Author: Nora Wu, PwC Vice Chairwoman and Global Human Capital Leader
Business leaders today recognise that a diverse and inclusive workforce is a critical success factor for growth, according to PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey. It’s essential for nurturing creativity, fostering innovation and informing business strategies, particularly in this era of digital disruption. In this year’s survey, more than 80% of CEOs whose organisations have a diversity and inclusiveness strategy say it’s contributed to better business performance.
So what does this mean for business today, and what can we do about it going forward? We take a look at why diversity is so important, and how we can focus on building more diverse and inclusive workforces in future.
Making a difference to the bottom line
According to the survey findings, nine out of 10 CEOs say that they’ve been able to attract talent through their diversity strategy – and this is leading to concrete benefits for the business and a stronger brand reputation. As high as 85% of CEOs see a clear link between diversity and the bottom line.
Today, business leaders believe that when their people are capable of thinking and working differently, they’re able to offer better solutions, services and products to their customers and clients, bringing fresh ideas and new processes that are crucial to compete in today’s marketplace.
Attracting top talent and winning new markets is becoming a key differentiator for organisations – and diversity plays an important role in achieving this differentiation. It’s evident that CEOs are increasingly seeing diversity and inclusiveness as one of their top business priorities, with three quarters of CEOs having a diversity strategy or plans to adopt one.
According to Dr Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys, “Great products and solutions are created when they are a synthesis of lots of different kinds of perspectives, and when we’re diverse.”
Denise Ramos, Chief Executive Officer and President of ITT Corporation, says: “We want people who have differing ideas, differing experiences, differing opinions because we need to solve our customers’ problems. The only way you could do that in a world-class way is to bring a variety of people together and utilise their collective know-how. Diversity and inclusion will make us that much more competitive in the work place.”
CEOs are starting to look beyond the more common dimensions of gender and race in order to build diverse teams. For example, elements such as knowledge, skills and experience, attitude to career and progression, age and disability are now being taken in consideration when building diversity strategies.
Although CEOs with active, formal talent strategies say they’re addressing the more ‘conventional’ dimensions of diversity – as pointed out by PwC Vice Chairman Mitch Cohen in his recent blog – it’s encouraging to see that CEOs are starting to embrace diversity in its wider sense. They’re recognising the importance of ‘diversifying’ diversity, and starting to look more widely across channels, geographies, industries and demographic segments in search of the right talent for their organisations.
Continuing to focus on gender
When it comes to the more conventional dimensions of diversity – such as gender diversity – it’s clear that organisations still face challenges.
For example, attracting and retaining female ‘millennials’. Born between 1980 and 1995, female millennials make up a large part of the current and future talent pool, and are entering the workforce in bigger numbers than any of their previous generations. In PwC's new study, The female millennial, 85% of female millennials interviewed said that a potential employer’s policy on diversity, equality and workforce inclusion was important to them. But their expectations are not always met: 71% felt that while organisations talk about diversity, opportunities are not truly equal.
It’s so important for us to be committed to supporting the growing number of female leaders across the business community. I’ve been proud to be part of PwC’s annual Aspire to Lead initiative, our women’s leadership series which focuses on how female students can move from campus to career. It’s important for all organisations to be making gender diversity a reality for the young women in their workforce.
There’s still progress to be made
According to our CEO Survey, 17% of CEOs say their organisations don’t have a strategy to promote diversity and inclusiveness, while 13% say they have plans to adopt one.
It’ll be important for these organisations to embrace diversity by driving efforts to both tackle enhanced leadership diversity and drive change among their employees . To get this right, organisations need to first understand better how to attract, develop, engage and retain an increasingly diverse workforce.
Annika Falkengren of SEB, one of four female CEOs among Sweden’s top 100 companies, says: “What gets measured gets done – so we have to put in targets, follow up on them and measure its progress.”
If organisations can remain focused on keeping diversity and inclusion at the top of their priority list, they’re already off to a good start.
Nora Wu currently leads the firm’s global people strategy. Prior to this role, Nora was the PwC China Senior Partner for the Shanghai office, Central China Markets Leader and Asia Pacific Human Capital Leader. Find out more