It is and probably always will be true that people are an organization’s greatest asset and most valuable resource, and no one doubts that a diverse workforce is the best workforce. Yet the best way for executing a successful diversity and inclusion effort at the global level – even the definition of diversity and inclusion – remains a matter of debate.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) can be seen as a puzzle (see Figure 1.0) that involves leading and managing all aspects of human complexity to achieve strength and maximize performance. Organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion have an appreciation for the use of different talents, skills, abilities, cultures, values, and viewpoints in people to achieve competitive results and superior performance at the individual, team, and organizational levels. The insight required to successfully implement D&I projects and programs on a global level are described below.
Commitment and Cross-Functional Representation.
A successful D&I effort should include the participation and involvement of the organization’s chief executive officer with strong commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. D&I leaders and facilitators should also include crossfunctional representatives of leaders, managers, supervisors, employees, and customer and supplier advocates with strong commitments to diversity and inclusion.
Common Vision, Goals, Measurements, and Accountability
Those charged with leading, facilitating and participating in the diversity and inclusion endeavor must develop a comprehensive strategic, tactical and operational D&I plan. The plan must be based on a clear understanding of the current state that is derived from the findings of a thorough organizational assessment, and the vision for the future must be informed by best practices from world-class organizations. The plan must have clearly measurable outcomes, incentives, and well defined accountability with ownership for goals and results.
Courage to Challenge and Eliminate Barriers
D&I leaders and participants must have the courage, wisdom, diplomacy and human relations skills to challenge and eliminate barriers that prevent the successful implementation of a diverse and inclusive workforce. The policies and procedures adopted by human resources administrators must include zero tolerance for discrimination and promote talent optimization, mentoring and coaching for all members of the workforce. Courage is required to challenge the status quo and promote true change.
Communication and Encouragement Systems
Successful D&I implementation must have a comprehensive engagement system that involves all stakeholders in the processes of talent acquisition, retention and development. Stakeholder engagement is required to change mindsets, eliminate barriers and impediments to human resource development, and retain a diverse workforce.
Culture of Teams and Valuing People
An effective D&I effort creates, promotes and incentivizes a culture of cooperation, teamwork, and valuing people. When people are valued, they give their best to the organization. Policies, programs, and incentives should promote and encourage multicultural relationships and teamwork among the organizational stakeholders.
Competence, Experience, and Coaching
Successful D&I facilitators have the training and experience to facilitate the D&I vision and goals and provide clear D&I instructions. Untrained and unqualified D&I facilitators can do more harm than good. Those charged with leading and facilitating diversity initiatives must be supported by best practices, training, coaching and resources.
One of the key roles of the D&I effort is to ensure that the business case for diversity and inclusion is in place. Results in business performance, customer satisfaction, employee morale, innovation, recruitment and retention rates, and other business result measures must be reviewed periodically by D&I leaders.
Continuous Improvement as a Progressive Philosophy
Most people think that diversity and inclusion can be achieved by changing the race and gender grid of organizational structure. This is very far from the truth. Successful diversity and inclusion takes a commitment to continuous enhancement of the talent acquisition and optimization process. It is not a one-time effort. It takes years to build a nondiverse workforce – and additional years to foster an inclusive one. A progressive D&I approach characterized by long-term organizational commitment is required for enduring continuous improvement.
Count the Money – Invest in People
An effective D&I effort must commit the appropriate level of financial and organizational resources that are required to achieve the defined D&I initiatives. For every dollar invested in the talent acquisition, development, and optimization processes, expect to get positive returns in innovation, customer satisfaction, business results, morale, and competitive positioning for the organization.
D&I efforts are multifaceted and challenging, especially given the sensitivity of the topic. D&I leaders and facilitators must have the mindset and commitment not to allow the initiative to fail. Recruiting D&I facilitators and change agents will provide lasting momentum for global D&I efforts. A culture that promotes valuing people, developing talent, innovation, risk-taking, and inclusive talent development is bound to create the desired results.
Dr. Johnson A. Edosomwan is the chairman, senior executive consultant and coach of JJA Consultants and chairman of the Continuous Improvement Company. Dr. Edosomwan’s contributions span several continents. He is the recipient of over 175 awards and citations including, “Men of Achievement in the World”, “Who’s Who of Intellectuals”, and “Who’s Who in Distinguished Leadership”, “Who’s Who in Technology and Innovation”, “Who’s Who in Quality”, “Who’s Who in Productivity”, and “Personalities of the Americas”. Dr. Edosomwan is the author/editor of over 68 books and holds over 16 certifications in several academic disciplines. Several scholarships and institutes have been named in his honor including The Johnson A. Edosomwan Leadership Institute at the University of Miami.