General insights

Business Assurance - ViewPoint


Personal understanding reflects broad topics

When asked what D&I means to them as individuals, respondents rated equal opportunity the highest (65.2%). This is followed by acceptance (58.1%) and respect (50.1%). The top 3 list is comprised of topics that are quite broad in nature, which is to be expected within an organizational context where career opportunities and growth are often core to employees. Moreover, when given a set of specific words to select from, people tend to choose those more general in nature. More specific topics, such as races (20.1%) and gender identity (18.7%), are selected when considered significant on a more personal level.

D&I is not core to most business strategies yet

Only 38% completely agree that D&I is part of their company’s overall business strategy. Those that somewhat agree total 41.2%. This indicates that D&I is a relevant topic on its way up corporate agendas; however, there are huge variations. Large companies (500 employees or more) and young companies (less than 19 years old) score higher than the average, for example. Large companies often have a more diverse workforce, and thus require attention to facilitate collaboration and a good company culture. Young companies tend to be inherently more sensitive to the topic and to more consciously incorporate D&I from the start. However, for a lot of companies, D&I does not top the agenda and is often considered after ethics, human rights, climate change and other sustainability topics, for example.

Perceived value is higher than actual commitment and action

A majority completely agrees that a more diverse and inclusive company is also a better performing company (60.1%). While this is very positive, diving into the actual commitment, priorities and business relevance shows a different picture. Only 39.3% say that company leaders and employees demonstrate a commitment to create an inclusive environment. The numbers are even lower for those saying it is one of my company’s stated values/priority areas (34.8%) or it is business-critical (31.7%). Moreover, 21.1% say that D&I can constrain organizations and business processes. Research shows that organizations with homogenous groups can be more efficient when simple tasks are to be done quickly. For companies dependent upon fostering creativity and innovation and making good business decisions, D&I has proven to be an asset. Most companies have yet to derive business benefits from their D&I efforts.

Drivers are primarily internal

To attract and retain talent is a highly relevant reason to apply D&I for 57.8% of respondents. Improve company culture (54.1%) and increase employee satisfaction & well-being at work (50.8%) follow. Internal drivers related to specific requirements, culture, and employee engagement and satisfaction rate highest. Business-related drivers, such as new business opportunities (36.7%) and to increase the market share (28.6%) tend to be found at the opposite end.  This may reflect the different paradigms of D&I. In the past, the focus was on representation, i.e. mirroring society’s demographics. However, representation does not in and of itself equal inclusion. Research shows that truly motivated and more mature companies focusing on D&I generate valuable business outcomes.

Most companies are at the early stages

Only 7.3% rate the maturity of their company’s policy and approach as leading. At the other end of the scale, 18.8% say they are starting, while 33.1% indicate the maturity as progressing. While D&I seems to be rising on corporate agendas, most companies have just started their D&I journey.

Few have set company-wide policies and metrics

Only 31.1% have set a company policy in the D&I area. 

When including those with a policy limited to a pilot or single initiative, the number increases to 51.9%. This indicates a focus on single initiatives rather than a holistic company approach.  What is included in companies’ D&I policies reflects the self-assessed maturity levels. Most companies are progressing, and the focus seems to be on principles & objectives (41.8%) and accountabilities & responsibilities (36.8%). Fewer companies focus on targeted actions and metrics.

Few apply structured measurements and metrics. Only 21.5% have set company goals overall, while 17.1% have set goals for pilots or single initiatives. The percentage setting performance indicators for D&I initiatives is even lower. When starting a journey, metrics is often not the natural first step. However, to improve maturity and progress, measurements and metrics are essential to a structured approach and progress.

D&I often fall under human resources 

Ownership of D&I lies with human resources (HR) department in 28.2% of the companies. This is followed by ownership by top management, such as the CEO or managing director, senior management, and board of directors. Very few companies have a dedicated D&I programme office (2.0%).  D&I responsibility is most often delegated to the HR director (32.4%), followed by the CEO or managing director (23.2%).  It is interesting that 14.2% say their organization does not have a clear leader for D&I efforts and 25.9% do not know.  A general norm seems to be that D&I falls under HR. However, top management ownership and accountability are essential to make any topic core to a company and its business agenda.

