diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profilesArticle by Kristina Bell, Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Bullhorn

In fast-moving, ever more progressive societies, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are of huge importance in every aspect of life.

But perhaps nowhere more so than in the workplace, where talent wants a strong sense of belonging, a working environment where everyone feels safe and valued, with an employer who offers tangible career progression based on merit, not background.

Attracting and appointing the best person for a role, regardless of ethnicity, sex and other personal characteristics, then motivating and retaining them and ensuring their career advancement, isn’t just the right thing to do ethically. It also makes commercial sense during the biggest labour shortage and recruitment crisis seen for many years.

Companies benefit from diversity: according to Gartner, inclusive teams perform up to 30% better in high-diversity environments. More than three-quarters (76%) of job seekers say seeking a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential when considering job offers, and research from Harvard Business School reports that having a high sense of belonging can increase job performance by 56% or more, as well as reduce turnover by 50% and decrease the amount of sick days.

This is especially true for the younger generations coming through: 83% of millennials are more actively engaged in their work when their employer supports DE&I initiatives. Diversity isn’t just about a person’s physical appearance – a diverse team means more difference in thought, and having a range of backgrounds, cultures and experiences to look at problems from new angles is estimated to enhance team innovation by up to 20%.

To achieve this, you need a strong Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) strategy, and I believe there are five core principles which drive this.

1. Leadership buy-in

Leaders must set an example by being open and unafraid to speak about DE&I. If they do, it will create an environment where others also feel able to. Leadership support and sponsorship is essential to the success of a DE&I strategy, so create senior advocates in different business units and departments and empower them to embed DE&I into existing initiatives within their business units.

Eventually, you’ll have many leaders across the business who are DE&I champions, which creates authentic engagement and eventually trickles into other parts of your organisation, leading to thoughtful DE&I inclusion in areas like Onboarding or Learning & Development.

2. Data

To understand where you want to go, you must understand where you are. You probably already have the data to get a fairly accurate idea of gender (and possibly ethnicity) breakdown by department.

These will reveal any immediate disparities and opportunities for improvement with your population and lead to changes with hiring or promotions, for example.

Quantitative data is only a piece of the story though. It’s also important to measure qualitative data via pulse or engagement surveys or focus groups. Gathering employee sentiments will help shape your DE&I programming and ensure your efforts align with their feedback.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 


3. Communication and collaboration

Everyone in the organisation needs to be aware of your DE&I approach: what you’re doing, what is available to individuals, and what the goals are – or else any drive will fail. Inter-departmental networking and employee resource groups are great ways to create more champions across the organisation.

Don’t overcomplicate things, though; staff have enough to digest, understand, and act on already, so keep things simple and leverage the good things that already exist. Bullhorn’s employee vision states, “Every employee has a sense of belonging, a voice that is heard, and a clear path to success.” Instead of creating a new tagline, we built our DE&I work on the foundation of this vision because it’s already embedded in our culture and covers the three most critical areas of the employee experience.

4. Sustainability

A DE&I strategy is more than just doing something for International Women’s Day or Black History Month. While taking those moments to celebrate is important for creating a sense of belonging, they’re usually just that – moments. Long-term progress is about systems that support equity and paths to success for all employees, year-round. This is why mentoring, talent calibrations, job shadowing, innovation teams and the like are good programmes to have in your DE&I approach. They will help employees build relationships, increase access to opportunities and, ultimately, drive retention – which your representation data will show over time.

5. Inclusivity

It is crucial to include everybody in your DE&I drive (it’s in the name, after all) so see to it that nobody is left behind or overlooked. Make sure your company’s DE&I statement is broad focused enough to include and engage all employees. Don’t accidentally exclude people. Inclusion is inclusion. For everyone. You may have initiatives for LGBTQIA+ employees, women and gender minorities, and BIPOC staff, which may be necessary to ensure equity, but how are you engaging straight, white men? In many of our businesses, they are still the majority. By including military and veterans or focusing on persons with disabilities, for example, you expand your focus into areas that don’t have a particular ethnicity, gender or age associated with them.

The goal is an environment where everyone is valued, encouraged to contribute and supported on their career journeys.

A diverse workforce with an inclusive culture is a competitive advantage. Talent is demanding more from employers in an environment where social circumstances have shifted the way we exist at work (especially when “at work” for most of us, is at home). Without leadership support and clear actionable data, businesses will struggle to create long-term sustainable strategies that move the needle on representation and culture.

DE&I leaders must plan for the future, while also remaining agile in response to the present. I’m incredibly optimistic that real change is possible, because I’m seeing it at Bullhorn. We’ve made progress with our representation, with programming that employees are engaging in and committed leaders who are embedding DE&I within their teams’ success measures. We continue to use these five pillars on our journey and hope they add value to you on yours.

Kristina BellAbout the author

Kristina Bell is director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Bullhorn.

Her 15-year career includes fast-paced, high-engagement corporate roles, from digital editor to senior marketing manager. Kristina expanded her focus to include DE&I in 2019.