Category Archives: Diversity

Empathy: Corporate Performance Enhancer?

If you’ve heard me speak on “Humanity Means Business,” you know I pay a lot of attention to the intersection of corporate culture, business performance, and people. And I mention several organizations that measure and/or rank employers on scales of relevant cultural attributes. It is sometimes surprising to audiences that top ranked (on a number of lists) employers are also top financial performers. So lists like FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and WorldBlu’s annual list of certified employers, along with BCorp certified companies and devotees of the Conscious Capitalism movement – all provide road maps for leaders to enhance corporate performance through creating strong, human (of varying sorts) relationships with their people. And it’s always interesting to me that many organizations show up on more than one list.

Through  my Facebook feed, I found a different list posted on Harvard Business Review Online on December 1, 2016:  The 20 Most Empathetic Companies, 2016. This “corporate fitbit for empathy” is about “understanding our emotional impact on others and making change as a result” and its authors believe that empathy “is more important to a successful business than it has ever been, correlating to growth, productivity, and earnings per employee.” While the authors don’t share those correlations, they do share the 2016 list. And the listed companies do not surprise; they show up on other lists.

“The Empathy Index seeks to answer the question: Which companies are successfully creating empathetic cultures? These are the companies that retain the best people, create environments where diverse teams thrive, and ultimately reap the greatest financial rewards.”

Based on this list, I’ll easily believe that they all have better than average retention statistics, and certainly strong records of financial performance. But I wonder if each company on their list is truly an organization “where diverse teams thrive.” One just needs to note the number of Silicon Valley tech companies on the list. We all recognize the diversity challenges these organizations face – including those on this list.

The article’s author, Belinda Parmer, says “the tech sector continues to lead our ranking, now accounting for an even bigger share of our top ten (60% in 2016 versus 50% in 2015), with Facebook knocking Microsoft off the top spot, owing to its focus on improving its internal culture and the introduction of the Empathy Lab.” So trying counts. But should it?

I wonder at the assumptions being made by the researchers. These are their research parameters:

  • Ethics
  • Leadership
  • Company culture
  • Brand perception
  • Public messaging through social media
  • CEO approval ratings from staff
  • Ratio of women on boards
  • Number of accounting infractions and scandals
  • A carbon metric was added in 2016

That’s a lot. They don’t say how they measure these components, just that many are from public sources. Counting the number of women on boards is easy. Measuring ethics and culture are not. Defining and measuring brand perception is doable, measuring leadership is not.

I think we’d all agree that empathy is a good thing – for people and organizations. I’m really not sure, however, that empathy – as a leading organizational culture characteristic – is that meaningful. Are these 20 companies on this list because they’re trying to be empathetic? Or are they on the list because they pay people fairly and well; have intelligent, approachable leaders; are competitive in their sectors and have business plans that take advantage of – and lead – their market conditions? I’m not sure we can tell.

I’m not convinced that empathy as a corporate culture cornerstone is something that moves the performance needle more than respect, intelligence, humanity and flexibility – or any other list of current cultural attributes. It’s an interesting discussion, though, and I encourage you to read the HBR online article. It will definitely get you thinking.

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Filed under China Gorman, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity, Empathy, Employee Engagement, Employee Productivity, Engagement, HBR Online, Workplace Culture

CEOs Get It. Do HR Leaders?

data point tuesday_500Here’s another survey analysis and report that should be required reading for all HR professionals: pwc’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey. The survey looks at how business leaders are finding new ways to compete in “an era of unprecedented digital change.” I know, it sounds like another consulting firm’s move to make the complicated even more complicated and gin up their sales. But I didn’t find this analysis to be that. Instead, I found it useful to put context around some of our biggest challenges and opportunities. 1,322 CEOs in 77 countries were interviewed: 125 in Central and Eastern Europe; 459 in Asia Pacific, 94 in the Middle East and Africa; 330 in Western Europe; 167 in Latin America and 147 in North America. This was truly a global survey.

