to improve decision-making) was close behind, 60% vs. 52%. In our current “golden age of technology” there are ample workforce management technology solutions that can help organizations with workforce management, from timekeeping and leave of absence management to labor forecasting and analytics. The adoption of automated workforce management solutions though (as with other tech solutions) has been slow among organizations. Aside from the fact that the global workforce is rapidly driving towards a place where technology and automated workforce solutions will be a necessity for companies to remain innovative and successful, we have data that show – on a much simpler level – that workforce management technology is a good investment because it offers organizations multiple financial benefits.

Research shows that the use of automated time, attendance, and scheduling solutions results in 8% to 20% lower replacement costs (as a percentage of annual pay) for hourly workers, which can be attributed to the reduced cost of administration needed to manually manage such functions. Aberdeen’s research also found that average revenue per full time employee increased four times in organizations with automated absence/leave management technology and two times for organizations with automated scheduling, time, and attendance technology.

Automation Impact GraphOrganizations that automate scheduling, time/attendance and leave/absence management also saw increases in customer satisfaction levels ranging from 9.2% to 10.4% (compared to a 2.9% to 6.2% range of improvements for organizations that did not have automated solutions).

Automated workforce management solutions can also help to reduce unplanned overtime. While it’s expected of organizations to experience some overtime, having an inaccurate idea of what employees schedules will look like can quickly increase an organization’s spending. Best in class organizations experience less than 4% of unplanned overtime costs in comparison with 27% for laggard organizations. Automated solutions can help managers with critical scheduling accuracy, freeing them to give more time and attention to core business needs.

Unplanned-Overtime-Costs

Another benefit for organizations that use automated time and attendance software is greater workforce capacity utilization. These companies have employees who, on average, work at 12% more their capacity than those who rely on manual processes or spreadsheets (83% vs. 74%). Automated leave and absence management additionally helps to lower costs by accurately tracking employees’ time off, making sure PTO is recorded as it is taken (ensuring for example, that employees are not owed leave at the end of the year they’ve earned but not taken) and by providing organizations with software to properly submit and track leave and absence requests (mitigating the impact of planned/unplanned losses).

A May 2014 report by Aberdeen found that optimizing scheduling is a key attribute of leading firms. These firms experienced consecutive years of improvement in customer satisfaction by 17.8% compared to firms who did not have a focus on optimizing scheduling and actually lowered their customer satisfaction rates by an average of -3.9%. This should be the key take-away for organizations when it comes to automated workforce management solutions – we know that automated workforce management software can drastically help organizations to improve and optimize scheduling, and this is a key attribute of successful companies. And if the slow adoption of automated solutions comes from a concern that instituting such software could turn into a micro-managing nightmare, organizations should note that, as with all tools, its about how you introduce them and support their adoption. The potential benefits of automated solutions far out-way any cons, so dipping a foot in the automated solutions pool seems well worth the risk, even if it may require an investment in training and change management. We’re already witnessing the expansion of HR and administrative roles within organizations; these functions are providing organizations with instrumentally more strategic value than they have in the past. Free up these departments time and energy from consuming workforce management tasks like monitoring attendance/leave and scheduling, and see what happens when tactical, manual roles become automated and enable more strategic data analysis and insight to enter the mix!

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Why Diverse Organizations Perform Better: Do We Still Need Evidence?

You’ve probably heard that organizations with a focus on diversity have stronger organizational cultures – they have happier and more productive employees, and are more socially ethical than other organizations. You might have also heard that organizations with a focus on diversity perform better financially than organizations that do not invest energy in diversity programs, or in fostering a diverse workplace. Why, exactly, is this the case though? McKinsey & Company’s 2014 report, “Why Diversity Matters” answers just this, looking at the reasons why organizations with a focus on diversity simply do better, financially and otherwise, shining some data driven light on, well, why diversity matters.

