Arguing the
Case for

Inclusion: Everybody wants to do it - but not everyone knows HOW to do it.

Inclusion is a hot topic from boardrooms to business schools to the committee rooms of Davos.


By Ian Roe, Senior Sustainability Consultant, MerchantCantos

MerchantCantos' Brunswick colleague Jon Miller chaired a fascinating panel event this week in which Carolanne Minashi, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Citi, Rachel Short, psychologist and YSC Director, and David Brewin, Global COO for EY’s People Advisory Services, discussed the challenges and what complex global organisations can do to tackle them. Here are five things we took away.

 1.       Cognitive diversity is critical to business success

Businesses face a wide range of challenges so, perhaps unsurprisingly, need a wide range of approaches. Rachel Short noted that the ambition for inclusion isn’t about a tick-box search for a particular, rigid, staff profile - it’s about building a culture and attitude that values action over words; embracing, encouraging and ultimately attracting diversity.

2.       It’s all too easy to create a disenfranchised majority

Without sufficient care, Carolanne Minashi observed, a focus on diversity can be interpreted as a focus on minority issues, essentially excluding the majority.  Focusing on inclusion is likely to be more effective at improving diversity than a narrower focus on diversity itself.

3.       You can gauge your priorities from the order on your agenda… and can begin to shift priorities by shifting the order

A board’s agenda, David Brewin reflected, often reflects its priorities. First up will be performance, then strategy, followed by all the other issues the business needs to consider. As a tactical step, bringing inclusion (literally!) further up the agenda, will help ensure it’s given sufficient time for comprehensive consideration.

4.       Tough times are when inclusion matters the most

"When times are tough", Minashi noted, "people revert to type"; inclusion often falls by the wayside at the precise time it’s needed most. Maximising performance, Minashi advised, means making sure everyone is able, equipped and willing to bring their maximum discretionary effort. If people don’t feel valued and engaged, they won’t give that extra effort. That’s the difference between exceptional and merely good.

5.       The business case is overwhelming… but that’s not enough

The business case for inclusion is widely known (and well-articulated in the recent report by the Open for Business coalition). Short suggested that the business case is necessary but not sufficient. Only if people feel professionally and emotionally invested in creating real change will they invest their time and energy in it. Ultimately, as Brewin concluded, inclusion isn’t just about what you do, or how you perform, it’s about what sort of an organisation you want to be.