The survey findings are grouped into 5 themes:

  • Growth
  • Competition
  • Technology
  • Partnering
  • Diversity

The first four themes are fairly predictable – and they all have some impact on talent strategies and HR functions – but the fifth, Diversity, might be a surprise to you. Think about it. More than 1,300 CEOs around the world were interviewed for this survey. Would you have predicted that Diversity was among the 5 most critical themes to emerge? You might have hoped for it, but would you have predicted it?

This survey analysis report is a roadmap for HR to anticipate what’s coming in terms of focus and strategy from the CEO. The report is not long. You could read it in an hour. And come away with some critical new business perspectives that will make your HR strategies and plans align with the real world – as your CEO sees it – and support your business’s growth plans.

I’ll share just two graphics that I found interesting. The first shows the range of risks that CEOs are beginning to be concerned about:

pwc CEO Survey June 30 2015CEOs were asked how concerned they were about a list of potential economic, policy, social and business threats to their organization’s growth prospects. You can see the list above. Do you see that the threat of not having access to necessary skills is a greater threat then cyber security? Than the speed of technological change? Than Geopolitical uncertainty? Do you see that of the list they could choose from, CEOs chose the threat of not having access to necessary skills as the second most concerning threat to their organization’s growth processes?

That seems big to me. So, are your talent acquisition, development and retention strategies and programs developing fast enough to address this concern?

The second chart I will share shows just how all-pervasive and consistent the lack of talent concern is for CEOs:

pwc CEO Survey 2 June 30 2015The question posed to these CEOs was “what one capability do you think will be most critical for tomorrow’s CEO’s to cultivate?” The choices were:

  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Customer Focus
  • Collaboration
  • Digital Astuteness
  • Personal Qualities (e.g. honesty, integrity)
  • Adaptability
  • Knowledge and Skills
  • Talent Acquisition and Management

It wasn’t surprising to me that out of that list of 10 critical future CEO capabilities that Strategic Thinking would be first on the list of necessary capabilities. And it’s first by a mile. But look at what is in second place: Talent Acquisition and Management! I’ll bet you wouldn’t have predicted that.

This suggests to me that CEOs see lack of skills as such a big concern that they are going to involved personally with reducing that threat. Are you ready for your CEO to be actively involved in setting and executing your talent acquisition and development strategy? I’m not thinking that their involvement would be a bad thing. Quite the contrary. But I’m not sure the average HR department is ready to add their CEO to the team.

In my mind, these two graphs, and the subtext of the survey report, show that talent is becoming one of the most critical competitive advantages for business growth worldwide. And CEOs know it. The lack of talent/skills is clearly being evaluated by CEOs all over the world – in every sector and in every size of business – as their Achilles Heel. So CEOs get it. The big question is, does HR get it?

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Filed under CEOs pwc, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity, HR, Strategy, Talent Acquisition, Talent development

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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Filed under 100 Best Companies to Work For, Business Case, China Gorman, Company Culture, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity, EBIT, Great Place to Work Institute, McKinsey, War for Talent

Global Workforce Gender Diversity: It’s Not Happening

Data Point Tuesday

Focusing on diversity in the workplace is an essential step in building a great culture. Advancing gender diversity is a key focus area that organizations should look to, armed with the knowledge that there is still significant progress to make before most workplaces achieve true gender equality. Women are still significantly underrepresented at all levels in the workforce worldwide. Mercer’s 2013 Human Capital Report found that only 60%-70% of the eligible female population participates in the global workforce, while male participation is in the high 80’s. In a recent diversity study by Mercer based on 178 submissions from 164 companies in 28 countries covering 1.7 million employees, Mercer explores this issue and proposes solutions. Three key facts emerged from Mercer’s data:

  • Women continue to trail men in overall workforce participation and in representation at the professional through executive levels
  • Current female hiring, promotion, and retention rates are insufficient to create gender equality over the next decade
  • Current talent flows will move more women into top roles over the next decade but not in North America

Labor Force ParticipationHow can organizations change their approach to diversity in a way that effectively combats these gaps? Mercer’s study highlights the current key drivers of gender diversity, aiming to help organizations understand what drives diversity the most and help focus their approach.

