Bridging the talent gap through diversity in leadership acceleration. 

When I talk about diversity in leadership acceleration, I sometimes see eyes glaze over. This usually happens for one of two reasons. In the first case, these words are mistaken for thinly veiled marketing hype disguised in industry jargon. But more often, it’s because the listener knows all too well about how diversity is supposed to be good for business. Yet despite the millions they have spent on diversity focused recruiting, training, retention, and mentorship programs, they have yet to see results that are meaningful to their bottom line.

To make things worse, we’re bombarded with headlines and case studies that hold out diversity as a holy grail in the age of corporate disruption. Firms are now mandated by clients for the teams they show up with to be gender diverse. For example McKinsey’s most recent Delivering Through Diversity report found corporate executive teams with more gender diversity translated into a competitive advantage 21% greater than their peers. In similar fashion, a Boston Consulting Group study found that more diverse management teams resulted in revenues that were 19% higher than competitors.

These numbers tell us that employees with diverse backgrounds are good for business. The assumption behind these numbers is that diversity brings different perspectives and experiences to bear on client needs, which in turn leads to a more nimble and effective organization that can pivot with the changing needs of their clients.

So what gives when certain companies throw time and money at diversity initiatives but fail to move the needle where profitability is involved?

Here’s my one simple rule for winning in diversity

I think part of the reason that consulting firms, and their clients, are missing the mark with diversity is they are operating by an antiquated set of rules.  Our parent’s brand of diversity was about doing the right thing. They checked the diversity box on their selection package and felt good about their contribution to helping historically underrepresented groups break through the glass ceiling.

But this model fails in a critical way; It undermines the inherent value that diverse perspectives bring to the table. As a result, individual potential is unrealized and top talent slips through the cracks.

On a more subtle level, the old model of diversity is inherently faulty because it fails to recognize and change the underlying mechanisms responsible for our current (though improving) dearth of diversity in the workplace.

As humans, we are hard-wired to surround ourselves with people who are like us. The outcome is an endless cycle of self-referential feedback and promotion that silos us into a borg-like environment. As a result, boardrooms and C-suite offices are full of people who are upwardly mobile, Ivy-league educated, and quite frankly, looks the same as it always has.

And since we know that our human nature is to surround ourselves with the same, why do we expect the diversity candidates that we so fervently want and need to choose a work environment where they are so ill-represented.

I think this is the crux of changing the conversation around how to win in diversity. Until we are willing to take a look at our own culture and ask ourselves if we are modeling a culture of diversity, we will be unable to attract the top talent we are seeking.

That’s why when clients ask me how they can do more to win in the diversity game, I tell them there’s no shortcut. You simply have to take a fearless look at who you are as a company and then commit to doing the work to change that. 

Winning in diversity is about the long game.

At Beecher Reagan, we know that winning in diversity is about the long game. And one of the ways we are helping our clients win in diversity AND bridge the talent gap is by finding new ways to identify potential talent, regardless of race, gender, or any other external set of factors. With the right tools, companies can be made aware of their internal systems and biases that cause them to overlook potential talent and organically create a culture where diversity is the new norm.

One of the innovations I’m most excited about is our Verity Leadership Assessment, powered by Hogan Assessments. Unlike other leadership assessment tools, which are built on an academic set of leadership competencies or behaviors, our proprietary assessment is built from data we have mined from talent success stories encountered over our 20 years in the executive search industry. As a result, we have been able to benchmark what high performers and culture carriers look like for a type of business and enable our clients to recruit, retain, promote and accelerate talent that delivers measurable results. Further, we have seen proof that the assessment identifies high potential diversity talent that normally goes unnoticed. When that diversity talent is accurately identified and acceleration programs are built around them in a way that works for their circumstances, you will truly start turning the battleship.

Together we can prove that doing what’s right is also good for business.

If you’re a champion of diversity because it’s just the right thing to do, I applaud you. And if you’re a champion of diversity just because it’s good for business, I am hopeful that your pursuits will eventually lead to enlightenment and at the least, create opportunity for others. Either way, I know the road ahead isn’t easy.

At Beecher Reagan, we are on our own journey to create a truly diverse cadre of leaders who will carry that through into our company culture, and ultimately help us serve our clients better. For many, this change has often been uncomfortable, frustrating, and just plain hard. But I’m confident that in good company, we will soon prove to the world that doing what’s right is also good for business. Until then, Beecher Reagan is on the journey with you.

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