Russell Reynolds Associates: Is There a Fast Track to DE&I Maturity?

Many organizations are trying to make up for lost time in their diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts. While these topics are not new, the May 2020 murder of George Floyd catalyzed a fresh urgency for leaders to make meaningful progress on them by appointing and promoting more people of color and adapting their cultures to be truly inclusive. In line with this urgency, leaders are looking at what it will take to quickly establish or reinvigorate their DE&I functions without compromising quality or integrity.

How can organizations move quickly from nominal efforts to meaningful progress? Our recent survey of more than 150 senior DE&I leaders found that organizations traditionally take a linear and lengthy route to building up their DE&I functions, adding elements of strategy, structure and governance slowly over 5 to 10 years. However, a small group of organizations in our study have taken a fast track approach, investing heavily upfront to establish a DE&I function that looks more mature. These fast track companies quickly outpace traditional ones, establishing their DE&I operating infrastructures in about half of the time.

What does it take to make the fast track journey successful—and what are the obstacles?

  • No matter how much urgency there is, take time to take stock
  • Passion is not a substitute for budget
  • DE&I needs leadership support as well as broad organizational support
  • Leaders need to ensure employees have a voice and influence
  • Accountability is essential for intentions to become reality

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