Sometimes it seems as if everything is changing. Demographics and technology changes are impacting almost all aspects of our lives. Even the largest and most powerful companies and governments have to change to become or remain competitive. Leaders have to consistently look for innovative ways to improve profitability, attract customers, and increase sales. Creating and implementing a strategy to improve diversity is an effective way to recruit employees with a wide range of experiences, talents, perspectives and approaches to problem-solving skills.

One of the most important aspects of diversity and inclusion is the fact that we are not just talking about race. Military service, disabilities, religious beliefs, gender, educational backgrounds, marital status and sexual orientation are also important parts of the diversity equation. Companies like Google have decided to take a long-term holistic approach to diversity (USA Today, May 6, 2015). They are not only spending money, they are also partnering with colleges and universities, expanding recruitment locations, and continually looking for areas of resistance or bias.

A diversity program should part of the organizations Strategic Change Plan. The change plan requires communication and leadership that convinces all employees that diversity programs will strengthen the organization and make their company more competitive. In addition to recruitment efforts, organizations should also maintain their focus on retention. When diversity programs start to bear fruit, the management team needs to continually make adjustments by listening to employees who may fell alienated. Alienated employees may include those who feel excluded because diversity seem
to be directed toward specific demographic groups that they are not a part of.

In order for diversity programs to be successful, they must not be hidden away in the Human Resources department with little funding or management support. Leaders at all levels of the organization need to support diversity programs. They need to be present at diversity events and be willing and able to discuss the merits of diversity and debunk myths or rumors that will certainly occur. Bias (conscious and unconscious) needs to be examined and addressed. Managers should be measured and compensated, based in part on their contribution and support of diversity efforts.

Analytics should be used to ensure that diversity strategies are supporting the mission and vision of the organizations that undertake these efforts. Otherwise, many employees will view diversity efforts as “being politically correct” or “another corporate fad”. Using Analytics can also ensure that organizations are correcting real problems using predetermined measures of success.

Imagine a typical argument about any team sport. Who is the best of all time? I’ll let you pick the sport and you can choose your personal “best player of all time”. If your sport is basketball you might choose Michael Jordan. I will select a diverse mix of twelve all-time great centers, forwards, and guards. My team will include great offensive players, defenders, passers, and rebounders. I am certain my twelve players will beat your roster of twelve Michael Jordans!

In a world with changing demographics and increased competition, a good diversity program can be a game changer. Does your strategic plan support a robust diversity program? In next month’s New Synergist Insights I will continue to discuss diversity. The discussion will focus on some of the myths surrounding organizational diversity.