Business leaders view inclusiveness and diversity as essential for attracting and retaining top talent and boosting profits, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Nearly all (95 percent) of the 779 company executives surveyed in February and March believe that an inclusive culture is critical to their organizations’ future, according to the 2016 Diversity Competencies for Leadership Development Survey. Nearly nine in 10 say diversity is important for improving their company’s bottom line.
“The conversation is changing about diversity and inclusion,” said Kip Kelly, director of public programs for UNC Executive Development. “Companies are recognizing that diversity is not optional — it is critical to the success and sustainability of every organization. Successful companies are working harder to foster a culture of inclusion, and they’re holding their leaders accountable.”
Inclusive culture called essential
Nearly three-fourths of the business leaders identify “creating an inclusive culture” as an essential business priority. The top business objectives directly affected by an inclusive culture were identified as:
- Attracting top talent/employer of choice (73.2 percent)
- Improving organizational culture/behaviors (70.7 percent)
- Employee retention (68.3 percent)
- Innovation (59.8 percent)
- Improving collaboration (59.8 percent)
Asked about the roadblocks that impede a culture of inclusion, reasons cited included a lack of clarity about inclusion, not enough time set aside to create a culture of inclusion, and a lack of structured programs designed to foster a culture of inclusion.
“Demographics in the global workforce are changing rapidly and so are attitudes about diversity and inclusion,” said David Leonard, executive director of UNC Executive Development. “Many companies are changing their approaches to diversity and inclusion, as you can see reflected in the research findings.”
Asked how their organizations are redefining the competencies needed to manage a more diverse workforce, more than half of the leaders (53 percent) said their companies have changed their diversity competencies or developed them for the first time in the past three years. Twelve percent plan to change them soon. The remaining 35 percent of leaders report their organization’s D&I competencies have been in place for the last three years.
The qualities considered most critical for a culturally sensitive leader include:
- Willingness to collaborate (71 percent)
- Flexibility (55 percent)
- Comfort with ambiguity and change (54 percent)
- Appreciation of difference (53 percent)
- Openness (51 percent)
“We find it encouraging that diversity competencies have been embedded in leadership development throughout organizations, including non-management roles,” Kelly said. “It suggests that organizations are taking a more holistic approach to emphasize the importance of diversity across all career levels, which we view as a best practice for achieving and sustaining a culture of inclusion.”