Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

By Leah Smiley, CDE

The Institute for Diversity Certification gets a lot of phone calls from small businesses around the country who want to get “certified” so that they can acquire contracts with larger companies. Many of these small enterprises are minority-owned, but some are not. Yesterday, I fielded such a call.

The caller inquired about getting certified so that he could check the box and obtain a contract with a large retail store. I immediately knew that he called the wrong place. But I thought to myself “check the box? Oh no, now suppliers are asked to have a check box mentality about diversity.”

“Checking a box” indicates that you don’t have to worry about something any more because the item is complete. Training: check. Recruit 3 women: check. Attend a supplier diversity fair: check. When we check boxes, however, genuine relationships, measurement and evaluation become difficult.

H. James Harrington, author and business leader, once said, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement.” Pertaining to this supplier diversity program, what can be evaluated with a single check box? This is why so many small businesses call me– they are confused by the check box.

On yesterday’s call, because the company was non-minority-owned, I advised him to pursue partnerships with diverse suppliers. But how can that be measured with a single “check box?” The application does not assess: how many suppliers are partnering with diverse enterprises? Who utilized assistance from the procurement office, and what type of help was provided? How many jobs will be created from a contract with our company?

Indicating the quantity of diverse suppliers provides context. But in order to demonstrate value, supplier diversity programs must also indicate impact. Measuring impact requires thought and time though. For many organizations, it’s way easier to simply check a box and indicate that this task is complete.

 

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for Diversity and Inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto http://www.societyfordiversity.org.

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