Corporate leaders often talk about equality, empowerment and culture, but that doesn’t mean their employees feel their organizations are actually walking the walk.

Indeed, a significant disconnect exists between how leaders and employees view their workplace culture, according to a new survey by Accenture Inc. While 70 per cent of leaders said they feel they create empowering environments where people have a sense of belonging, only 40 per cent of employees agreed.

The survey, which polled more than 30,000 professionals in 28 countries including Canada, also found that, while leaders said they believe just two per cent of employees don’t feel included in their organizations, a full 18 per cent of employees said they don’t feel they’re welcome at work and can contribute fully and thrive. 

Read: Culture of equality a powerful multiplier of workplace innovation: study

In addition, while 79 per cent of women surveyed said they believe culture is critical to helping them thrive in the workplace, only 63 per cent of leaders said an inclusive workplace culture is vital to the success of their business.  

The survey also found most leaders believe inclusivity is important, but it isn’t their top priority. The majority (83 per cent) of leaders ranked financial performance as their top priority, followed by brand recognition and quality (70 per cent). Diversity (34 per cent) and culture (21 per cent) lagged far behind in the rankings.

Putting diversity and culture lower down on the list of priorities is a mistake, argued Accenture. “Accelerating equality in the workplace has never been more critical for driving innovation,” said Jeffrey Russell, president of Accenture Canada, in a press release. “At Accenture, we believe that a future workforce is an equal one . . . where everyone thrives.”

Indeed, leaders need to shift with the times as more baby boomers exit the workforce and an increasing number of generation Zers enter cubicles in droves. The survey found 75 per cent of gen Zers — compared to 64 per cent of boomers — are concerned with workplace culture.

Read: Gen Z expects fast promotions, diversity and inclusion initiatives: study

Shifting culture for the next generation of workers takes time and effort, but it’s possible, noted the survey, referring to so-called “culture makers,” which Accenture defines as leaders who are much more likely to have spoken out on a range of workplace issues. These include gender equality (52 per cent versus 35 per cent of all leaders) and sexual harassment/discrimination (92 per cent versus 76 per cent). Culture makers also hold themselves accountable, leading organizations that are nearly twice as likely to have publicly announced a target to hire and retain more women, said Accenture.

While a mere six per cent of leaders surveyed are culture makers, they represent a more gender-balanced group compared to the broader group of leaders surveyed (45 per cent women versus 32 per cent of all leaders, respectively). Culture makers also represent up-and-coming leaders, as 68 per cent are millennials, compared to 59 per cent of all leaders. These culture makers are more likely to lead organizations where people advance, focus on innovation and remain committed, according to Accenture. Plus, it noted profits at organization’s led by culture makers are nearly three times higher than those of their peers.

Read: Scotiabank recognized for creating culture of diversity in workplace

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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