Deloitte operates in over 150 countries and territories

Touché Tohmatsu Limited, commonly referred to as “Deloitte”, is the
largest of the ‘Big Four’—the four largest accounting firms in the world. The Big
Four firms operate as professional services networks rather than a
single entity. Each is a network of firms—managed and owned independently, but
share a common brand and quality standards comparable to franchises. Deloitte
currently employs 244,400 professionals worldwide and operates in over 150
countries and territories earning revenues close to 37 billion last year
(2016). Deloitte offers an extensive range of accounting services including
mergers and acquisitions, audit and assurance, risk management, financial
advisory, tax, and consulting.

            As a company that operates globally,
Deloitte has long recognized the growing issue of managing a diverse set of
employees and has continually conducted studies to facilitate in moving from a
model of diversity to a model of diversity and inclusion. The purpose of this
paper is to introduce the reader to Deloitte’s philosophical ideas regarding
managing diversity and inclusion—specifically through 1.) the role leaders play
in creating the appropriate environment as well as 2.) diminishing what
Deloitte denotes as “covering”—a substantial barrier to diversity and inclusion
as well as productivity.

            It’s important to note that managing
diversity has grown tremendously in the past two decades and soon it will be a
part of every company to survive. Deloitte has long seen this inevitable trend
and has devoted substantial resources in furthering their understanding in how
to accomplish creating a highly diverse and inclusive workforce. The importance
of managing diversity has created a new environment for global business. The
business landscape is erratic and complex—where predicting the future is harder
than before. Several reasons account for why managing diversity has become more
complex including globalization, a shift from a manufacturing to a service
economy, new business strategies that require teamwork, mergers and
acquisitions, a changing labor market and the diversity of ideas, markets,
talent and customers. These concurrent shifts are the new context of business
environment in the present digital age. A setting that is driving innovative
companies to change their management model from a compliance based diversity to
a model of diversity and inclusion.

            In simple terms diversity is variety
or mix and inclusion is getting the variety or mix to work together well. For
them to work well together each team member or employee needs to feel
appreciated, treated fairly, valued for the unique aspects of who they are, and
feel a sense of belonging. Creating an inclusive environment is difficult,
while creating diversity is rather easy—simply hire more people that are underrepresented.
The key is not to have diversity for diversity sake, but to actually benefit
from diversity which requires inclusion. While many large businesses have
diversity programs, creating an accompanying inclusive environment ensures
everyone is being valued, supported, and respected. This requires companies to
inspect how fully the organization embraces new ideas, accommodates different
styles of thinking and personalities (such as whether a person is an introvert
or an extrovert), creates a more flexible work environment (such as individually
tailored schedules for new mothers), enables people to connect and collaborate,
and encourages different types of leaders. Without inclusion, diversity cannot
be fully leveraged. It is the responsibility of managers who are leaders, to
create an inclusive environment and Deloitte has pointed out the qualities
leaders must have to foster the right environment.


the business landscape has become increasingly competitive, inclusive
leadership has never been more important as it represents a new way of leading
employees that offers a competitive advantage. Inclusive leadership in the eyes
of the leader is about treating employees equitably, understanding the
uniqueness of each person, and fully utilizing the heterogenous groups ideas
and decision making. Moving
beyond diversity to embrace inclusion is very challenging. It requires
leadership being able to lead inclusive teams that are heterogeneous. The
leaders of today and the future are responsible for improving their entire
organization to compete in the constantly changing competitive global
marketplace. It takes a well-defined plan with a solid foundation and constant
development and assessment of key leadership traits and skills to foster
inclusive leadership at the top of the organization and to inspire all members
throughout the organization to understand and share an inclusive mindset.

            Deloitte has
identified several important traits of inclusive leadership after conducting a
substantial amount of research. Deloitte University Press published a paper by
Bernadette Dillon and Juliet Bourke—two highly respected diversity and
inclusion specialists, called “The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership.”
For leaders to attain diversity and inclusion, the authors contend inclusive
leaders must demonstrate 6 signature traits. The six traits that characterize
an inclusive mind-set and inclusive behavior as a whole, enable leaders to
access a diverse set of ideas, operate better in markets that are becoming increasingly
more diverse, connect with the wide range of customers they have, and empower
each individual employee to their fullest degree. The six traits of an
inclusive leader include commitment, courage, cognizance of bias, curiosity,
cultural intelligence, and collaboration.

