Diversity case studies: awareness training; collecting data; using metrics


Diversity case studies: awareness training; collecting data; using metrics

Three recently published case studies have highlighted initiatives by three large organisations in different areas of diversity.


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Three recently published case studies have highlighted initiatives by three large organisations in different areas of diversity.

[The findings are summarised below, courtesy of the consulting firm Human Capital.]

Case study 1 

Unconscious bias leadership awareness training: large law firm
Freehills has introduced this type of training only in the past 12 months, but Gareth Bennett, the Human Resources Director, described it as a ‘light bulb moment’ for partners at the firm.

Bennett said that Freehills has attempted to frame diversity as ‘diversity of thought’ and link it to leadership, targeting inclusive practices and behaviour and ensuring it is ingrained in organisation culture. The training ‘joined the dots’, helping partners to identify bias in their behaviour and link their behaviour to the problem.

He said that since the training commenced the following changes had occurred:
  • a shift from systems, policies and programs to personal engagement — ‘the hearts and minds’
  • diversity included as a standing item on the agenda of each leadership meeting, for example, at practice groups and with the executive and board
  • training had given people the courage to ‘call’ negative behaviours and be mindful enough to ask themselves questions such as: “Why do I like this candidate?”; recognise unconscious bias in themselves and others; and avoid favouring people because they appear similar to themselves
  • more willingness to express own thoughts, even when contrary to the popular view — it is perceived as adding an extra dimension, not stirring up trouble.
In terms of outcomes, the following improvements had occurred:
  • In relation to the talent pool, the percentage of women senior lawyers rated as ‘exceptional’ has increased substantially.
  • Remuneration data is more thoroughly tested against gender, age, and full-time versuss part-time.
  • The percentage of women partners is gradually increasing (up from 16% to 22% since diversity initiatives started), but there is still a long way to go when 60% of senior associates are women and women are in the majority in the legal profession generally.
What does success look like now?
Bennett provided the following guidelines:
  • Everyone is valued for the unique contribution he/she can make. People can be themselves at work and not feel ‘different’. 
  • Both men and women are comfortable about using access to flexible work arrangements such as parental leave.
  • He suggested: ‘Ultimately success will be having a female chairperson and/or CEO within 5 years.’
Next steps
  • A diversity agenda rather than a focus on gender, and for it to be driven by the business.
  • Continuing to refresh the diversity conversation and improve our employees’ knowledge about unconscious bias until it is part of the hard and soft wiring of the organisation.

Case study 2
Collecting data: large utility company
In contrast to Freehills (refer to Case study 1), AGL Energy Limited was described as being ‘at the beginning of its diversity journey’. It has used focus groups and a survey to collect diagnostic data. Last year it formed a Diversity and Inclusion Council.

Jane Thomas, AGL’s Group Head People and Culture, said that prior to this the company’s focus on EEO had been no more than compliance-based, instead of looking for any business benefits from embracing diversity. After establishing a new role, Head of Organisational Development and Diversity, AGL ran a series of Diversity Focus Groups and a flexibility pulse survey. It used the results to establish priority areas for the Diversity and Inclusion Council and created the position of Manager Diversity and Policy in a job-share role.
The Council’s work has included a pay equity review, a women’s conference, career path mapping and collecting gender reporting data for Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) requirements. Every Council meeting reports on progress towards the commitments established at its inaugural meeting.
Challenges to overcome
AGL found that it had a number of women who did not wish to be singled out for ‘special treatment’, fearing a perception that they were appointed to senior roles only because they were women. It convened a Senior Women’s Conference, at which several senior female speakers provided insights into what had been useful in their career progression.

The Conference also specifically discussed diversity and inclusion, at some length, and how it was important for leaders to be aware of their own biases.

The Conference directly addressed issues such as the above that senior female employees had concerns about, and received specific feedback from them as to why they were cynical about what AGL was trying to achieve.

The Conference was overtly supported by the CEO and senior management team. The result was better understanding and appreciation of the Diversity and Inclusion Program.

Currently, AGL is reviewing its parental leave policy to make it more flexible and extend paid leave to partners. With the issue of pay equity, it has built in checks and balances into the upcoming remuneration review process.

Case study 3
Diversity metrics: large professional services firm
Deloittes, a large professional services firm, runs a program called ‘Inspiring Women’. According to Margaret Dreyer, Audit Partner and Inspiring Women Lead Partner, the catalysts for the program were a growing shortage of talent and the arrival of a new CEO from South Africa.

Two of the most important initiatives of the program have been a series of lunches and networking events, which were effective for listening to what the issues were, and the Deloitte Business Woman of the Year Awards.

Deloittes has a clear set of metrics that relate directly to employment of women. Each cluster report reflects key business metrics (eg revenue), but two of the seventeen line management items specifically relate to the development and retention of women. Line managers also have KPIs relating to these metrics. Gender metrics demonstrate leaders’ commitment to the program and have a high level of visibility (eg each month leaders report to the CFO on these metrics). Achievements are widely acknowledged.

Deloittes’ current target is 25% of women in partnership and leadership positions by 2015. Line managers are shown the current talent pipelines, at which time the point is reinforced that the goal cannot be achieved unless efforts are made to retain current talented employees. Resignations of the latter are thoroughly evaluated and potential ‘flight risk’ people are identified early on.

Dreyer added that a healthy budget to run the program was essential, and is provided.

Deloitte is now using a diagnostic tool called As One to ‘understand our cultural misfits and heroes’. Culture has to authentically support diversity throughout the firm.

Further information
‘Practical Case Studies’, Deloitte Diversity and Inclusion Client Newsletter, July 2011. Copy supplied by Juliet Bourke, partner, Human Capital.
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