“Track your small wins to motivate big accomplishments.”

Teresa Amabile


When you want your inclusion and diversity strategy to become a  reality you need the right incentives in place. Focus on the carrots  that will motivate everyone in the organisation to drive inclusive  actions. Reserve the sticks for worst case scenarios. All too often  there is a blaming and shaming culture around inclusion and  diversity, which can hamper progress.

Ongoing engagement from leadership is essential, as is activating  the middle management of the company. The more you can engage  every level of your business the more likely you are to be successful.  Ensuring there is visibility and accountability on the actions you  want, will ensure you create the social norms for a more inclusive  culture and motivate other people to follow suit. This creates an  evergreen environment where employees are empowered to be  inclusion and diversity advocates irrespective of their gender, race  or creed. Even where there is resistance to the strategy, which there  inevitably will be, you have a stronger chance of shifting mindsets  with the right incentives in place. Above all, keeping in mind that  we are all works-in-progress on this topic, will help maintain  motivation and accountability.

Activate Accountability 

Accountability can make inclusion efforts more transparent and  visible to other people. A large body of literature has shown that  social norms influence how we interact with colleagues. We infer  what is appropriate and accepted from the behaviour of others.

As such, sharing evidence and the positive actions of individuals  and teams can help embed inclusion into a company’s culture.  In a 2019 study on the effect of social norms on diversity, researchers  found that visibility influences how people follow norms, especially  when their behaviours are being scrutinised.54 Participants in this  online experiment were assigned the role of a manager hiring a  new team member. They were told the HR department within the  organisation cared about racial diversity and could review team composition decisions. They were randomly allocated to a team of high  visibility within the company or one where there was a low probability  that HR would review their decision. As a result, participants were  significantly more likely to select a black candidate when the team  was highly visible. It seems that transparency and accountability are  effective motivators to move all of us towards positive action.

Make it Visible 

Visibility around proportional promotions has been a key tactic that  the financial services firm JP Morgan has been using to achieve its  inclusion and diversity objectives. At each level of the organisation,  

there is an expectation that the promotion list should reflect the  composition of the population from which promotions are made.  This is to ensure that promotions are made with proportionality and  representation in mind.  

In 2020 the firm published their workforce composition data, including  promotions for Vice President and above by gender globally and  on ethnicity within the US.55 Within the US, they were also able to  show further areas of diversity across LGBTQ+, Disabilities and  Military veterans. Progress on gender is clear to see with an almost  equally balanced global workforce and a 22% increase in female  board representation in the past 12 months. On ethnicity there had  been a single digit increase across all levels, apart from at the board,  where there was an 8% decline. This level of transparency allows for  the accountability and action where required.

Gateways and Pathways 

When it comes to driving change on inclusion and diversity, it is  helpful to consider the concept of gateways and pathways. In her  book The Person You Mean To Be, Dolly Chugh describes; “diversity  as the gateways to schools, organizations, and communities, and  inclusion as the pathways leading up to and after that gateway”.  

Key people play a disproportionate role in driving diversity in the  higher echelons of firms by acting as gatekeepers, directly restricting  or enabling entry into positions, as well as setting standards for  other people to follow. For instance, an analysis of all CEO female  successions in the largest corporations in the US between 1989 and  2009 found that women’s success was related to their predecessors  promoting gender-inclusive gatekeeping.56 Ensuring that gatekeepers  are carefully chosen and regularly assessed is essential for a  company’s inclusive agenda.

Turbocharge the Taskforce 

Many companies seeking to move strategy into action have created  I&D taskforces or committees with this responsibility.57 This is a  very important stakeholder group. At its best the I&D Taskforce is a  voluntary employee group representative of the entire organisation  which focuses on informing and implementing the inclusion and  diversity strategy. It operates as a think tank and support network  for management, as well as holding them accountable to the  organisation’s commitment and targets. In addition to ensuring all  perspectives of the organisation are represented in the I&D work,  a taskforce can help promote social accountability. Research by  Dobbin and Khalev from Harvard, has shown that on average,  companies that put in an I&D Taskforce see a nine percent to 30  percent increase in the representation of white women and ethnic  minority groups in management during the following five years.


“Without the engagement and education of your middle management your inclusion efforts are unlikely  to remain on track.”