Not so long ago, corporate diversity was regarded as an addition rather than something vital for the bottom line. Now, employers worldwide recognise the strong business case for implementing diversity within their workforce – with 80% of people believing that D&I offers competitive advantages. However, creating a diverse and inclusive environment proved to come with many challenges. Hence, companies look to authorities for guidelines on what corporate diversity targets they should focus on.

What are the diversity targets companies in Europe and the US strive for, and how do these plans translate into reality?

The Commonalities in Corporate Diversity Initiatives

In 2017, the European Commission released a document on the D&I strategy for their staff, including many targets and guidelines that corporations of all sizes can also apply. Guided by the motto a better workplace for all, the EU officials included a strategy divided into targets relevant to all groups and individuals and targets focused on specific groups.

Although the document was crafted by the EU authorities, the targets mentioned below align with most of those adopted in the US.

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Nonetheless, setting targets and achieving them are two separate things. While 76% of European organisations state that D&I is a priority area or a declared value, translating their targets into action doesn’t always translate into success.

1. Attracting diverse candidates

46% of the organisations surveyed by PWC admit that attracting talent is their primary objective of diversity strategies. It comes as no surprise, as the benefits of a diverse workforce are plentiful.

How are European companies doing when it comes to diverse talent attraction?

Some of them, such as Adidas, did manage to diversify their teams. Based on their statistics, teams in the German headquarters of the brand are composed of people from countries such as Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Russia, and even China.

In terms of gender diversity, the German brand also found a nearly perfect balance. 52% of their staff in the EMEA region is female, and 48% male.

High budget isn’t everything to help your corporate diversity

The United States also takes a committed approach to diversity. As reported by McKinsey, around $8 billion a year is spent throughout the country on diversity training.

The sum is impressive, but does it translate into results?

Pandora is an example of a committed approach to building a diverse talent pipeline. One of the measures they adopted is Road Crew – a 10-week paid internship programme meant to seek diverse talent.

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Some companies  (42%) also attempt to attract talents from specific groups by posting their job ads on specialised boards such as, Hispanic Pride, or Campus Pride.

Yet, improvements or a change in attraction tactics need to be made. Still, 45% of companies think their current methods are ineffective at helping a diverse range of job seekers find them.

2. Fostering diversity in recruitment

Successful talent acquisition is linked to a well-working recruitment process. And if your recruitment process is faulty, you will struggle with attaining your diversity goals. What could be the problem? Unconscious bias.

81% of employers admit that unconscious bias can impact their hiring decisions. Unfortunately, sticking to well-known strategies such as resumés may be the obstacle many organisations face.

To reduce bias and increase diversity, Intel opted for including underrepresented members in interview panels. The corporation now requires at least two women and/or representatives of minorities to partake in each interview. The results? The company increased the number of female hires by 41% in two years.

Diverse recruitment isn’t only about gender

Nonetheless, let’s not forget that diversity is much more than gender, and unfortunately, Intel doesn’t provide any information on whether this practice also helped them recruit talent from other groups.

That’s why at Innoflow, we took a different, more wide-reaching approach. An alternative recruitment method we offer and use ourselves is one based on work samples. Case-based screening is unbiased, fair for all, and most importantly for your corporate diversity targets – it helps the cause efficiently.

So far, the companies that teamed up with us report a 62% increase in diversity in their recruitment. We, for one, can be an example. Our ever-growing Innoflow staff comes from seven countries, ranging from ages 22 to 50, and 41% of the team members are female.

3. Gender targets

Although diversity has a plethora of shades, the overall focus of most companies seems to still be on gender. And not without reason. Many big corporations are under increasing social and legal pressure to reach their targets of female employees on all levels. As it appears, 40% seems to be the desired number.

To look at our northern friends, Norway is one of the first countries to have passed the law requiring all companies to have at least 40% of women on their boards – and they were efficient at reaching that goal in 2009.

But success it’s not a solid rule across Europe. For instance, according to the 2007 Spanish Gender Equality Act, big corporations should have no less than the magical 40% of female directors. Yet, as of 2014, the number grew only to 11.6%.

Quotas can be illegal

While in Europe mandatory quotas are not uncommon, in the US, the practice may violate anti-discrimination laws, and for a good reason. One’s progressive goal might be seen as another’s barrier to advancement.

It doesn’t stop companies from setting targets, tough. Nike aims to achieve a goal of 35% representation of racial minorities by 2025 and 50% of women in its global workforce. As for the latter goal, Nike’s already almost reached it. As of now, their female workforce stands at 49.5%.

