As companies increasingly rely on innovation to stand out in themarketplace, a diverse, inclusive work force is becoming moreimportant, finds a new study conducted by Forbes Insights.

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Eighty-five percent of respondents agree diversity is essentialto encouraging innovation and creativity because it introduces newperspectives and ideas, and more than three quarters of respondentsreveal that in the next three years their companies will focus onpromoting diversity to attain business goals, includinginnovation.

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“Companies have realized that diversity and inclusion are nolonger separate from other parts of the business,” says StuartFeil, editorial director of Forbes Insights. “Organizations in thesurvey understand that different experiences and differentperspectives build the foundation necessary to compete on a globalscale.”

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Additionally, the Forbes Insights study examines how employersin different global regions approach diversity and inclusion, whatprograms fall into these efforts and what models are the mostsuccessful. Of the findings, a diverse, inclusive workforce isnecessary for employers that want to attract and retain top talent. Sixty-five percent ofrespondents use recruiting programs for the specific purpose ofattracting diverse employees. But only 53 percent of respondentssupport their recruiting programs with diversity-focuseddevelopment programs, and 44 percent of respondents havediversity-focused retention programs in place.

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Nearly every surveyed employer had a type of diversity andinclusion program, and many don’t stop at gender and race, thoughgender diversity programs are the most common at 81 percent.Ethnicity programs are the next most popular at 77 percent,followed by age programs at 72 percent and race programs at 70 percent.Asia-Pacific employers are more commonly concentrate on age andnationality while European companies tend to focus on disability orsexual orientation.

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The study also finds not all diversity plans within one employerare equal. Of the respondents, half say their organizations have aglobal plan that includes various approaches to tackle regional orcultural differences, and approximately a third of respondents saytheir strategies allow for minimal regional deviation.

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Despite many employers’ efforts toward creating a diverseworkforce, there are some weaknesses. Although respondents believehave advanced gender diversity, they still say diversity in disability andage is lacking.

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The study, “Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce,”which was sponsored by AT&T, L’Oréal USA and Mattel, is basedon a survey of 321 executives at large worldwide enterprises thatbring in at least $500 million in annual revenues. Each respondentdirectly oversaw or was responsible for his or her company’sdiversity and inclusion programs.

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