KPIs Alone Will Not Fix The Diversity Problem

Brian Duffy

Thanks to the recent high-profile media focus, the issue of diversity has finally taken its place front and center of mainstream public interest and is being properly addressed in the workplace. From my perspective, it should be at the top of every business leader’s to-do list.

My personal feelings aside, recruitment, advancement, and leadership KPIs have long been touted as the best way to measure diversity, and companies blindly follow these arbitrary targets as barometers of success: 12 women in our team – tick. 16 people from BAME backgrounds – check. 20% female representation on our board – we’re done.

In my role, I spend a lot of time looking at numbers—everything from the percentage growth in client satisfaction to the cost of my sandwich at lunch. And when it comes to business objectives, KPIs are our go-to benchmark. However, it strikes me that KPIs for diversity are not driving the positive change we want, and in fact may be having an adverse effect.

There is no doubt that progress is being made, but much of this progress is happening with a view of metrics and providing proof that businesses are in the game as opposed to a greater desire to change the game altogether.

A recent example of this can be seen in how some companies reported their gender pay gap earlier this year. Whilst creativity was in abundance, much of it was focused on delivering a narrative to soften the existing disparity and the future media backlash.

Significantly less creativity and thought were given to plans that will drive real progress in the future. The focus is on numbers, not on change. But our people are not numbers, and we must be mindful that hitting diversity targets or pay gap percentages does not deliver sustainable long-term solutions to ongoing bias.

We know bias in business undermines employee commitment, performance, and retention. Last year, a study from the Center for Talent Innovation showed that companies are likely to experience less innovation and productivity alongside higher staff turnover costs and fatigue when employees perceive bias.

Unless there is someone in your organization who wakes up each morning and is tasked with dedicating their work to improving diversity, real change won’t happen anytime soon.

In our own business, a dedicated team launched Autism@Work in 2013—our industry-leading program. It now operates in 11 countries and gives more than 140 differently-abled individuals on the autism spectrum the opportunity to unleash their potential and build meaningful careers in the tech industry.

We also take a data-driven approach to the analysis of pay discrepancy. In 2016, we became the first multinational technology company to be awarded the worldwide Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certification.

I’m very proud of this work and I believe an inclusive workforce is not just the right thing—it’s the competitive thing to do.

To help shape the future and transform how we drive technological innovation, social impact and economic growth, organizations must have a purpose-driven culture built by the best available talent, who think differently and are working at the cutting edge of technology.

I’m excited to be a part of a generation of leaders who can make this a reality.

For more on this topic, see A Better Bottom Line For Businesses Employing The Differently Abled.


Brian Duffy

About Brian Duffy

With more than 13 years of international experience in the technology industry, Brian Duffy is a leader focused on driving innovation, ensuring customer success and delivering strategic breakthroughs. In his current role, Brian leads SAP’s software business as President of the EMEA North region, which includes Great Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Baltic countries. He is responsible for overseeing industry go-to-market efforts and all field execution.