Recently, the business press reported on research that suggests almost half of all UK FTSE-100 firms are failing to deliver on their inclusion promises, despite almost all of them having formal processes and policies in place to meet diversity targets.

We get it. At the bare minimum, ensuring equality is a legal requirement. But societal expectations have prompted a majority of companies to seek to go above and beyond that and instead make pledges around Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) and cultural transformation.

So, what’s stopping them from achieving those goals?

Essentially, three things.

First, size. The UK’s leading businesses tend to be those of a scale that makes rapid change in any area tricky, particularly in an area like cultural change which is by nature evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Second, knowledge. In the report, business leaders confessed they don’t feel they have sufficient grasp of I&D issues to be able to tackle change in a credible and meaningful way.

Third, lack of vision. Leaders often don’t see how companywide change can be implemented on a practical level, and so the work is put in a box marked ‘too hard’.

And we haven’t even got to the complexities of gearing I&D work to reflect the specific aspects of diversity. In practice, these are not limited to the areas protected by law – race, gender, sexuality, age, etc. – but include themes such as class and social mobility, hybrid working, menopause and menstrual policies, and trans-inclusive policies.

Successful I&D work begins with leadership at the very top of the organisation who understand the uncomfortable consequences of not implementing this work:

  • Terrible Glassdoor reviews
  • Toxic cultures (often perpetuated by your most senior people)
  • Shareholder activism – in March, Apple shareholders voted to force a highly resistant board to conduct a third-party audit of the state and impact of its civil rights policies
  • Poor retention rates
  • High recruitment costs

Yet the solution, when taken a step at a time, doesn’t need to be overwhelming. When you work with us, we:

  • Start slow and talk about where you are at right now
  • Talk honestly about what’s intimidating you or the obstacles you think are in the way
  • Find out about how your people feel
  • Identify if we need to raise awareness in specific areas of diversity
  • Help your leaders to lead inclusively and interrupt biases
  • Improve your recruitment and promotion practices
  • Embed inclusive behaviours throughout your organisation

Many companies try to do this work at pace, but usually success comes in a planned and measured way.

And it starts with a simple phone call.