            First, inclusive leaders require commitment to diversity and inclusion,
as these ideas inherently align with their personal ethics. They also truly
believe in the benefits of a diverse and inclusive talent force. They
understand why it is so important and are absolutely dedicated to achieving the
highest level of diversity and inclusion. These leaders show their dedication
in many ways such as devoting their time and energy into creating a highly
diverse and inclusive workplace. They invest in people and inspire others to
accomplish more than they thought possible. While the benefits attributable to
a diverse inclusive workforce are understood by these leaders, the primary
motivator is not the business case, but rather the sense of fairness—valuing,
treating, and celebrating each individual for who they are regardless of
gender, race, religion, sexual preference, etc. These leaders create passion
that reverberates throughout their environment.  

            Second, inclusive leaders require courage to shake up the organization’s
current homogeneous politics by speaking up, while at the same time remaining modest
about their capabilities. These leaders are aware of their strengths and
weaknesses and understand their limitations and seek others where they are
weak. They are not afraid to admit to others when they make mistakes which
rarely occurs in management positions. 
As change agents, inclusive leaders also need to have the courage to
speak up even if unpopular among higher levels of management. These inclusive
leaders are not there to continue the same culture, but to change it. Often a
culture can become so entrenched that no one would ever want to challenge it
out of fear. This is exactly why courage is a trait leaders must have and
demonstrate often. This doesn’t mean creating conflict, but rather softly challenging
the current state of affairs. Regardless of the situation and how entrenched
the attitudes and behaviors are in an organization, inclusive leaders need to
stay on course, be committed, have courage, and understand change is a process
and one that is often met with resistance.

            Third, inclusive leaders must
recognize cognizance of bias. As
with everyone, each of us has our own biases and being self-aware is very
important in diminishing one’s bias as much as possible. As for the
organization, they are also aware that like themselves, the organization has
its own unconscious biases. Inclusive leaders must recognize their own and
their organizations biases and lay a foundation, procedures, policies, and
structures to address the unconscious biases as much as possible. Fairness and
rationality are often viewed through one’s own biases and the leader is
expected to make sure what they believe is fair and rational is correct.
Objective decisions can become murky when one’s biases and or others are not understood.
Biases can lead to certain attitudes, stereotypes, confirmation bias and group
think—all being deconstructive and threatening an inclusive environment.
Furthermore, inclusive leaders go to great lengths to dissect their own biases
and employ techniques to diminish them, knowing without understanding their own
can lead to self-replicated attitudes and values that employees feel pressured
they need to represent.

            Fourth, inclusive leaders have a
thirst for curiosity. Their
unprecedented open-mindedness allows them to want to understand how different
groups of people experience the world. Being curious means one has the desire
to learn and generate new ideas which is essential to compete in today’s global
commerce. Learning doesn’t stop at college—it is a process that is perpetual
and the number of topics can be virtually endless. Inclusive leaders accept
their limited worldview and seek the perspectives of others to improve the
vital decisions they make. To seek diverse perspectives, inclusive leaders must
be able to ask the right questions, listen attentively, make employees feel at
ease and synthesis all extracted information. They also must refrain from
making quick judgments when engaging with others. Making judgments before all
information is understood only limits a leader’s curiosity, thus it is vital to
not make quick decisions that suppress the flow of idea generation from their

            Fifth, inclusive leaders are culturally intelligent. Managing a
diverse set of employees requires knowledge of different cultures. It also
necessitates being able to change management styles dependent upon different
cultural customs. The knowledge of different cultures cannot simply be
understood by reading about them, but rather demands actually visiting the
locations and living among the population to see firsthand the social dynamics
of the people. Some cultures have customs that American business does not
operate in the same way. To not respect the cultures method of doing business
can have embarrassing and detrimental effects. Speech, tone, body language,
facial expressions can all change when dealing with another country. Some
customs in American business would be considered rude in other countries. An
important aspect of inclusive leaders is their acceptance for ambiguity.

