The diversity and inclusion focus is still relatively young but gaining momentum.

The ‘Dive In’ initiative in the insurance industry, sponsored by Lloyd’s and delivered around the globe (most recently in Australia) is testament to this and a great step forward, but there is more to do in order for organisations to realise the direct business results they seek!

An evolving field

Diversity and inclusion programs have continued to pick up steam across industries and sectors. Some have remained closer to diversity’s compliance-orientated roots, concentrating on aspects like equal opportunity and affirmative action. Others have focused on specific elements of diversity, like race, ethnicity, age, disability, culture, access to development and upward mobility (i.e. glass ceilings).

And some organisations have targeted external company positioning, focusing primarily on diversity impacts from a community reinvestment perspective.

It’s an area that is frequently in the midst of transformation, battling to demonstrate impact and relevance.

More recently, companies began recognising and responding to the growing evidence that it was ‘the smart thing to do’ – that a strong diversity and inclusion culture would give them a competitive advantage.

A variety of studies have bolstered that position, including research conducted in 2013 by the Centre for Talent Innovation which found that there was an 80% improvement in business performance among companies with high diversity levels and that employees in publicly traded companies with higher diversity are 70% more likely to see their organisation capture new markets. Other research showed increased sales revenue results above national industry medians.

What’s the challenge?

For all the touting about the ‘business case for diversity’, the reality is that many diversity and inclusion initiatives have been more about counting the numbers (hiring, promotions, improved race or gender data and external posturing and position) and less about results. This is not to say these efforts didn’t create positive results but there may have been lost opportunities.

This reality was brought home recently, when at a recent ‘Dive In’ festival event here in Australia it was debated as to whether diversity targets should be introduced.

I would put forth that the ultimate goal for every organisation should be to link their diversity and inclusion efforts to business objectives through the creation of a more inclusive environment that better serves employees and customers now and into the future.

There is no place where this is more relevant than in the insurance industry, where disruption remains a clear and imminent threat and relevance of customer engagement practices are in the spotlight, yet the industry is amongst the worst for diversity and inclusion (for example the insurance and financial services industry has the largest gender pay gap according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency).

It may well require thinking at leadership level to take different directions, certainly diversity of thought in order to navigate what will no doubt be challenging times ahead.

So how do we make it real?

Smart organisations are beginning to discover the answer. Don’t just focus on demographics – harness the power of ‘diversity of thought.’

Microsoft’s Good Science Studio is one of those organisations:

Shannon Loftis realised her team not only needed diverse thinking and perspectives in order to achieve its goals, it needed to have the tools and foundation to be able to take advantage of that diversity.

While the company had been conscious of including different perspectives on project teams, that didn’t always guarantee that diversity would be leveraged. Her goal with the Kinect project was, as she puts it, to make sure “all the thinkers on the team had a voice.”

Like many Fortune 100 companies Microsoft utilises The Whole Brain® approach to inclusion to ensure they leverage and take advantage of diversity.

Measure and leverage diversity of thought

In order to link diversity to business results, we must think beyond just race, gender, and ethnicity. Otherwise diversity and inclusion efforts are only skin deep.

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI)® provides insight into how your employees think and provides the framework for the application of Whole Brain® Thinking. This empowers you to leverage the unique talents of your team and this is where you reap the rewards of diversity.

What HBDI® does for your diversity and inclusion initiative

  • Provides scientifically validated data to measure the diversity of thought in your organisation.
  • Allows you to strategically align thinking resource with business objectives and challenges.
  • Raises self awareness and awareness of others across your organisation promoting tolerance and inclusion.
  • Provides endless applications to turn insights into action.

So when it comes to diversity and inclusion, before you set about filling a quota, or saying I’ll have one of those, two of those and three of them, throw them in a pot and hope it will solve your key business issues, consider understanding what you have, measure it, understand it, leverage it and build on it.