The data show that organizations who have broad and holistic approaches to support female talent have more comparable talent flows for women and men than those who do not. Additionally Mercer finds that formal accountability has little significance on increasing gender diversity when removed from real leadership engagement. At organizations where leaders are active and engaged in diversity programs, more women are present throughout the organization, in top leadership roles, and there is more equality in talent flows between men and women. Another key driver of gender diversity is that active management of talent creates more favorable results than traditional diversity programs that are put in place to support women’s needs. Organizations that actively manage pay equity vs. making passive commitments ensure that women and men have equal access to profit and loss responsibilities, and proactively support flexible work arrangements driving gender equality at a greater rate than those with traditional diversity programs. Nontraditional solutions and innovative programs impact organizations long- term ability to retain female talent. Specifically, customized retirement solutions and health related programs have been successful in helping organizations to better attract, develop and retain female talent.

Mercer points out a disappointing statistic from the World Bank, which reports that global labor force participation rates for women ages 15-64 have actually declined over the last two decades. The discrepancy between female and male representation is even higher in top roles. Women make up less than 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, hold less than 25% of management roles, and just less than 19% of board roles globally. Since the 1980’s leap in pay equality for women things have since stagnated. Clearly new strategies are required. Making sure that women are equal participants in the workforce has broader implications than just fostering great culture. Economists have predicted that eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost GDP in the U.S by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the UAE by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%.

Organizations can take reports such as Mercer’s and use them as a roadmap. The key drivers of gender diversity listed there can easily be leveraged as a reference when identifying you own diversity strategies and areas of focus. For a more expanded list of ways organizations can create greater diversity, take a look at Mercer’s full report.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity, Gender Diversity, Gender equality, Mercer, Workplace Studies

“CEO” or “Female CEO”: Bringing Awareness to “Otherness”

Data Point Tuesday

The Catalyst Research Center recently released the report “Feeling Different: Being the “Other” in U.S. Workplaces” providing interesting data and insight into perceptions of diversity and inclusion in U.S organizations. The study points out the error of common association, which can often cause individuals feelings of “otherness.” This feeling often results from our categorization of groups by their dominant group, i.e. referring to nurses who are male as “male nurses” as opposed to “nurse”, which is commonly associated with the female gender, the position’s majority group. Likewise, male CEO’s are commonly referenced as simply “a CEO” where female CEO’s experience their gender being pointed out: she is “a female CEO.”

Consistently referencing positions based on their dominant group can reinforce the belief that those people holding the position should be from that group, causing those in the minority to feel excluded, divided from the team, and set apart from power structures at the top of their organization. Catalyst’s study points out that gender and race/ethnicity are two of the common bases for feeling like “the other,” but that people of all groups – regardless of whether their racial/ethnic identity reflects that of the majority in society as a whole – can feel different from their workgroup based on race/ethnicity, and that feelings of otherness can really stem from any area of self-identification. For example, besides gender/race/ethnicity, Catalyst’s research also looks at data from LGBT and Expatriate individuals, who often reported experiencing feelings of “otherness.” The study’s findings come from a sample of 2,463 MBA graduates (33% women and 67% men) working in corporate and non-corporate firms in the United States at the time of the survey.

Data from the study highlight some surprising and troubling effects of perceiving oneself as an “other.” Women respondents who identified as feeling racially/ethnically different were the least likely to be at the senior executive/CEO level (10%) compared to men who felt different (19%) and those who did not feel different (16% women; 25% men). It’s important to note, too, that the women who identified as feeling racially/ethnically different had no less experience or qualifications than those in the position. Additionally, Catalyst’s survey identified that women who perceived themselves as “others” experienced fewer promotions: 48.2% had received two or more promotions versus 55.6% of women who did not feel racially/ethically different. 51.4% of men who felt racially/ethnically reported receiving two or more promotions versus 58.4% of men who did not feel racially/ethnically different.

Catalyst’s research also found that people who feel different from the majority in their workgroup are less likely to be mentored by C-suite or senior executives at their organizations. This is troubling considering that previous research by Catalyst found that the level of one’s mentor often predicts advancement (the more senior a mentor the more able they are to recommend for high-level/visibility positions). Of those surveyed, only 58% of women who felt racially/ ethnically different had mentors who were CEOs or Senior Executives. This is compared to 71% of women who did not feel different, 72% of men who did feel different, and 77% of men who did not feel different.

