If you think your Business Case for Diversity is robust, think again

The buzzwords that describe the Business Case for Diversity Management are quickly listed up: Creativity, employer brand, collaboration, market access. But is it enough to be convinced of some value-add that D&I offers? And what if your key stakeholders were convinced of different benefits? Alignment and rigour are needed in order to turn the business case into a driver for D&I.

For many business leaders, Diversity & Inclusion obviously makes business sense. For many others, it’s obviously the right thing to do. But even if your CEO says “I strongly believe that Diversity is a success factor for our company”, this will not convince the non-believers in your organisation – let alone those that have to juggle a dozen priorities at the same time. Robust evidence is needed along with a well-structured storyline. Various levels and forms of resistance can be addressed (in part) by a business case storyline that responds to three key questions:

  1. Why do we need D&I (at all)? The strategic case for D&I
  2. What drives us to act now? The urgency for D&I
  3. What (and how much) do we gain from an investment in D&I? The ROI of D&I

The first two questions can only be answered individually for your organisation and each company might want to update the related research and considerations every couple of years. The third question has been answered by a growing body of research which at the moment comprises of just over 200 studies that are now available as a consolidated quality report.

  1. The Why-question is maybe the most difficult and most fundamental nowadays

Researchers currently consider that sense-making of any job-related engagement might soon become the most critical success factor of all. For more and more employees as themselves why (on earth) they should be committed and enthusiastic for a job that only covers one small element in the fabulous world they see every day (around themselves, online or in the Media).

Sense-making for D&I presents an additional challenge as people are asked to change some of the way they see the world and some of their behaviours. Therefore, the Why-question for D&I is most effectively answered by describing clearly how your concept of D&I contributes directly to your strategic business priorities, which are hopefully top-of-mind with your key people.

  1. Showing the urgency is necessary to make your case for action

Even if your key audiences are convinced of the strategic value of D&I, they will not get engaged until they see the existing gap and hence the need to act. This urgency can be found either in your internal analysis or in external changes that force your organisation to take action. Often times, there external trends include stakeholder expectations, labour shortage or changing values / preferences of clients or candidates. Internal gaps are often found in leaking pipelines (expensive to have and probably your best recruitment pool), discrepancies in engagement levels across diversity groups or specific stakeholder feedback.

Your analysis of the need for a pro-active Diversity Management should be updated every few years to cover current issues respectively.

  1. Providing evidence for the measurable benefits of well-managed D&I

Many companies are at the point where they run D&I programmes that require resources from everyone involved. It is this investment that should be explained through robust research results that shows what will improve (or how much) when D&I is managed well.

For the past 30 years, scientists have looked at many of the key questions of what we today call Diversity & Inclusion. One of the most fundamental questions related to the performance of heterogeneous vs. homogeneous teams – which performs better, for which tasks or under which conditions. Another large field of research covered the question how recognition (i.e. valuing individual strengths) translates onto engagement and performance. On an organisational level, researchers investigated the performance or specific elements of success of organisations as it relates to workforce diversity or diversity in management.

The effects of Diversity and Diversity Management on market(ing) success and on employer branding was only examined starting in the 2000s. The reason may well be that researchers found it more challenging to ensure that their findings were valid, reliable free from statistical bias. It is these criteria that were checked for all studies selected for the current edition of the International Business Case Report (IBCR 3.1). For this and earlier editions, researcher of European Diversity Research & Consulting identified well over 500 studies (over the years). Each research was checked for its robustness before it got included in the report. The numbers show that a large number of studies did examine factors that are relevant for the business case for D&I, but did not do so in a way that was valid or reliable enough.

The latest (2016) version of the International Business Case Report contains 205 studies, each summarised on a single page. The report has a total of 270 pages and can be ordered by email office@european-diversity.com .

More information is available at this website.