            Lastly, inclusive leaders empower
individuals to be collaborative. Multiple
perspectives are extremely important; thus, all member of the team should be
given the opportunity to share their own perspectives. This is the
responsibility of the leader to create an environment in which all team members
are comfortable with expressing their viewpoints to other group members. When
individuals collaborate, they build off each other’s ideas to solve very
complex problems. The foundation of collaboration is all individuals sharing
freely and as such all team members must feel comfortable expressing their
views. Inclusive leaders must set the tone and create an environment in which
all team members feel comfortable sharing. This is accomplished by making sure
the employees feel valued and that each person has something valuable to offer.
The leader takes a hands-off approach, meaning he or she does not direct the
flow of idea generation in any way, rather inclusive leaders encourage independence,
empowering their teams to connect with others to discover a range of diverse
perspectives, paying close
attention to team structure and team procedures.

            In addition to leaders being an
essential part in creating an inclusive environment, reducing the amount of
employee “covering” is another important part in attaining a more inclusive
productive workforce. Deloitte University (DU) Leadership Center for Inclusion worked
together with NYU School of Law to develop a white paper titled “Uncovering Talent: A New Model for Inclusion”
authored by Kenji Yoshino and Christie Smith. The research and analysis
conducted suggests another process to attaining inclusion. The method or
framework focuses on the issue of “covering,” which is defined as a strategic
approach employed by individuals to downplay or lessen a stereotype commonly
associated with their identity from others to see—essentially hiding a
significant portion of themselves. People and groups cover because they believe
they need to minimize differences with their coworkers to feel included at work
and fit in with the predominant social customs and to avoid possible shame.
Covering is a response to pressures to conform or assimilate. Most the time
covering prevents individuals from bringing their true selves to work, which
works directly against the aims of creating an inclusive environment. Although
almost every fortune 500 company has a diversity and inclusion officer and
programs to increase diversity, yet only 1% of CEO’s are black, 5% are women,
and 0 are openly gay. The lack of results clearly indicates diversity and
inclusion efforts are not very successful at this time.

            The new model describes four
dimensions in which people cover; appearance-based, affiliation-based,
advocacy-based, and association-based. The results of the analysis support an
argument that covering creates a barrier to realizing inclusion. The concept of covering applies to
everyone in the work environment to some extent and can negatively impact
individuals’ sense of self and weakens employees’ commitment to the

covering describes how individuals change their appearance to help blend in
with the majority. This includes dress, grooming, behaviors, speech among
others. For example, an older male may die his hair and or beard to appear
younger than he is to avoid giving off the impression he is too old to keep up
with the more energetic younger employees or that the elderly may be looked
down upon. A young man with tattoos may where certain garments to cover up his
tattoos out of fear he wouldn’t be taken seriously. Another example is an
African American woman may straighten her hair each morning to de-emphasize her
race. Affiliation-based covering
concerns how individuals purposely avoid certain behaviors that are tied to
their identity to aid in minimizing potential stereotypes that could be
associated with him or her. For example, a woman may avoid expressing herself
as a mother for fear she may be looked upon by co-workers or management as not
being as committed to her job as others. Another example is a man may avoid
telling others he enjoys watching and training martial arts out of fear others
would think he enjoys violence and he may be a treat to the organization.

covering involves how much the person defends or supports their identity or
group. For example, coworkers could make jokes that are offensive to a person
that defends gay rights, but won’t speak up because employees think it is
funny. Another example is an individual may have strong views on the right to
bear arms, but would never voice his or her opinion out of fear of being
labeled a gun nut. The last dimension of covering outlined in the white paper
is Association-based which involves
how individuals avoid conflict with other group members. For example, a
homosexual employee may not bring his partner to an organization potluck to
avoid being seen as very gay. Another example is an individual choses to not
bring his Muslim wife to a leisure work gathering during a time when Muslims
are being portrayed as terrorists in the mainstream media.

            Christie Smith, Managing Principal for Consulting in the western region of
the U.S. and co-author of the white paper, explains when people go to work they are
working a second job—with a description of hide my true identity, don’t stand
out, blend in and cover up my differences. This “second job” as Christie
describes is subconscious and a way to survive, but is absolutely hurting
individuals by denying who they truly are as well as the companies they work at
because employees end up devoting time to working their identity. Christie
Smith poses the question whether this is really the way employees want to show
up to work—essentially denning who they are, what they look like and their experiences.

