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DE&I matters more to UK business leaders than it did three years ago, now seen as central to company success


  • 91% of UK executives state that DE&I has increased in importance since 2019, and is now viewed as part of driving stronger corporate results 
  • More companies are doing more to get it right: practices that were followed by 20% of companies three years ago, are now followed by 58% 
  • However, expectations seem harder to reach as almost 10% of executives globally say their company will not be inclusive, even in three years time. 


London, September 29, 2022: Heidrick & Struggles (Nasdaq: HSII), the global provider of executive search and leadership advisory services, has published their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) report, which examines the perspectives of executives around the globe on meeting their organisations’ DE&I requirements. In positive news overall, the executive leadership team’s appreciation for the importance of DE&I in the workplace has increased significantly year on year since first tracked.

The report, which takes a fresh look at the sentiment first captured in the Heidrick & Struggles 2019 DE&I report, firmly finds that DE&I is deemed to hold more importance for companies than it did three years ago. Day to day, this means that practices that were considered ‘leading edge’ three years ago – such as clearly defined DE&I programmes and links to business strategies and outcomes – were only followed by 20% of companies at the time, and are now followed by almost 60% of companies as they moved to the realm of a minimum requirement, must-have for organisations. The main reasons for this increased importance is down to stakeholder demand, from across the spectrum of customers, employees, and the wider business ecosystem. 

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These findings suggest that the events over the past three years have significantly accelerated trends that were already in motion. Overall, the data suggests an increased rate of change in the perception of DE&I amongst executive leadership groups. Globally, the report found that progressing towards DE&I goals is becoming increasingly viewed and managed in the same way as corporate and financial performance. A mix of clarity, communication, leadership commitment, and strategic and systemic alignment—a comprehensive, long-term approach—is what it takes to succeed with DE&I. 

Across the globe, generally, the same characteristics are included in a company’s approach to DE&I. Over 60% of UK respondents stated that gender and nationality are the most important characteristics of their approach to DE&I, with LGBTQ Status coming in third at 55%. In comparison, race or ethnicity is the most important characteristic of the approach of companies globally, followed closely by gender, nationality, and disability. 

Since 2019, employees’ actions, behaviours, and standards have also become a core determinant of the success of progress in DE&I. Organisations have indicated that, as they seek to create inclusive workplaces, their companies embrace two principles of culture shaping that we have long known to be important: role modelling by leaders, and alignment of processes and systems with the core principles of company culture. The UK is more positive about its outlook towards the future of DE&I, when compared globally to countries such as Germany and France. 99% of UK executives believe their company will be inclusive in three years from now.

Priya Dixit Vyas, Partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ London office and Member of Heidrick Consulting Culture Shaping and Diversity & Inclusion practices commented: “Across the globe, it is encouraging to see the much-needed recognition for the undeniable impact that diversity, equity, and inclusion have on business success. It’s clear that successful companies lead with an intentional, well-articulated, and deep-rooted commitment to a culture that drives a systemic, holistic, whole-company focus on inclusion. Ultimately, success in shaping a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture is dependent on intent and accountability – and this starts at the top of every organisation. 

Across the UK, it’s also worth noting that the outlook is more positive towards DE&I than it is globally. While this may be true for some organisations, there is a long way to go before we announce success and we need greater intention, along with action. 10% of executives still believe that their company will not be inclusive even in three years’ time, which proves that despite the positive progress, there still needs to be a significant focus on DE&I going forward to continue this momentum.”

The findings in this report are based on the results of a survey of 420 executives from eight countries; Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 


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