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July 02, 2018
Are Australian businesses wasting their time on inclusion and diversity programs?
By: Kellie Simpson

New global research by Accenture suggests many organisations are overestimating their level of inclusion and diversity (I&D) maturity. And the I&D programs they’re running aren’t necessarily effective. How can you tell whether your I&D programs are really delivering – and what could you do to make their impact more powerful?

Around the world, organisations are making more of an effort to become more inclusive, driven by the lure of impressive business benefits. For example, team performance improves by 50% when everyone feels included – resulting in better business outcomes. But, as our latest research reveals, there is still a gap between what companies are doing and how the workforce evaluates their impact.

The Accenture I&D Insights Survey covered 1,340 executives around the world – 10% from Australia – representing organisations valued at >$1billion. Its aim was to evaluate the impact I&D initiatives have on the people who they are designed to help. To this end, we analysed I&D impact among different groups, notably between the I&D / Human Resource (HR) practitioners responsible for implementing I&D programs and the people affected by them.

Are you asking the right people?

Our research found the measure of an organisation’s I&D maturity depends on who you ask. Looking at the same factors through different lenses gets very different results. For example:

  • Ethnic minorities are more likely than any other employees to feel that their organisations are doing the bare minimum.

  • Men in HR believe that their organisation is more advanced in its I&D maturity than women in HR.

  • Women in HR who are executing I&D initiatives have a much more favourable assessment of progress than (non-minority and minority) women on the receiving end of those initiatives.

The big take out is that I&D maturity is not simply about having programs in place – or even about having those programs deliver on their owners’ metrics. It’s not about how many unconscious bias training sessions you run, how many of your employees go through them, or even if participants report behavioural changes after the workshops.


You can only call your I&D programs successful if the people you intend to support feel the difference.


The true success of I&D initiatives depends on the impact they have, and that often means different things to different people.

What really contributes to maturity?

To maximise the positive impacts of a genuinely diverse and inclusive workplace culture, Australian businesses need to be assessed on four metrics. At Accenture we’ve developed an I&D Framework to provide a basis for evaluating maturity as well as a roadmap for what needs to be achieved.

The Framework assesses organisations on four metrics:

  1. Strategic intent – Is I&D integrated in overall company growth strategy and communicated throughout your organisation?

  2. Leadership behaviours – Do all leaders ensure that those with different backgrounds are welcomed, treated equally and have their voices heard?

  3. Inclusive culture – Do people of all backgrounds feel included, welcome, valued and respected for their individual differences?

  4. Talent actions – Do your talent programs attract, retain, develop and build more diverse and inclusive teams at all levels?

Where do we start?

Once you can evaluate I&D impacts holistically, you can assess how effectively you are executing the I&D initiatives that are most important to employees. With the right model, tools and approach, your organisation can go beyond the basics to ensure I&D programs are genuinely making a tangible impact for each individual person they are designed to support.

This will enable Australian businesses to make I&D more than a mantra and accelerate their journey to becoming a truly human business.


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