            There is a clear corporate cost to
covering. Covering diminishes the potential of employees because they end up
giving only a portion of their intellect, desire, and consideration due to
covering. In the research and analysis of the white paper found 61% of overall
employees engaged in some form of covering to hide their true identity at work.
The statistical breakdown of those who cover consist of 83% of LGB, 81% of
those with emotional or physical disabilities, 79% of Blacks, 67% women of color,
66% women overall, 63% of Hispanic/Latinos, 61% Asian, and a surprising 45% of
white straight males. Two out of 5 respondents reported covering had a negative
or detrimental impact on their sense of self, and over 50% stated that it was
their leader’s expectation of them to cover that impacted their sense of
opportunity and their sense of commitment to their work. People who cover, show
up to work feeling less than and sub optimized and are contemplating walking
out the door. 

            Christie brings up an excellent
question of whether we can afford these kinds of outcomes in the workplace
today? A workplace where over half of the workforce is working their identity
instead of their job. Christie Smith points out that this problem is about
leadership. Research indicates places the demand to cover at the hands of
leaders, the cultures they create in their work groups, business units, and the
organization as a whole. Christie argues that what we need in today’s
organizations is not only emotionally intelligent leaders, but emotionally
mature leaders who have the capacity and the capability to have conversations
across difference, to invite that difference into the room, to create the next
great invention or delight our customers, or meet growth numbers. Leaders power
of influence is immense and it will be felt by the sensitive collective of all their
people. But current leadership efforts have failed. A shift in view can change
all this. Incorporating the inclusive leadership traits in all leaders at Deloitte
along with reducing covering will situate Deloitte as a premier inclusive

            When researching alternative
perspectives to managing diversity and inclusion, most all articles agreed that
diversity and accompanying inclusive environment is very good for business, but
what is important to remember is that it is no easy task to accomplish.
Implementing diversity and inclusion can bring about many problems. Everyone in
the organization needs to be on board and make it a top priority. You need the
support of all levels of management as well as all employees. A well-established
plan with benchmarks and a feedback system are extremely important.

            Increasing workplace diversity and
inclusion requires mandatory diversity training aimed at different levels of organizational
hierarchy. Employees, supervisors and managers must receive lessons on how best
integrate teachings with employees and customers who represent diverse
populations. Sometimes employees may resent the fact that they must go through
training when it is forced upon them. Some employees may view mandatory
training as forcing employees to accept diversity at all costs, irrespective of
their personal exposure and experiences. When training is not optional and is essentially
forced upon employees—unintended consequences may occur. Employees who believe
diversity training should be optional may believe instead that the sheer
concept of diversity takes precedent over other kind of employee training and
development that the employees may feel is just as important to improve
employees’ skills and capabilities.

            Problems may arise when creating a
more diverse set of workers. For the sole purpose of increasing the
representation of minorities Human Resources may be pressured to hire employees
that are less qualified than others. Hiring managers who are used to having
autonomy in hiring decisions may begin to begrudge how increasing diversity
affects their capacity to use their independent judgment and authority in
hiring decisions. Employees who realize the organization’s goal is to increase
diversity may feel they are less important if they do not represent a minority populations
that is of focus in increasing diversity. Furthermore, they might believe that
employees from diverse groups will have more opportunities to advance in the
organization. Taking this inconsideration is important in developing a
diversity and inclusion plan.

            In summary, Deloitte has long
recognized the importance of managing a diverse set of employees and continues
to be a thought leader in diversity and inclusion. Deloitte has identified
several important traits of inclusive leadership after conducting a considerable
amount of research. The six traits that characterize an inclusive mind-set and
inclusive behavior, permit leaders to access a diverse set of ideas, operate more
efficiently in markets that are becoming increasingly more diverse, connect
with the wide range of customers, and empower each employee to their fullest
degree. The firm has also identified employee covering is a major barrier to achieving
inclusion. Training more inclusive leaders and addressing the issue of employee
covering will allow Deloitte to continue to be at the forefront of creating a
highly diverse and inclusive environment for their employees which will
translate to continual business success.