News and Views
December 16, 2021
Posted in: WATSON Views
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are priorities for every board – or at least they should be. A strong DEI approach can enable organizations to access enormous opportunity and manage the related risks, but most boards are just scratching the surface. This is more than a tick-the-box exercise; getting it right means building strength and confidence, and WATSON is here to help.
You don’t need to be Adidas, Amazon, or Apple to have a public stumble over shortcomings in diversity, equity, or inclusion. When approached with intention and commitment, DEI helps amplify the strengths of your organization. When ignored, DEI issues can turn toxic and lead to a loss of trust, risking considerable personal and economic harm.
So how do you know if DEI is truly in your DNA? These are complex issues to address, and most boards– even the most aligned to DEI–have blind spots. Some boards have worked hard on board diversity and neglected inclusion and equity, while others may have moved the needle on some DEI-specific initiatives but have not broadened the lens to consider how DEI impacts other areas of oversight. We’ve seen some boards that are intensively focused on their oversight of DEI within the organization and miss looking at themselves as boards.
At WATSON, we’ve found that bringing DEI to life requires attention to three key dimensions:
- Is the board diverse?
- Is it inclusive?
- Are the board’s practices equitable for directors (and prospective directors)?
- The board’s oversight of DEI in the organization:
- Does the organization have a DEI strategy, goals, and metrics?
- How is the organization’s health in terms of DEI?
- Are DEI initiatives progressing and delivering outcomes?
- The way the board brings a DEI lens to all their work:
- Does the board consider DEI when dealing with strategy, financials, risk, safety, customer, etc.?
- Does the board embed DEI thinking and momentum in themselves as directors, management, the organization, and its stakeholders?
- Does the organization live DEI from the big decisions at strategic level to daily transactions?
Organizations will have truly integrated DEI when it becomes such a part of the foundation of who they are and what they do that it infuses all their work, rather than being its own exercise. There are important dimensions to layer on top of the foundation, building strength over time to allow the board and the organization to access the opportunities and benefits of DEI, while reducing related risk. Strengthen your board with practices for embedding a DEI lens in all decision-making, be it related to strategy, customers, or anything else.
It truly is a journey, and we are on it together.
At WATSON we have codified all of this into what we call our DEI Living Framework – a toolkit of considerations from the board’s vantage point, and how we dig into those considerations. We call it a “Living Framework” because like our clients, and our broader society and communities, we continue to learn and adapt as new thinking and experiences expand our view. Today we have a comprehensive set of practice points that reflect DEI strength, and we can assess current practices against those. We put this approach to work with our clients via our DEI Health Check program. We would be pleased to talk to you about the DEI Health Check program, and over the next few months we will also share some dimensions of the DEI Living Framework here, to support our purpose of helping organizations perform better.
Think it might be time for a deeper look into your board’s DEI health? Our 33-point self-assessment is a quick way to see if it’s time for a DEI tune-up, or something deeper. We all have blind-spots, and this tool is designed as a starting point to understanding your organization’s DEI health.
Email us at email@example.com for your free copy of our DEI self-assessment tool.