Publisher's Desk|Canadian HR Law|HR Policies & Practices|Employment Law|The C-Suite|HR Guest Blog

‘Inclusion riders’ mark turning point: 2018 will be diversity’s year

Oscars put spotlight on HR practice of finding, keeping best talent
Frances McDormand wins the Best Actress Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Frances McDormand wins the Best Actress Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Todd Humber

When Frances McDormand accepted the Oscar for Best Actress on Sunday night, she tossed out a phrase that left many people scratching their heads – “inclusion rider.”

HR professionals, however, smirked a little bit when they heard those words from the star of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

While you may not have heard it called an “inclusion rider,” it’s actually pretty common practice by other names in the corporate world and can be a very powerful tool in ensuring your organization hires and retains talent from the strongest and most diverse pool.

Thomson Reuters, my employer, has what is essentially an inclusion rider as part of my annual goals. In fact, every people manager at my organization has it pre-populated in the performance management tool. It reads, in part:

“2018 People Goal: Create a high-performance culture by managing effectively, differentiating performance, developing talent and building diverse and inclusive teams.”

It goes on to state that I must “ensure that there are diverse candidates for all open roles, with a focus on having diverse interview panels whenever possible (diversity categories may be defined locally.)”

I’m also required to complete at least one diversity and inclusion course – of which there are a host of options available to me.

Is it a pancea? Of course not. But it is universal, there are metrics I can be measured upon and management takes it seriously. In Hollywood speak, it’s essentially an “inclusion rider.”

And, thanks to McDormand’s speech, the concept has entered the mainstream lexicon. In covering the story, our colleagues at Reuters described it thusly — “The gist is this: Powerful actors and film makers could use their star power to get a studio to hire more women, gay people, disabled people and people from racial minorities to cast and crew by stipulating it as a rider in their contract.”

That’s a far better rider than, say, the legendary rock star clauses outlined by the New York Post including:

• Slipknot, which demanded six cans of ravioli (Chef Boyardee only, please), a bag of assorted Starburst fruit chews, 6 cans of Campbell’s chunky soup, a box of baby wipes and 12 pairs of white tube socks.

• Nikki Sixx, who required a 15-foot boa constrictor is his room (don’t try to pass off that lame 12-footer!)

• Status Quo, who once refused to play a concert because a specific brand of white tube socks from Marks & Spencer were absent from the dressing room. (Seriously, rockers, what’s with the tube socks?)

The most legendary rider was from Van Halen. In 1982, it was 53-pages long and included requests for a large tube of K-Y Jelly (we really just don’t want to know why) and M&Ms but “absolutely no brown ones.”

McDormand’s call isn’t being met with laughs — it’s being lauded. Kalpana Kotagal, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights lawyer, has been working on the language and the concept. She didn’t know it was going to get a shout-out at the Oscars, but told Reuters she knew it was “going to blow up” at some point.

“The objective is to have the films that we see every day be a better reflection of the world that we live in,” said Kotagal. “That means, for example, 50 per cent women.”

More importantly, it means better movies.

It’s the same business case in the corporate world — when your talent reflects the community it serves, all kinds of good things happen. The Diversity Institute at Toronto’s Ryerson University points out some of the benefits in its business case for diversity:

Candidate pool is deeper: “With an increasing number of immigrants coming from non-traditional countries, we can ensure that we attract, retain and develop the best talent.”

Better able to serve markets: “A diverse workforce is required to understand and respond to the needs and aspirations of increasingly diverse markets. Across sectors, industries and markets, more opportunities are opening up. These opportunities… can be best seized by those who understand and grasp the needs of such a diverse population.”

Promoting innovation, creativity: “Diverse teams are more likely to think outside the box and to develop innovative solutions to challenges. Diversity in the workplace enhances creative thinking, innovation and problem solving – offering a competitive advantage.”

Increasing employee satisfaction and reducing turnover: “Organizations that manage diversity efficiently report higher employee satisfaction levels. Policies and programs put in place to address diverse employee needs encourage loyalty and reduce turnover.”

Mitigating legal, reputational costs: “Organizations run the risk of legal sanctions for not demonstrating equity and inclusion. Lawsuits can be damaging to an organization’s reputation, far exceeding financial consequences.”

McDormand’s call on the Oscar stage is just the latest bit of snow to cling to the diversity ball that is bouncing and rattling down the hill. The momentum is incredible. The benefits are obvious. The tired arguments and stubborn resistance have all been exposed as bad-for-business lame excuses.

Time is up, not just on sexual harassment but also on diversity. Organizations that don’t embrace it — every facet of it, at every level — are going to be steamrolled by it.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
(Required, will not be published)
All comments are moderated and usually appear within 24 hours of posting. Email address will not be published.