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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

How leaders can drive growth by embracing inclusive prosperity

As leaders, it’s critical that we embrace a few key principles to truly advance inclusive prosperity.

How leaders can drive growth by embracing inclusive prosperity
[Jacob Lund / Adobe Stock]

In a time when both businesses and society are searching for a return to growth and prosperity, I think we should understand that positive momentum works from the inside out.

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Growth-oriented leaders committed to creating a future built on a foundation of inclusion and equity should embrace the mindset of inclusive prosperity: prosperity that reaches far beyond the confines of business and ultimately drives greater societal impact.

In a world driven by bottom lines, research like ours demonstrates that fostering a diverse and inclusive environment in your organization—beyond simply being the right thing to do—holds real, tangible business benefits. This includes attracting and retaining talent, appealing to a wider consumer audience, expanding your customer base, and meeting stakeholder and shareholder demands.

Given the growing and inextricable link between business and society in just the past year, these are exactly the types of benefits that can better position an organization for growth in 2022 and beyond. As leaders, it’s critical that we embrace a few key principles to truly advance inclusive prosperity.

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LEAD WITH A PURPOSE-DRIVEN ENTERPRISE MINDSET

We’re seeing a huge shift in traditional leadership where profit is no longer enough to measure success, and leaders now should consider a larger set of responsibilities to fuel growth.

The Business Roundtable recognized this shift in 2019 when it first redefined the purpose of a corporation to promote “an economy that serves all Americans.” This new framework suggests that a company’s purpose is to benefit all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders—something that we saw distinctly play out over the course of the pandemic. As an example, with health and safety now at the center of their purpose, many organizations switched over their manufacturing processes to develop personal protective equipment, and pharmaceutical competitors worked together to develop and distribute vaccines to the public.

Leading with such a clear purpose has had a distinct impact on both consumers and employees. Employees have expressed higher job satisfaction with their work, and public perception of pharmaceutical companies has notably improved. To keep that same focus and drive in a business world centering on addressing systemic social issues, organizational leaders should continue to put purpose at the heart of their enterprises. This may mean building checks and balances into business planning processes or demonstrating to stakeholders how strategic decisions connect back to a stated purpose. It’s a mindset that takes deliberate effort, but one that can pay dividends when executed well.

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CHALLENGE ASSUMPTIONS TO FOSTER INCLUSIVITY AND CULTIVATE EQUITY

Our 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 79% of survey respondents said encouraging a sense of belonging is important to their organization’s success, and 93% agreed that it can drive organizational performance. However, just 13% said their organizations were ready to address the issue, highlighting that most leaders do not yet fully understand how to close the gap between aspiration and reality.

The need to improve that understanding is increasingly urgent. Not only do inclusive organizations see a stronger organizational performance, but they are also better positioned for growth. Prospective talent and consumers are looking for organizations that are taking action. They’re choosing which organizations to support based in great part on a company’s ability to turn inclusive talk into tangible, equity-driving action. With talent playing such a crucial role in an organization’s ability to innovate—72% of the executives we surveyed this year say the ability of their people to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles is key to navigating future disruptions—having an inclusive environment can be a key difference in attracting the right skillsets.

To do this, leaders may need to challenge assumptions about how unbiased their organizations are today. Many businesses believe that having clearly inclusive intentions and goals are enough to drive change over time, but the truth is that bias can creep into processes in many different ways, blocking equitable outcomes. It’s only when we’re able to step back and take an objective look at culture and policies that we’re able to see a clear path to inclusive prosperity.

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CONTINUE TO LISTEN AND LEARN

Despite widespread corporate commitments to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, there is still much work to be done. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ September jobs report showed that Black unemployment rates are still disproportionately high, despite a rise in job availability at this stage of the pandemic. Women also continue to experience pay inequity in the workforce. Our recent study found that women globally earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2020.

Inclusive prosperity is a journey. Therefore, it is important to regularly listen to and learn from the communities we wish to serve while outlining clear and measurable actions for the future.

I believe creating inclusive prosperity is our single most important task as business leaders. We’ve been given a platform to come together to create meaningful change—change that puts us on the path toward a world that better reflects and supports our communities and brings about a more profitable future not just for our individual organizations, but for us all.

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Stacy Janiak is Chief Growth Officer of Deloitte US. 

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