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A diverse workforce could help companies acquire and retain the best talent, build employee engagement, increase innovation and improve business performance, but many companies still lag behind when it comes to diversity. Matt Krentz, senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group and leader of its diversity efforts, says that companies are investing in their diversity programs, with nearly 98 percent of large companies in 14 countries having such programs. However, about three-quarters of employees in underrepresented groups – women, racial and ethnic minorities and LGBTQ employees – do not feel they have personally benefited from their companies’ diversity and inclusion programs. To make real progress, Krentz says the top-ranked interventions among survey respondents included robust, well-crafted and consistently followed anti-discrimination policies; effective training to mitigate biases and increase cultural competency; and removing bias from evaluation and promotion decisions. The survey uncovered “hidden gems” in diversity programs that target groups found helpful. For women, companies should provide a viable path forward and giving them tools to balance their career and family responsibilities, such as leaders who are visible role models, parental leave, appropriate health care coverage and child care assistance. For employees of color, the top obstacle was advancement, which they said could be overcome by programs to eliminate bias from day-to-day operations, formal sponsorship programs and individual roadmaps for advancement. Half of LGBTQ employees say they are still closeted at work and report that structural interventions to accommodate a broader gender orientation than simply male and female (such as gender-neutral bathrooms, or non-binary gender choices in surveys and HR data) would be more helpful. Krentz adds that companies can succeed with these types of programs only with leadership commitment, a tailored approach based on the unique needs of the organization and metrics and tracking for gauging progress. Leaders must build a clear case for change and set concrete goals, prioritized in concert with their diverse employees.

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