McKinsey’s report examines the relationship between the level of diversity (defined as a greater share of women and a more mixed ethnic/racial composition in the leadership of large companies) and company financial performance (measured as average EBIT 2010–2013). Their research is based on leadership demographics and financial data from hundreds of organizations and thousands of executives in the United Kingdom, Canada, Latin America, and the U.S, allowing for “…results that are statistically significant and…. the first [analysis] that we are aware of that measures how much the relationship between diversity and performance is worth in terms of increased profitability.” Analysis of the data collected from 366 companies disclosed a statistically significant connection between diversity and financial performance, with organizations in the top quartile for gender diversity 15% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median and organizations in the top quartile for racial/ethnic diversity 30% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. This pattern also held true in reverse, with organizations in the bottom quartile for gender or racial/ethnic diversity more likely to fall below the performance of the top-quartile companies and organizations in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnicity underperforming (not just “not performing” but lagging) in comparison with the other three quartiles.

Feb 17 2015 Poor Diversity Poor Performance

McKinsey’s research also noted a positive relationship between financial performance and diversity in leadership, although this varied by country, industry, and type of diversity (gender or ethnicity). The U.S, for example shows no statistically significant correlation between gender diversity and performance until women make up at least 22% of a senior executive team. Even once that point is reached, the relationship observed for US companies is still of relatively low impact: for every 10% increase in gender diversity there is an increase of 0.3% in EBIT margin. The UK boasts a much more significant relationship between gender diversity and performance, experiencing ten times the impact for their focus on gender diversity than U.S organizations (even after they’ve reached the 22% tipping point). The correlated benefit is an increase of 3.5% in EBIT for every 10% increase in gender diversity in the senior executive team (and 1.4% for the board). It is also interesting to note that while U.S. companies have made efforts in recent years to up the number of women in executive positions (progress is limited but measurable), the data show that less attention has been given to the attainment of racial and ethnic diversity.

Feb 17 2015 Women in Executive Roles

Above-median financial performance was achieved by a higher percentage of companies in the top quartile than the bottom quartile for ethnic diversity in all the countries and regions McKinsey investigated. The message that diverse organizations perform better is clear, but as we asked earlier, why? McKinsey & Company offers the following supported hypotheses that diversity helps to:

  •  Win the war for talent
  • Strengthen customer orientation
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Improve decision making
  • Enhance an organization’s image

In the war for talent, diversity increases not only an organization’s sourcing pool but attracts talent that has shown to place significant value on diversity (such as Millenials). Additionally, because groups targeted by diversity efforts are usually underrepresented, they are often great sources of desirable talent. McKinsey & Company’s report cites a recent study that found, on average, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) recruits tend to be more highly skilled and more likely to have advanced degrees. By focusing on diversity, organizations align themselves with an increasingly heterogeneous customer base, enabling stronger bonds with customers. Workplace diversity increases employee satisfaction and fosters positive attitudes and behaviors and creates better decision making through combining diverse groups of thinkers. These organizational aspects that diversity bolsters ultimately make up the foundation for organizations that perform better financially.

As the workforce becomes increasingly global, diversity is only going to increase in importance. Regulators in some European countries have already introduced diversity targets for boards, such as those set out in the UK Equality Act 2010. Despite the importance of diversity, many companies’ approaches are still very one-dimensional, opting for just a single diversity program to cover all aspects of diversity: racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation. This may be why, on a large scale, companies often make progress in only one area of diversity.

Feb 17 2015 Gender and Ethnic Diversity Performance

McKinsey & Company’s research suggests that this one-dimensional approach to diversity results in a focus on a particular category rather than the opportunity as a whole. They advise that organizations should instead adopt tailored programs and make more targeted efforts within specific areas of diversity, believing that these will be necessary to make measurable progress and ensure relevance to business goals.

It does seem odd that we’re still making a statistical case for what everyone knows to be true:  diverse thought, experience, outlooks and cultures make for stronger solutions, more rapid innovation, more engaged employees and customers, and better all around performance. I guess more evidence doesn’t hurt.

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