three critical considerations to building a world-class inclusion model and employer brand

More than ever, a company’s employer brand should showcase its authentic commitment to an inclusive and diverse workforce. One reason is that talent increasingly is attracted to organisations that espouse such values and encourage employees of all backgrounds to find a place of belonging. The importance of such an approach is well documented by advisors such as McKinsey, whose studies have detailed how companies achieve superior results from harnessing diverse and adopting conscious inclusive practices.

Many organisations have grappled with inclusion, being highly subjective and difficult to quantify. Unlike certain dimensions of diversity, which can be measured and tracked, inclusion metrics are more nuanced, based on qualitative employee sentiment data.  Surveys may provide a snapshot at a moment in time of employee engagement, but there are many other factors that can influence perception, such as team dynamics, the welfare of the business or work demands. And without an effective way to gauge a company’s inclusion efforts, it’s difficult to know if its strategy and execution are making impactful change.

Companies can, however, develop a data-driven approach to guide their efforts, including consistent and actionable initiatives that lead to real change and sustainable outcomes. Leading with inclusion goals, with diversity goals and a company’s corporate values, an effective inclusion program can produce tangible metrics and results, such as higher retention, greater productivity, stronger Net Promoter Scores and more.

build your baseline and goals

As with many initiatives, your efforts to nurture a more inclusive culture must begin with questions: why do we need to make additional inclusion investments, and what does success look like? Without clear justification, buy-in across your organisation won’t materialise, and stakeholders will simply go through the motions without achieving progress. So start with defining the inclusion why and narrative specific for your business, such as enhanced engagement, retention, internal mobility and leadership development.

Having these objectives clearly defined will also make it easier to quantify the metrics. Employee surveys provide engagement scores and retention is easily tracked, as are internal mobility and leadership development. Each of these indicators alone may not give you a complete picture of your inclusion efforts, but collectively they provide a holistic picture of successes and opportunities. Assess and be honest about where the organisation is on its ED&I journey, be authentic, transparent and lead with inclusion rather than diversity goals to have an impactful approach. 

Part of the data collection process also requires an integrated effort to identify the relevant insights that need to be considered – whether these are hard numbers such as NPS scores, inclusion objectives for leaders or percentage of leaders from diverse backgrounds. Don’t forget, however, anecdotal information can also offer important insights on workforce perception. Consider establishing focus group interviews and an inclusion council – Society for Human Resource Management cites as an effective channel for communicating to the C-suite the perception of the workforce.

champion your case to leadership

These initial steps will then serve as the foundation for the next critical part of your inclusion efforts – selling the C-suite on the plan. Without committed executives behind an inclusion initiative, bringing about real change is unlikely. And to get their buy-in, your business case and goals must be clear and achievable. That’s why building a strong foundation is critical.

When promoting inclusion to leadership, state your case not only the impact on innovation and engagement, but also the long-term effect on employer and corporate brands. D&I investments have a tangible impact on measurements, such as Glassdoor scores and the number of job applicants, all of which can lead to economic benefits like reducing recruitment costs.

Finally, a compelling case should be made around the role of inclusion in steering corporate values. Heightened awareness around inclusion and social justice have led many employers to question whether they are doing enough to promote D&I within their organisation. Inclusion, specifically, has garnered more attention recently as companies such as Netflix have put a spotlight on the topic.

communicate across all levels of your organisation

Leadership buy-in is certainly important to any inclusion efforts, but so is the buy-in among all levels in the business. Without your people’s commitment to embrace a more inclusive culture, organisations will continue to operate in divided ways. Just as you would build a business case for the C-suite, articulating the reasons to the entire workforce should be done so succinctly.

Provide training and a system for feedback on your inclusion program. Conduct focus groups, particularly with employees of different backgrounds, because the whole point of the exercise is to get everyone’s voices heard. Use this information to identify gaps and risks such as loss of critical talent. Most importantly, ensure your organisation is ready to implement changes that will deliver the results you seek.

Inclusion may be more challenging to measure and change, but it isn’t less important in your company’s D&I strategy. With a robust foundation and sufficient buy-in, your business can ensure a highly engaged and inclusive workforce as well as a strong employer brand. 

Download our 2021 employer branding report to learn what job seekers find important when choosing an employer. We’ve surveyed 190,000 working-age adults in 34 markets to provide you with actionable insights to improve your employer brand.

about the author
laura todd
laura todd

laura todd

inclusion & wellbeing director

Laura is an experienced and capable people, culture, transformation and engagement specialist; with a track record of implementing valuable, creative and effective solutions. She is passionate about delivering improved outcomes for individuals through a people focused engagement and transformation approach.