Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is more than a trending marketing tool, more than a themed month, more than a moral imperative or a motivating social contract designed to tug at the heartstrings of institutions and leaders of industry. Diversity & Inclusion is more than the right thing to do. It’s the only thing to do.
In the global marketing place where revenue drives results, diversity & inclusion is truly about the opportunity; the value in understanding and incorporating the full human experience. We have all heard of strategies calling for a “team of rivals”, or on the contrary, damning a team of “yes men”. The reason we support the “rivals” is because they at least represent diversity of thought, which has always forced the shrewdest business ideas and most enterprising outcomes.
Herbie Hancock released an album called in Imagine in 2010. The recording process took place in seven different countries on five continents. Over 20 musicians representing nearly every known genre participated. In the accompanying documentary for the album release, the 12 time Grammy Award winner raved about the soul stirring duets and also credited value in the diversity of artists as well as studio engineers. The enhancements related to diversity of thought and experiences in this situation is no different for any other sector of business. Thinking different is key to gaining entrée into new markets, which for many businesses is being grossly underutilized and underestimated. Attracting diverse talent is not only crucial to leveraging those new markets; it is the only way to do so authentically.
D&I will never provide your firm or organization with the value based ROI you desire if it is simply a program or initiative that a few team members are championing while others tolerate it. It must be part of your organizations DNA. Incorporating D&I as part of your institutional DNA requires you to securely interlock tactics of diversity and inclusion into your strategic goals and milestones.
To cultivate systemic change, you must go beyond your textbook “good faith effort” and learn how it is part of your fiscal viability. For example, when most firms initially introduced or expanded diversity as a business offering, it was primarily an HR concern to mitigate exposure to EEOC claims. The answer for many compliance officers was a plan to acknowledge diversity through culturally sensitive programming or development/support of Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s). It was temporarily an effective PR & policy decision to boost morale, but senior staff and boards still missed the impact of integrating diverse points of view and backgrounds to drive core business areas. Instead of just acknowledging the diversity in your workforce for a program, recognize the rich pool of talent represented in those ERG’s, and throughout the firm, for real business progress. The CMO who grew up visiting Table Mountain in South Africa visualizes projects differently than her counterpart from Austin, Texas. This can be a creative edge, especially if you are entering foreign markets. Beyond language and cultural references, comfortability and trust come into play. These unspoken variables are being leveraged by your smart competitors, and your clients are comparing notes.
Today’s employees, especially millennials, are entrepreneurial, conscious and resourceful. To maintain relevance, you must offer them resources that enhance their professional development.
Diversity & Inclusion empowers everyone when done right. We learned that Employee Resource Groups are not for employees alone, but for the business. In fact, with all our clients, we replace ERG’s with BRG’s (Business Resource Groups), which more accurately communicates the goal. Effective D&I plans help spark product and service innovation, can improve sales, market share & profits and deepen relationships with Stakeholders and Policy Makers who care about inclusion. Employing a strategy that not only celebrates, but engages daily with employees of color, gender, cultural, religious, ability, and other differences, helps attract the best and the brightest to your organization and this results in increased revenue, social and community impact.