How to deliver a sustainable D&I programme

By Paul Baker (Partner)

By now most businesses should be fully aware of 'Why Diversity Matters' (thanks McKinsey&Co!), yet the complexity surrounding the focus of delivery is, for me reaching a critical stage and is driving disengagement, fatigue and fear.


Common barriers to successful delivery...

1. Leadership & Engagement.
  • What level of importance do you place on this and what message are you giving to your employee population?

  • If you place the responsibility to lead your D&I initiatives on Junior, under-qualified or the wrong ‘senior staff’ that lack the ability to win the ‘hearts & minds’ and engage at all levels then you are going to struggle.

  • If the executive leadership as a collective are not engaged and passionate about driving inclusive change then the message will be far more complex to deliver. Think of this as you would any business-critical programme. To deliver the change required you need professionally qualified, passionate and experienced professionals with a key executive ‘Sponsor’ (CEO ideally) to drive and embed the message to the entire employee population.

2. Framework Strategy:
  • How do you simplify and form structured supportive strategic delivery groups? Failure to establish strategic teams for delivering change usually results in over complication and confusion. We often refer to these as Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) which are tasked with leading, supporting, engaging and educating others around their chosen diverse group (i.e. LGBTQ+, BAME, Neurodiversity etc)

  • Disengaged/revolutionary individuals who lack the inclusive engaging approach are more divisive and should be avoided. Above all the leaders of these groups must be advocates for inclusion, as a whole.

3. Recruitment/Talent attraction process:
  • One of the biggest barriers to accessing Inclusive executive, experienced and transactional talent is your current recruitment process. Unless you have transformed this function to align to your Inclusive strategy then how will you ever access the breadth of talent available?

  • Outsourced talent attraction processes often have an alternative strategy that is not aligned to your business and this ‘HAS’ to change.

  • If the first experience of trying to access your available vacancies or join your business is difficult, disengaged, complex or poor quality then the reality is that this will form the first impression potential employees will have of your company.

  • There should be complete synergy in the way your internal teams and external Executive Search & Recruitment partners articulate your D&I strategy, Inclusive vision and overall culture. If this is not aligned then you are missing an opportunity to drive a clear and uniform message to the market.

  • ·So, get to know your Recruitment & Executive Search partners extremely well. Meet regularly, build engagement, have high expectations and build trusted reciprocal partnerships based on ‘High Quality-Highly engaged relationships that offer value that is fairly priced’.

4. Employee resistance:
  • The ongoing success requires engagement. Addressing resistance is about understanding the fears and backgrounds of all involved.

  • Continuous improvement is achieved through clear communication and education at all stages to reduce resistance &/or fear.

  • Your employees/people are the life blood of your business and are essential to the success of this change. They need to feel safe/comfortable to open up and discuss views, bias (conscious & unconscious) and beliefs where they can challenge and be challenged in a polite, productive and constructive way.

  • Employees need to ‘feel’ listened to, valued and supported but equally need to listen, value and support the company.

  • Truly inclusive business are reciprocal relationships where everyone feels valued but have clear boundaries and expectations that support the common vision & goals.

So, success must include both your internal as well as your external attraction strategy. All too often the delivery of which seems to get blurred from the real value driving the change which is...

Engaged diverse organisations have employees who feel ‘included’ and exude Inclusive values & behaviours that drive long term business sustainability through innovation, performance and profitability.

In general, most Inclusive Programmes of work seem so consumed with cost reduction that the actual vision, quality of delivery and implementation is lost or made very difficult to achieve.

What we often see from Global and SME clients are great discussions and inclusive statements/media content, but very little action that is actually implemented and delivers sustainable improvements.

The tangible benefits that a successful delivery brings are also not always immediately clear or measurable. You have to understand that ‘Inclusion’ is not a line on the balance sheet and so measuring or expecting immediate results will only end in failure & disappointment….can someone please tell the CFO?

This is about long-term sustainability, step change performance improvement and long-term profitability.

For me Inclusive Programme delivery must at its heart deliver the cultural change to be a part of every employee’s journey. We are not implementing an ERP or CRM here that has a delivery/go-live date. We are actually transforming how we all think and work through changing employee mindsets, cultures and ways of working to the benefit of all.

No-one said it would be easy!

We also see lots of companies highlighting their diverse workforce, their values and mission statements utilising the words #inclusion #diversity at every opportunity. They offer vibrant and well-constructed social media content that in reality feed an ‘Instagram vision’ of their inclusive business that is false and lacking any real substance!

Diversity & Inclusion are not key words for a marketing campaign but are the core substance and values that underpin everything we do and everything we are about in any business. Any false representation will be called out by current and ex-employees and the damage caused will undo any good work you may have delivered.

You have been warned!


Now, let’s focus on our People...

If you haven’t realised by now there is a glaringly obvious part to all this. People! If talent is the lifeblood of your business then we are saying that people are our most prized asset.

So why are they not procured or treated in that way?

The various channels used to access this talent must be the best they can be. The content you produce must reflect your culture, vision and do not be afraid to talk about what you lack or need to improve as well as the positives! Be authentic, transparent and real.

If you want to build an Inclusive business without...

  • Everyone in your business being able to articulate the vision and culture.

