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Diversity and Inclusion— Where to Start?

Article published by BCCJ Acumen, October 2013
Available in English and in Japanese

By Suzanne Price

The idea that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a business imperative has finally hit home. Firms appreciate the competitive advantages to be gained by diversifying their talent pool.

Global jinzai (talent) is one example of the opportunities that come with D&I. Recruiting Japan’s most underused resource—women—is another priority now being supported (in theory) by Abenomics. Other minority groups are also on the radar, including people with disabilities.

The pay-off of sourcing the best people with different perspectives is increased creativity, innovation and an improved ability to meet the needs of clients. Research shows us that diverse groups outperform homogeneous groups. It should be noted, however, that diverse teams can potentially under-perform, because they are more complex. The secret to ensuring high-performing teams is managing inclusion and leveraging diversity.

Accountability and Ownership

D&I is a long-term and active investment in organisational, intra-personal and interpersonal change. D&I begins with compelling and sincere messages from senior executives stating the business case and vision.

First, establish a D&I council to guide strategy and measure results with the head of firm as the chairperson and other executives in active roles.

The mistake I often see is to outsource D&I to human resources or to a diverse employee, such as a senior woman. While HR can provide several vehicles to facilitate the D&I goals, such as training programmes and policies, recruiting strategies and so on, ownership and accountability belong with senior management.

Diverse employees may have a part to play as role models and as leaders of grassroots initiatives, such as employee resource groups. Still, it should not be assumed these staff have the expertise or influencing power to lead the entire D&I strategy.