However, the gender target they set doesn’t include warehouse and retail store workers – a decision that remains unexplained by the brand.

4. Inclusive environment for people with disabilities

According to data, six to ten out of every 100 people in the WHO European Region live with disabilities. Many of them, unfortunately, are left out of the candidate pool.

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Let’s look at the data from the UK. According to the report, out of 8.4 million disabled people of working age, only 52.3% were in employment as of 2019. Moreover, the report notes that the disability employment gap is also higher for older and non-white people with disabilities.

That group is a vast and untapped talent pool. But are European companies trying to make recruitment easier for them?

Unfortunately, the results of the actions still leave a lot to wish for. Based on the data, 73% of employers don’t have websites accessible to candidates with disabilities.

Meet the needs of the disabled

One of our newest additions to help people with various disabilities use our website is implementing a tool allowing candidates to adjust the navigation options. Visitors can enable a text reader, stop blinking and flashing elements, enable keyboard navigation, and make many text-display adjustments.

Although a necessary start, creating an inclusive environment for people with disabilities doesn’t end with an easier recruitment process. In this regard, let’s look to our overseas friends.

One of the leading American technology corporations, Cisco, did a great job accommodating their disabled employees. They’re the first company to offer a desk phone with a built-in text-to-speech function. The software makes the workplace more accessible for the blind and visually impaired, making daily tasks easier.

5. LBGTQ community

The LGBTQ community has an equally important place in corporate diversity strategies both in Europe and the US.

The Swedish icon, Ikea, put in place a list of measures promoting inclusivity in their workplace and thus attracting more alike talents. To name a few, Ikea has:

  • A global LGBTQ+ inclusion plan,
  • Guidelines to help managers build trans-inclusive teams,
  • Standards of conduct on tackling discrimination against LGBTQ + people in the workplace

On that note, the brand doesn’t provide any statistics on its workforce within the community.

In America, the numbers are much more easily accessible. For instance, at Accenture, approximately 2.5% of their workforce openly identifies as LGBTQ, and 44 employees identify as non-binary.

Regardless of the efforts and results, however, 20% of LGBTQ+ job seekers in the US still report discrimination when applying for jobs.

Where Do Europe and the US Diverge?

As discussed, most of the corporate diversity targets followed in the US are the same as in Europe. However, our American friends focus also on a few additional aspects worth noting.

In an executive order on DE&I in the Federal Workforce, the U.S. President states that the Federal Government should be a model for how all employees should be treated.

Apart from the targets aligning with European guidelines, the document puts focus on several others:

  • A special focus on the employment of people of colour
  • Expanding employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated

1. People of colour

As the demographics of Europe and the U.S. differ, it’s not unusual that America pays special attention to the employment of people of colour, that make up 42% of their entire population. Yet, unemployment in this group remains at high levels.

American companies focus their efforts on fixing the issue. The previously mentioned Pandora, for instance, plans to increase the percentage of their employees of colour to 45%. They also provide their employees with groups such as Mixtape, amassing people of colour.

At Accenture, the numbers are already higher. The most current data shows that their workforce comprises 50.7% of people of colour.

2. Employment of the formerly incarcerated as a corporate diversity target?

The US is globally known for its rather strict penal system, at least as far as the West is concerned. As of 2021, American prisons held almost 2.1 million people. As a society, we tend to show little empathy to incarcerated and those who were so in the past, leading to bias that tends to result in those groups being marginalised.

Yet, considering that many of those people do time for minor offences, it’s not surprising that the US also turned its attention to including that particular group in their diversity targets.

How do American companies feel about that initiative?

Some of them notice the value in welcoming another group to its diversity strategies. One of them, a Cincinnati-based Nehemiah, prides itself in having nearly 170 second-chance workers. Greystone Bakery from New York has also practised hiring without questions asked for a long time. The result? The 20 million company’s workforce is made up of 65% of ex-offenders.

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Despite the initiatives on the part of the government, the willingness to hire a previously incarcerated job seeker seems to remain an issue. As the evidence shows, having a record reduces employer callback by 50%.

As the labour market remains tight, perhaps corporations should open up to another source of the diverse talent pool?

Corporate Diversity Goals – Have We Reached the Goals?

Diversity in the workplace is a goal recognised by many employers globally. While actions and measures favoured by Europe and the US may sometimes differ in execution, the corporate diversity targets are far from being that different.  

Whether it’s the incentives or the strong business case – opening up to diverse candidate pools is of value. We’ve gone a long way, and the way to go is still long. What matters, however, is that the results begin to show.

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