Workplace exclusion or feelings of otherness based on racial/ethnic differences can also affect individuals beyond their organizations. Women who felt racially/ethnically different (46%) were more likely to downsize their dreams and aspirations than women who did not feel different (33%) and of those who felt racially/ethnically different, women were nearly twice as likely as men (25%) to downsize their aspirations. Women who identified as feeling racially/ethnically different and had children and spouses had an even a higher likelihood of downsizing aspirations.

This data provides some serious food for thought for organizations. What is the impact to your organization if talented employees are experiencing feelings of “otherness” and exclusion? Organizations with employees experiencing this are likely missing out on enormous amounts of talent and innovation, not to mention losing important values and aspects of a great workplace culture. Use this research to keep in mind the message we send by identifying roles by the dominant group, and take a look at what policies and programs (both formal and informal) your company has in place to ensure that those with backgrounds that differ from the majority in the workgroup feel that their workplace is an inclusive environment and have equal access to mentorship at the top, fair evaluation, and promotions.

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Filed under Catalyst Research Center, CEOs, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity

Diversity: No longer just the right thing to do

Data Point Tuesday

A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by SAP and SuccessFactors, explores the challenges of managing an increasingly diverse workforce while highlighting the importance of diversity as a strategic business advantage. The global study, Values-based Divesity, surveyed 228 executives responsible for designing and developing their organization’s human resources strategy, where 53% of respondents were very senior – either CEO’s or board members. As the study explains, many diversity initiatives in the last two decades involved a focus on demographic factors, such as gender and race, or “inherent” diversity. Today there is a wider awareness that the diversity focus should also consider values like cultural fluency, global mindset, language skills etc., or “acquired’ diversity. This shifting awareness, represented in EIU’s survey results, appears to represent a wider shift in organizational perception of diversity.

When respondents were asked about the primary benefits of a diverse workforce 83% of executives reported that a diverse workforce improves their firm’s ability to capture and retain a diverse client base; 82% agreed that a strategic approach to managing diversity can help access a rich talent pool; and 80% viewed diversity management as yielding a competitive advantage in labor markets. While the case for diversity has changed over the years, from a social initiative (it’s the right thing to do) to a strategic argument for supporting and creating new innovation, the bottom line remains the same – it’s always been about business success and competitive market advantage. With the increasingly diverse and multigenerational workforce that exists today however, certain organizational strategies will require greater adjustment. According to the EIU study, the top workforce characteristic that will require the greatest change in HR strategies over the next three years (cited by 57% of executives) was a “lack of interest in assimilating organizational values” followed by “conflicting values of a multi-generational workforce” (51%) and thirdly “educational differences among employees” (50%).

Values Based Diversity EIU

Given the strategic benefits of a diverse talent pool cited by executives, what strategies are organizations using to support and engage diverse talent? The top four strategies listed by respondents focused almost exclusively on learning and development: “mentoring of new and high potential employees”, “exposing high potential employees to diverse business situations”, “opportunities for international careers”, and “opportunities for diverse teams to address strategic business challenges”. When asked about the technologies used to manage diverse workforces, 35% of respondents cited human resources information systems (HRIS) as the highest adopted technology, followed by e-learning systems at 31%, and videoconferencing at 25%. Interestingly given the amount of hype and energy around social media, the adoption of enterprise social networks as a means to manage a diverse workforce was low, with only 20% of respondents reporting this as an adopted tool.

The data from this report clearly indicates that executives recognize the importance and benefits of having a diverse workforce, but also recognize that maximizing the potential of a diverse talent pool requires a strategic approach. Whether this approach means augmenting previous diversity initiatives, or developing new strategies altogether, approaches will likely be specific to each organization and the level of understanding and commitment by its leaders. The information does suggest that this will be an area of focus for many organizations now and into the future as the workforce becomes more globally mobile, multi-generational and flexible.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity, Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU, SAP, SuccessFactors