Most companies far from gaining business benefits

The main benefits of a structured implementation primarily relate to company culture, recruitment, satisfaction and engagement. An improved company culture tops the list (58.3%). This is followed by a better ability to attract and retain talent (56.5%), an improved company reputation (51.3%) and an increase in employee satisfaction and the workplace environment (49.7%). Business benefits again rate lower, underscoring the view that most companies have yet to connect the two.  There is a huge opportunity for companies to advance by developing and applying a systems approach based on defined frameworks, tools and standards, like the recently developed ISO 30415.

Public communication on D&I is limited

When it comes to publicly communicating information on D&I goals, only 26.9% do so. The majority are not active, with 47.7% of companies not communicating at all and 25.3% of respondents simply not knowing what their company does. To truly connect D&I with the business, commercial aspects and branding, it is recommended to integrate D&I reporting into a company’s overall reporting framework, truly integrating it into the operational perspective. The company approach chosen often reflects whether D&I is viewed to be a burden or a value.

Recruitment and external branding considered the biggest risks

Companies see falling behind in attracting and retaining talent (51%) as the biggest risk facing companies that do not address or consider D&I. This is followed by not keeping up with society & its expectations (47.1%) and external reputation (43.5%).  Non-compliance with legal requirements comes in fourth at 40.9%.  There seems to be a strong external, societal push to engage in D&I, whereas business risks score lower. This could be due to media attention and various movements that have run, such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.  Less widespread attention has been paid to connecting D&I to business aspects like innovation and productivity.

No single action or challenge stands out

Most companies have implemented an ethical helpline and a grievance or whistleblowing mechanism (44%). This is followed by recruiting diverse candidates (38.6%) and providing fair access & equal opportunities for workforce mobility (35.6%).    When it comes to key challenges preventing companies from acting, no single one truly stands out. Top of the list is the company culture (32.8%) and lack of systematic approach (30.8%). These are followed by the lack of knowledge, management & leadership commitment and training.  Interestingly, a lack of budget is not a key challenge for most (13.5%). It is rare for a lack of budget to rate this low.  The lack of a systematic approach can be connected to companies’ low maturity levels and focus on single project actions.

Low knowledge of D&I standards

Most respondents are not familiar with the ISO or other D&I standards. Only 1.6% say they are very familiar while 16.5% know these to some extent. A total of 72.8% indicate limited or no familiarity at all.  Released in 2021, ISO 30415 has not been available for long. However, herein lies considerable opportunity for companies to tackle challenges such as the lack of a systematic approach, best practices and management & leadership commitment, basing their approach on such international or national standards.

Improved understanding considered beneficial

Most believe that D&I training (43.8%) would best support their D&I efforts. This is followed by having a tool for conducting a self-assessment (33.9%), while only 16.1% state obtaining expert auditor assessments or implementing practices based on the ISO 30415 standard.  This may reflect that company culture related aspects did score high on questions related to risk and challenges and that companies are in the early stages of their D&I journey. The first step is often to conduct unconscious bias training. Research shows that this is not sufficient. It needs to be accompanied by structured processes and practices to be successful. Thus, while training and self-assessments are a good start, other and structured processes and actions must follow for companies to advance.

Expect the societal push to increase the most 

Respondents believe that the focus on D&I will increase the most in society at large (65.5%), while a total of 55.5% think it will increase in their company. The main push is perceived to come from society, the company and employees. As of now, there is no clear industry drive and most companies do not yet see the business value. There is a huge opportunity for companies that realize this connection to advance. Such companies can benefit from standards such as ISO 30415, which is based on best practices and provides a framework of requirements. This can help align language, assess gaps, identify the right initiatives and measure performance.