  • Everyone working in partnership (outsourced/external companies) with your business being able to articulate the vision and culture.

  • Providing ongoing Training and supporting to educate your workforce

  • Improving and transforming talent attraction processes to offer simplified access to vacancies from all diverse groups.

….then I’m sorry, but it’s just not going to happen!

I have worked in this Industry for over 20 years and today I work with major global organisations to define and transform their ability to access diverse executive leadership and Programme/Transformation talent. We continually face barriers that have been created by the implementation of so called effective outsourced recruitment or executive search processes that operate under the pretense of process excellence!

Now I for one am all about business process improvement and efficiency but this is simply nothing like that. Most large-scale outsourced recruitment processes implemented via Procurement and/or HR are just not interested or designed to support the attraction of diverse & Inclusive talent. Much of the good work they do is by chance than any actual science.

Point in process; Call 3 of your key suppliers and speak with the leadership contacts representing your business (Marketing, Search, Recruitment) and ask them the articulate your D&I strategy or talk about your Inclusive vision and what they are doing to support this?

The response will be a true test of substance!


So, what can you do?

The new world of work has many challenges both socially and economically but the point around people being the most important asset - not an essential overhead needs some thought.

Engaging, developing, attracting and retaining talent is central to the people & organisational strategy of any business. This is not something ground-breaking but a reality that all people matter.

With improved technology enablement & innovation, we can maximise the effectiveness of everyone within an organisation. We must ensure that we provide an environment where everyone feels they can be the best and most productive versions of themselves through supportive and flexible working structures with clear expectations.

These are changing times and an organisation’s failure to change or evolve is now a one-way ticket to business failure in the future.

We see some fantastic work being delivered to create real Inclusive environments but all too often, the route for talent attraction is the broken part of the process. The outsourced recruitment process seems to be an easy solution. Putting a plaster over a function that most internal HR teams don’t want to manage and projecting the impression of ‘improving the process’ - BUT, the reality is very different.



  • Ensure you have the best individuals, ERG’s and key sponsor in place who are able to engage others, articulate the vision and who are genuinely passionate about delivering support and change.

  • Define your inclusive strategy so that it supports your business vision, values and culture.

  • Educate all staff on an ongoing basis to ensure they feel included, are open to change and share the same values. You are not looking for everyone to have the same views, choices and beliefs but you are looking to ensure that everyone respects each other in their views, choices and beliefs.

  • Be firm with your message and expectations around what inclusion means and dispel any fears that may arise from existing staff. A truly inclusive business will be naturally diverse where the best people are hired solely on their ability to do the job required.

  • Focus on Inclusion and everything you do will appeal and attract greater numbers of diverse talent. Be prepared to change processes and adopt new and innovative ways of working that will open up your access to all potential employees.

  • Build your internal capability to recruit transactional volume needs and ensure they live, breath and sleep your vision and strategy to support diversity and development of your inclusive culture.

  • Engage directly with the recruiters and the Search specialists. Empower your leadership to be involved with hiring for their areas but centralise the controls function to provide uniformity of costs and quality of process.

  • Get to know any company that wants to work with you. Are they right for your business and how well do they know you?

  • Don’t confuse cost with value. You will get far better value if engaged on exclusive or retained terms with a carefully selected specialist who wants to work with you. There should be flexibility from both parties and a fair approach to fees based on the work involved.

  • Review your existing recruitment & search strategy, suppliers and process so that you get the value and quality you need every time.

  • Set the expectation high and ensure you have regular interaction and evaluation of delivery.

  • Ask your business partners to articulate your vision/strategy regularly to ensure they are supporting your hard work.

  • Continually assess your suppliers approach, process, ability and above all ensure that all shortlists are reflective of society.

  • If an external partner champions D&I then make sure this is real and has substance and isn’t just a marketing ploy!

At Inventum Consulting, we are genuinely encouraged by the increased desire to embed greater diversity and inclusive cultures within both SME and Global Leading firms. We have access to talented associates and partners who can support successful delivery, turnaround failing programmes and provide you with the tools and structure to get you on the right path.

Many others are still early in their journey towards embedding a diversity strategy and building an inclusive organisation, but things are moving in the right direction.

In many ways, the Gender pay gap debate produced something of a mirror for many organisations to look into initiating a realisation that change is needed.

Fear from all this change creates paralysis and it is far more powerful to know and acknowledge where you need to improve rather than burying your head in the sand in the hope it will go away.

Many firms understand the value of this change but do struggle to articulate a vision for change. The aptly titled ‘Holding up the mirror’ approach (Thanks this time to Lloyds of London), is a great analogy of where to start and will provide clear and fair representation/underrepresentation of all diverse groups within your organisations and should form an important part of your ongoing reflection.

These are changing times where an inability to change and improve will result in failure.

So be authentic, be transparent and be honest. Treat people fairly and set clear expectations. Be flexible but remember this works both ways.

Ensure you continually articulate your passion, vision and strategy to everyone internally and externally.

Inventum Consulting: Inclusive consulting in an increasingly diverse world.


Please contact Paul Baker to discuss any aspects of this paper in more detail.

Paul Baker (Partner)

Operational & Programme Leadership

Inventum Consulting

Office 020 3008 4331

Direct Line 020 3008 4333