Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

by Felicity Menzies
Achieving diversity and inclusion, like any other cultural change effort, requires a strategic and systematic approach. The barriers to achieving diversity and inclusion may be even more pronounced than the challenges organisations face in managing other cultural change efforts. Resistance from members of the dominant culture and unconscious bias are some of the challenges facing organisations in achieving a sustained cultural change. Those challenges increase the risk of stakeholder disengagement and execution failures.
A strategic approach to diversity and inclusion helps to manage those risks. An entity’s diversity and inclusion strategy defines the organisation’s vision for diversity and inclusion, articulates business drivers, and set key priorities with specific action points. A well-developed diversity and inclusion strategy linked to business objectives assists organisations in achieving stakeholder engagement, prioritising and coordinating initiatives, promoting synergies, maximising return on investment, and tracking success. 
Our strategy consulting services encompass benchmarking against diversity and inclusion best-practice, inclusive culture diagnostic, stakeholder engagement, expert recommendations, strategy drafting, and stakeholder communications. 

Diversity and Inclusion Diagnostic Services

The first step in the formulation of a diversity and inclusion strategy is a comprehensive diversity and inclusion diagnostic. A diversity and inclusion diagnostic assesses the entity’s performance against D&I best-practice, specifies entity-relevant business drivers, and identifies D&I risks and opportunities. Six independent and interrelated diagnostic activities inform our diagnostic services:

D&I Best-Practices Benchmarking

Applying an evidence-based audit tool, we assess the entity’s performance against global diversity and inclusion best practices in eighteen strategic pillars: D&I vision, strategy & business case; governance; leadership representation, capability, and accountability; D&I learning & development; talent management; compensation; measurement; flexible working arrangements; other inclusive benefits; respect & safety; belonging & collaboration; communications; marketing and customer service; products & services development; suppliers; community; sustainability. The Include-Empower D&I Best-Practice Diagnostic is based on robust empirical research and our subject expertise and experience in global D&I best-practice. 

Employee Focus Groups

In addition to the best-practices audit, our diagnostic services reference the lived experience of inclusion of employees through structured focus groups with a representative sample of employees. Employing an evidence-based model of inclusion, we assess employees’ lived experiences of respect, belonging, empowerment, and fair progression.

Diversity and inclusion focus groups offer an opportunity to gather valuable information on the issues and challenges facing diverse talent in an organisation. Insights gathered from a representative sample of staff across an organisation can inform D&I priorities, ensuring that investment in D&I targets the organisation’s most critical issues, having regard to its business strategy.

Focus group feedback is also valuable for engaging leaders in change initiatives. Because of the unconscious and hidden nature of bias, it can be difficult for leaders to appreciate that others experience the workplace differently to them. Leader blindspots mean that leaders typically underestimate the effect of bias at work on others. In those contexts, inclusion is an abstract concept that does not resonate with leaders in a tangible or emotional way to motivate change. Focus group findings are useful for ‘showing’, not ‘telling’ the leaders of the impact of biases. Using non-identifying real-life stories and anonymous quotes from the employee focus groups engages the emotional brain rather than the rational brain, fostering empathy and an enhanced motivation for change.

Employee Interviews

Confidential employee interviews are useful for tapping the experiences of employees with a known D&I grievance that they would prefer not to disclose in a public forum. 

Senior Stakeholder Interviews

We conduct senior stakeholder interviews across the entity to better understand the business drivers for diversity and inclusion. The formulation of a D&I strategy linked to a robust and compelling business case is critical for leader buy-in and program success. In consultation with you, we identify relevant stakeholders, which may include executives, senior people leaders, HR, diversity council or committee members, representatives of employee groups or diversity champions, other internal or external stakeholders.

Objectives for the stakeholder interviews are two-fold: (i) to clarify the drivers for inclusion and diversity for the entity, (ii) to explore perceptions of D&I strengths and weaknesses, including D&I capability. Stakeholder interviews are a critical component for engaging stakeholders and formulating a robust business case—both are necessary for successful implementation of a D&I program.

Documentation Review

We review workforce analytics and engagement survey results as well as an organisation’s employee policies to identify diversity and inclusion risk areas. 

Diagnostic & Recommendations Report

We prepare a summary of findings from the five diagnostic processes above along with best-practice strategic recommendations regarding priority focus areas that will achieve the highest return on investment in the context of the organisations business strategy and objectives.

Strategy and Communications Drafting 

As required, we support clients with drafting a tailored diversity and inclusion strategy and related stakeholder communications. 

Strategy Drafting

In consultation with you, we translate the outcomes of the diagnostic and consultation processes to an overarching diversity and inclusion strategy for the entity that defines the organisation’s vision for diversity and inclusion, articulates business drivers, and sets key priorities with specific action points. 

Communications Drafting

We provide draft staff communications regarding the engagement, invitations to focus groups and stakeholder interviews, and launch of the final diversity and inclusion strategy. 

Stakeholder Engagement

We work with you to engage key stakeholders throughout the strategy formulation process.

Engagement Briefing

Prior to the commencement of the diagnostic process, we recommend a project engagement briefing with the consultant, senior executives, and other identified key stakeholders. The content of the briefing session includes an introduction to the consultant, understanding diversity and inclusion, overview of business case for D&I, engagement objectives, diagnostic method and rationale, stakeholder identification and their roles and responsibilities, timeline, deliverables, employee confidentiality, Q&A.

Strategic Recommendations Consultation

Prior to the drafting of the strategy, we design and facilitate a stakeholder consultation session for the purposes of presenting the Diagnostic & Recommendations Report, discussing stakeholder feedback and answering queries, and agreeing on strategic priorities. 

