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  • Writer's pictureTamara Makoni

An Inclusion programme without accountability is just hot air

I kicked off a previous post by referring to 2022 as the year of accountability. Let's explore here what this means, and how leaders can set up the right infrastructure to support the success of diversity & inclusion initiatives.

When I worked on global consulting projects, the term ‘career-defining’ came up a lot. In one instance there was a CIO who planned to retire in a few years’ time. A previous org-wide system implementation had not gone well, and he was determined to get it right this time. His legacy was at stake. In another company a recent hire was tasked with overseeing a crucial M&A programme. This was her chance to demonstrate her worth - and hopefully fast track to a director role in the process.

Career-defining means somebody's reputation is on the line. Perhaps their livelihood too. What’s going on matters, and leaders watch it closely. They want regular updates and justification if things start to slip.

Alongside leadership oversight, it's normal to have KPIs, regular review touchpoints, and a dedicated project leader. Why? Because this project is important and we know that having such measures helps keep people on track to achieve what they commit to.

But consider the findings of a 2021 UN Global Compact report. While 92% of companies surveyed had ongoing D&I initiatives, only 42% took action to ensure leadership is accountable to D&I targets. Furthermore,

  • 6% have a Chief D&I Officer who reports metrics to the CEO

  • 6% link executive remuneration to D&I targets

  • 13% conduct an annual review on D&I investments

This data paints a vivid picture - and the level of built-in accountability clearly suggests D&I work largely does not fall into the 'career-defining' category. Executives very often don't have a concrete incentive to make them work. Is it any wonder then that there’s so much rhetoric about change but comparatively little in terms of actual progress?

Make it clear that D&I matters

As a business leader, if you truly want to see results it’s vital that you hold yourself and your fellow leaders accountable for making them happen. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Go public about your targets. Do you want to have a gender balanced boardroom by 2025? Let your staff and the wider world know. No one likes to fail publicly, so the fact that people are watching can act as a compelling incentive to smash that goal.

  • Set KPIs and review them regularly. At one company the Leadership Executive team reviews D&I targets at market and regional level every month. Their Global Diversity Board then meets three times a year to monitor updates and progress. Unsurprisingly, they smashed their targets - and in one instance did so a full year early.

  • Assign dedicated resources and empower them. You wouldn’t ask someone to run a large software implementation part-time, so why should D&I be any different? Too many D&I practitioners say they don’t have enough time or budget to be effective. Think of D&I projects as a strategic culture transformation, not a side hobby. And be aware that relying on volunteers can lead to emotional burnout and overreliance on people from marginalised backgrounds.

  • Link D&I success to leaders’ success. Link a percentage of leaders’ compensation to their hitting specific D&I metrics. Track their D&I footprint and discuss this during performance reviews. That way you encourage leadership to see D&I as their collective responsibility, not just the remit of HR or a specific individual.

In a nutshell: treat D&I with the importance it deserves. Give it the same oversight, governance and provisioning as you would any other kind of large change transformation programme. If you don’t, it will all too easily slip through the cracks.


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