The communications industry is facing its most radical transformation in decades, based on customers’ fast-changing demands. The rapid rate at which technology is advancing is being driven by over-the-top competitors that are changing the game in telecommunications’ core business.
To respond, the industry must become–and go to market as–a truly digital set of businesses. Achieving that change requires creating the digital workforce of the future. That workforce will be a vital source of differentiation, and inclusion and diversity will be at the forefront of making it happen.
Diversity is a top three topic on CEOs’ agenda in our industry–one that doesn’t merely need to change but must transform quickly. Diversity has measurable positive impacts on long-term business results. It fosters the innovation and new ideas that are so important in a society and industry that are constantly changing.
Gender equality is an essential element of an inclusive workplace and crucial for a high-performing, talent-led organization. In the communications industry, this inclusiveness helps us gain better insights into what our customers want, drives more creative thinking, maximizes the talent pool and grows the bottom line.
Establishing a diverse workforce is easier said than done. At Accenture, we know this from experience. Achieving results requires focus, patience and authentic leadership.
So what lessons can our experience offer for building an inclusive and diverse organization? I believe there are four issues that are essential to focus on:
THE FIRST IS LEADERSHIP, OR MORE SPECIFICALLY AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP.
The CEO has to rally everyone in the business with a resounding call to arms. That means leading by example and clearly articulating the convincing business case for diversity. Ambitions need to be bold and clearly set out and backed with a firm commitment to achieving results.
THE SECOND KEY LESSON IS THAT DIVERSITY NEEDS TO BE AN INSEPARABLE PART OF THE ORGANIZATION’S FABRIC.
It has to become a strand of the business’s DNA. It means that inclusion and diversity initiatives, while helpful, are not in themselves sufficient: They run the risk of confusing activity with results.
The commitment needs to be deeper. Diversity should be measured with ambitious key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress, and leaders at all levels of the business need to embrace them. Until leaders in the front line make gender balance a priority, it won’t happen. So men and women need to lead together and be prepared to take risks as they develop their people.
THE THIRD KEY ELEMENT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING FOR SUCCESS, RATHER THAN SUCCESSION PLANNING.
Planning for success depends on identifying talent early and working hard to secure the support and mentoring that can make a difference to a long-term career.
Be ready to talk openly with people about career paths sooner rather than later. Be bold in accelerating promotion and be prepared to look within and beyond the organization for the talent you need. The long-term success of the plans you make depends on keeping a balance with short-term agility and flexibility.
THE FOURTH ELEMENT I WOULD IDENTIFY FOR SUCCESS IS BEING TRANSPARENT, A POWERFUL WEAPON IN ACHIEVING RESULTS.
It’s a fact that millennials—now more than 50 percent of the workforce—look for employers with a strong record of transparency and diversity. Being transparent creates trust and reinforces authenticity.
For example, at Accenture, we’ve published for the first time the makeup of our workforce, covering gender, ethnicity, people with disabilities and veterans. We’re committed to reporting annually on our progress across these areas of diversity, and we’ve set some specific targets, such as pledging to grow the percentage of women we hire to at least 40 percent by the end of our 2017 fiscal year.
By making our commitment clear, we hold ourselves to account and enable everyone to see the progress we’re making.
In a nutshell, commitment from the very top makes diversity and inclusion a clear priority for Accenture. We follow that lead by reframing the debate, informing our clients and teams on the business cases, setting bold targets and ensuring accountability for a better tomorrow.
As our industry goes through what’s probably the biggest transformation journey of the last 100 years, a diverse and inclusive digital workforce will make a real difference to how successful we all are.