Final Strategy Briefing

Upon completion of the final strategy, we design and facilitate a strategy briefing session for the purposes of presenting the strategy and answering questions. 

Additional Services

In addition to the services detailed above, we partner closely with clients throughout the engagement to ensure success. 

Project Planning

At the commencement of the engagement, we meet with the project sponsor for the purpose of discussing and reaching agreement on the diagnostic and strategy formulation processes including establishing employee focus groups and selecting interview participants, identifying key stakeholders and their involvement, scheduling, format of deliverables, and communication protocols between the client and consultant.

Ongoing Stakeholder Communications

We maintain regular communication by video, phone, and email with relevant stakeholders for the purposes of providing updates on progress throughout the project. In particular, we ensure stakeholders are kept informed of emerging trends or factors that may impact the diagnostic process. For example, we provide regular progress updates on attendance at focus groups and scheduled interviews. We also highlight any concerns regarding information gathering, stakeholder cooperation, or other impediments to the diagnostic, as they arise.

Diversity management refers organisational efforts to manage the complexity of workplace diversity and unlock its strategic value. Today’s best-practice diversity management involves an organisational culture that values, embraces and celebrates individual differences. Diversity practitioners and researchers refer to this as inclusion.

Without an inclusive culture, the challenges of a diverse workgroup can overshadow the potential benefits. Diversity may even detract from work performance. Prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, isolation and communication barriers may prevent employees from underrepresented groups fully contributing to workplace decision-making and practices. Diversity, per se, does not guarantee workgroup outperformance, but diversity plus inclusion does.

Our Differentiators

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Our solutions are evidence-based

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Our work draws from the fields of social and behavioural psychology, cognitive neuroscience, diversity and inclusion management, human resource management , cross-cultural psychological and global leadership. Our commitment to evidence-based solutions ensures that every Include-Empower solution is supported by robust scientific findings and best-practices. An evidence-based approach increases the likelihood of a positive return on investment.

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We engage in inclusive consultation

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We work with you to identify and engage with key stakeholders throughout the diagnostic and strategy formulation process. A consultative approach maximises the benefit of diverse thinking and builds support and engagement around the strategy. A formal socialisation and review process also to ensures that time and effort is not wasted developing the detail of the strategy and its objectives, only to adjust or redefine these later.


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We focus on leadership capability to drive cultural change

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Although around 70 percent of organisations today aspire to have an inclusive culture, most companies have not progressed beyond a programmatic approach to diversity and inclusion. What prevents the maturing of diversity and inclusion efforts from a programmatic approach to sustainable cultural change is that organisational leaders frequently underestimate their role in driving inclusion. As with any culture change, the successful implementation of a diversity and inclusion strategy relies on leaders that model and promote desired behaviours. Unless leaders set the tone from the top, the returns from investments in diversity and inclusion programs will be limited. We assess leadership capability during the diagnostic phase and work with clients to build leader motivation and capability for successful implementation of the strategy.

We set strategic priorities that support key business objectives

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What is a best practice for one organisation may not be a best practice or a relevant practice for another and an organisation’s diversity and inclusion strategy must be developed giving consideration to its specific business strategy and operating environment. We seek to maximise client returns by investing time and effort in understanding each client’s unique business strategy, challenges and opportunities, and setting diversity and inclusion priorities that support achievement of the organisation’s goals. A robust and compelling business case for diversity and inclusion encourages leadership buy-in, which is critical to program success.


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We employ an intersectional approach

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We recognise that identity is multi-dimensional and that siloed or narrowly-defined diversity and inclusion programs oversimplify the complexity of identity. Non-intersectional approaches to diversity and inclusion also risk overlooking the needs of groups and individuals that have not been traditionally monitored by organisations, such as personality (introversion-extroversion), tenure and rank, employment status (part-time, contractor, flexible), geography (head office, remote), faith and spirituality, men.

Our Four Factor Model of Inclusion seeks to overcome the limitations of traditional approaches by providing organisations with a unified model for cultural change. By promoting a common understanding across the organisation of the meaning of inclusion through the use of shared language and core values, the model provides employers with an integrated approach for assessing and improving the lived experience of inclusion for all employees. At the same time, the model allows for self-determination and for the lived experiences of marginalised groups to drive solutions to address their unique challenges. Although not forming part of this proposal, as requested, we work with clients to prepare dimension plans for targeted groups.


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We are thought leaders and innovators

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We are not constrained in our ideas or limited in our solutions by current best practice. We think deeply about the challenges facing our clients and seek innovative solutions to complex problems by integrating diversity of thought, background, and expertise. We know that the theory and practice of diversity and inclusion is evolving and we are committed to remaining at the forefront of change. 

Working With Us

“Working with Felicity and Include-Empower has fast-tracked our approach to diversity and inclusion tenfold. With a clear understanding of best practice, plus Felicity’s ability to communicate and open the minds of the most senior within the organisation, we now have complete support for what we are trying to do and an understanding of how to do it. She is a true trusted partner and I hope that we can continue working with her for many years to come.”


“Having met with a couple of the big consultancy firms, we were simply most impressed by Felicity. She seemed to have the most genuine knowledge, experience and passion for diversity and inclusion. Felicity engaged all staff at all levels, although we did a separate session first with the leadership team to make sure that everyone was aligned and ready to effectively set the tone ‘from the top’. We would rate our overall experience with Felicity as ‘excellent’.”


More About Us

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No matter how complex your business environment, we have the capabilities and experience to move you forward.

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Our services span advisory, strategy, implementation, diagnostics, and capability-building, all with the singular focus to help clients achieve maximum value.

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We understand that the business environment is complex and that our clients face unique and varied challenges and opportunities.