Driving business results by deploying the right DEI&B Strategy

We interviewed the CEOs and CHROs of over 60 companies, employing over three million people worldwide, to learn about their DEI&B initiatives and how they are used to drive business outcomes. We wanted to know what companies are doing to attract, develop, inspire, reward and recognize their diverse talent. Finally, we sought examples of business results achieved through great DEI&B initiatives.

Our five recommendations provide a roadmap for more companies wanting to use diversity programs to address problems and drive success.


February 13, 2024


Executive Summary

In a period of economic uncertainty, companies are reducing expenses on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEI&B). Instead, they should be doubling down as the following case studies will show how you can drive business results through proactive and thoughtful DEI&B strategies. The right actions can unlock innovation, access new markets, design relevant products, and develop a differentiated go-to-market strategy – allowing companies to build competitive advantage, drive revenue, and gain market share. What’s more, involving employees in addressing pain points leads to improvements in sales, pipeline development, market expansion, and talent retention.

Only 12% of participating companies involve a diverse cross-section of their workforce in driving strategic business objectives.

Our research encompassed companies in five industry sectors, and included Fortune 500, private, and publicly traded companies with headcounts ranging from under 100 to over one million employees:

  • Consumer Products & Retail
  • Technology & Telecommunications
  • Healthcare & Life Sciences
  • Industrial & Transportation
  • Financial Services, FinTech, & Insurance

Total = three million employees of which 32% in Tech & Telecom, 25% in Healthcare, 20% in Consumer, 14% in Industrial, and 9% in Financial.

The Challenge

Economic pressures impacting DEI&B spend

The last three years have brought turmoil to the best throughout human capital strategies. A significant portion of the workforce moved out of the corporate office and into their homes. Others quit and either moved to the gig economy or retired early. With many workers insisting on greater latitude on where they physically sit for their jobs, employers are getting pushback on returning to the office and even hybrid work models. HR struggled to figure out ways to keep employees engaged.

In 2022, CEOs and HR teams tried to determine a go-forward strategy for on-premise, hybrid or remote work while the power dynamics between employer and employee shifted towards the employee. Some companies announced full return-to-work plans, in the face of potential higher turnover and drain in knowledge and experience. In 2023, to make it all more complex, the US economy slowed down, affecting earnings and profits, and forcing companies to lay off a significant number of employees, especially in technology. Companies have also reduced the focus on DEI&B, reducing budgets and not using the DEI&B lens as they execute layoffs.

Many employers are struggling to define the right DEI&B strategy. The case studies below suggest this is the time to double down on talent and DEI&B investments.

Examples of Using DEI&B Initiatives to Drive Business Results

Case Study One

A healthcare company had difficulties accessing a diverse community in a major metropolitan market even after investing significant resources. During a planning meeting, the CEO realized the demographics of the delivery team and the target market were very different, yet the team didn’t think that was a problem. When the CEO changed the makeup of the delivery team, the company learned it had made incorrect assumptions about the healthcare needs of this segment of the population. This led to a review of products, delivery mechanisms, and access points. By selecting key leaders and members of the team who were more reflective of the target audience, there was a better understanding of the market, enabling the company to better serve the community.

Result: 27% revenue growth and market share growth of 12% in the targeted community.

Case Study Two

The CEO of a consumer product company was frustrated with its product development pipeline, which majored in adding new features to existing products rather than actual new products. In conversation with the Head of Product and the Head of HR, they learned that the product development team did not reflect the buyer of their products, so the team was reorganized. Within 12 months, the new team had produced a broader set of new products with greater appeal to its target consumer. The CEO could not attribute all new product sales to this change in talent strategy.

Result: 18% sales increase with 60% of the increase due to new product introductions.

Case Study Three

After years of using the same go-to-market strategy, a technology company wanted to increase its user base by expanding its distribution channels into new demographic segments. After realizing its chances of success were tied to better in-house representation of the users of these channels, it proactively sought new diverse talent for both senior leadership and the sales and marketing teams. The new team developed a differentiated approach to unlock this new and underserved user segment.

Result: 18% increased market share in the underrepresented segments, improving access for users that would have otherwise not participated, and improving profit margins by 4%.

Case Study Four

A fashion retail organization was reviewing the demographic of its sales by geographic region. It discovered that while a large ethnic group represented 26% of the community, it accounted for only 3% of sales in that area. Furthermore, in-store sales teams hired less than 3% of that ethnic group. The company therefore changed its talent acquisition strategy for in-store team members and managers.

Result: 10-fold sales increase over 24 months, and a 30% increase in margins.

Our Survey Results

The Good News

Of the companies we surveyed before the economic slowdown:

  • 98% said DEI&B was a priority
  • 91% had measurable goals
  • 83% had established a DEI&B office or program
  • 83%had revised their mission, vision and values statements to incorporate components on equity, belonging and inclusion

Room for Improvement

  • Only 60% published their measurable goals
  • 56% had KPIs tied to DEI&B to reward teams for their achievements
  • 29% had a direct impact on compensation outcomes

Post Economic Slowdown

  • 65% of companies had layoffs or hiring freezes
  • 54% reported a decrease in DEI&B budgets
  • 60% had a reduction in DEI&B team members

How to Reap the Benefits of DEI&B

Embed DEI&B into your Corporate Culture

The only way to attract and retain great talent in this new employment reality is to truly embed DEI&B into the corporate culture. Employees need to see that leaders are serious about DEI&B and feel it is part of the company’s DNA versus a superficial set of actions.

