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Workplace Inclusion: Overlooked Obstacles

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The business benefits of workplace inclusion and workforce diversity have been well explored and described. Many companies – global, international, and domestic – have been working on this for years, and in some cases for decades. 

And yet theres still a problem. 

The reasons initiatives are not delivering intended outcomes have also been well explored and described.

And yet theres still a problem.

So what’s going on? Is there another reason that companies large and small are failing at this? 

One that just isn’t being openly discussed?

The elephant in the room is much more insidious: conflicts of interest. 

Its the shameful corporate reality that never gets discussed and underlies the lack of progress. 

This is the third article in a six-part series of posts that explores this more:

  1. Part 1: What’s Going Wrong? 
  2. Part 2: Why Is It Failing?
  3. Part 3: Overlooked Obstacles
  4. Part 4: Conflict of Interest (Corporate)
  5. Part 5: Conflict of Interest (Personal)
  6. Part 6: Recommended Actions

Whats not being discussed.

Missing from much of the analysis, however, is the people who are involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives and how the flow of accountability and responsibility is set-up. 

Let’s consider the stakeholders involved:

  • Members of the board, or advisory board, including non-executive directors.
  • The CEO and other C-Suite executives.
  • Executive sponsors of groups (e.g. disability, returning mums, LGBT+). 
  • The HR Director.
  • The Diversity and Inclusion lead. 
  • The Diversity and Inclusion implementation team (where relevant).
  • External consultants or advisors.
  • Leaders of the employee resource group.
  • Members of the employee resource groups.
  • All other employees.

The different dynamics relevant to each of these stakeholder groups, and how to manage them, will be explored in a future article. 

Before moving onto the critical underlying issue here are 6 specific questions to work with:

  1. Metrics: Are there clear metrics in place to hold senior stakeholders to account?
  2. Resource: Is the workforce diversity and workplace inclusion role full-time?
  3. Seniority: Is the workforce diversity and workplace inclusion lead sufficiently senior and experienced? 
  4. Dependency on diversity: Are you inappropriately expecting your “diverse individuals” to deliver change?
  5. Delegation: Has the delivery of change been delegated to those with insufficient influence and authority – too low in the organisation, or an external consultant?
  6. Budget: Is the budget proportional to the change expected and required for such a strategic change program?

These are such fundamental points that it begs a question. 

For what other strategically important change initiatives would the board and c-suite of a company be willing to accept this situation? Where theres no accountability and no clear line of responsibility. Where its not possible to track actual time spent on the activity. And, where theres a dependency on employees deciding for themselves whether theyre going to work on it?

Those are all valid and extremely serious factors. All of those involved in equity, inclusion, and diversity initiatives should be discussing those openly with senior executives and ensuring that they are addressed.

However, there’s something far more sinister and divisive underneath these which is undermining the ability to make progress. 

The elephant in the room is much more personal – its the embedded conflicts of interest. 

Its the shameful corporate reality that never gets discussed. 

Catch up on all of the other parts that make up this blog series below:

About Steven

Steven has extensive experience in strategic executive leadership having led large business units at Fujitsu. Steven has had full and operational delivery responsibility for $1bn annual revenue business, including sales / growth, of full-service range (consultancy and change programmes, to operational IT services) to multiple clients. Leading business through changes in strategic direction, crisis management, transformational turnarounds especially those delivering business critical services to clients such as Public Sector / National Government. Steven engages well with C-suite executives and senior stakeholders, including in previous roles with UK Government Cabinet Ministers.


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