This requires CEOs to drive the narrative concerning DEI&B. Many companies delegate the execution of this to their HR departments or a line leader. The problem with pushing DEI&B down the org chart is that senior to mid-line leadership typically has different and competing priorities and may not necessarily possess the expertise to drive DEI&B initiatives. This is where prioritizing and reinforcing DEI&B initiatives company-wide is beneficial.

Create a Diversity Leadership Role

We learned that those companies reporting the most successful DEI&B programs are leader-led: 83% of our researched companies have installed Chief Diversity Officers, with the rest reporting that they have discussed adding the role but have not yet decided to act. Of those companies with CDOs, 10% reported to the CEO, 15% reported to a line leader who had other responsibilities, and 75% reported to the CHRO.

It was interesting to note that appointed diversity leadership was mostly found in the Healthcare and Life Sciences sector, followed closely by the Technology and Telecommunications sector then Consumer Products and Retail. When developing a DEI&B strategy, dedicated resources will produce more focused plans and better results than having this be a part of someone’s role.

Healthcare, CPG and Tech/Telco have invested in a more formal DE&I framework

Establish a culture of Belonging

While company leaders have spent significant time thinking about and discussing culture, their challenge is to create a Culture of Belonging at their companies. There is no shortage of books and articles out there on establishing the right culture. However, there is a difference between culture fit and culture alignment. Cultural fit is hiring talent that fits with the current makeup of the company, whereas cultural alignment is finding talent that aligns with the goals and aspirations of the diversity program. Once those latter people are identified and hired, the company must create a culture of belonging.

How are companies doing this?

In our research, 12% of companies used Affinity Groups (AGs) to drive strategic business objectives, either by investing in external programs or developing their own programs. Some had invested in branded Executive Leadership Programs, which offered cohorts for women and people of color. Others had established grassroots AGs for diversity and early career development programs.

These groups were typically led by one or two employees who volunteered to lead and promote the group, schedule meetings, and meet with leadership to share the group’s goals, report on employee success, and organize celebrations of events relevant to the group.

Establish an Affinity Group (AG) A selection of individuals with similar backgrounds, interests, or demographic factors who come together to discuss their commonality and how to leverage it across the business for the betterment of their group. Typically based on ethnic, religious, or sexual preference, but can also be associated with volunteerism, skill, or competency. As AGs mature, they may evolve into…

Employee Resource Groups (ERG) More formality, governance, and sponsorship. ERGs may have corporate sponsorship or leaders in enterprise-level decision-making. Common types of ERGs are diversity, volunteer, affinity, and professional development groups. Some companies create…

Business Resource Groups (BRG) Involve employees in solving business pain points by developing specific goals and objectives.

Review Existing HR Processes, Policies, and Practices

Most companies we spoke to have reviewed some or most HR processes, policies, and practices to ensure they are supportive of the DEI&B strategy:

  • 78% made changes to their compensation packages and practices. This includes detailed reviews of merit, bonus, and equity payouts to ensure gender and ethnic equity, as well as a review of promotion processes to ensure opportunities are given to all employees.
  • 91% reviewed their talent acquisition processes, with special emphasis on language used in job descriptions, career website, and structured interview questions. Interview panels are selected to include leaders who understand the DEI&B initiatives and are skilled at interviewing a diverse slate of candidates.
  • 50% reviewed their leadership competencies to ensure they represent leaders of all geographical regions, backgrounds, and cultures.
  • 50% reviewed their selection practices for leadership development programs to provide equal access to all employee demographics.


This is the time to double down on the right, diverse talent. Companies doing DEI&B well are now using Affinity Groups, Employee Resource Groups, and Business Resource Groups to drive business results. Inspirational leaders realize that having a diverse group of employees leads to improved innovation, diversified products and services, new channels of distribution, and a differentiated go-to-market strategy. We have always heard that “two minds are better than one”. Two diverse minds can lead to more creativity, better solutions, and more connections with your customers. These actions result in stronger financial results, higher revenues, and improved profitability.

Diverse minds can lead to more creativity, better solutions, and more connections with your customers.

DEI&B Benefits

  • Improved innovation
  • Diversified products and services
  • New channels of distribution
  • Differentiated go-to-market strategy
  • More creativity
  • Better solutions
  • More connections with your customers
  • Stronger financial results
  • Higher revenues
  • Improved profitability

According to McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to see greater financial returns.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, companies with above-average total diversity had both 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher EBIT margins.

Participating Companies

Meet the Author

John Staines

Managing Partner

John leads the Global Human Resources Practice. He brings over 25 years of experience in Global CPG, Retail, Hospitality, Life Sciences, and Healthcare, with special emphasis on organizational effectiveness, DEI&B, culture and employee inspiration.

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