Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘diversity executive’

5 Trends That Will Impact Diversity & Inclusion Work

Diversity & Inclusion

How are you proactively planning for the future of business?

Last week, I co-presented a webinar about the 2015 Diversity Leadership Retreat. I discussed “5 Trends That Will Impact Diversity & Inclusion Work.” A summation of my presentation follows.

Within the scope of diversity and inclusion work, it is important for organizations to proactively:

  • Understand Diversity & Inclusion from a Global Context
    There is a “Make in India” pitch, a “Made in China” campaign, a “Made in America” movement, and so many other promotions to persuade manufacturers and consumers to invest their monies. Beyond short term job creation and tax revenue benefits, these campaigns point to a long-term strategy for global dominance.

    Sustainable revenue growth is one of the drivers behind the need to do business better in international markets, as well as the impetus to appeal to diverse employees and consumers in distinct regions. Nevertheless, in these global markets, diversity issues will manifest in different forms. For example, in some places, religion, age and income are issues; in other places, the biggest diversity “problems” center around emigrants and women, or the LGBT and disabled communities.

    In Forbes, Glenn Llopis writes, “No longer can America’s corporations hide behind their lack of cultural intelligence.  Organizations that seek global market relevancy must embrace diversity – in how they think, act and innovate.  Diversity can no longer just be about making the numbers, but rather how an organization treats its people authentically down to the roots of its business model.   In today’s new workplace, diversity management is a time-sensitive business imperative.”

    Thus, instead of viewing diversity as a problem, the challenge lies in seeing opportunities that exist when embracing under-served and under-utilized markets.

  • Realize the Need to Offset Impending Labor & Economic Shortages with Women
    “A society where women can shine should not only be a PR exercise (for companies and the government) to demonstrate that they are utilizing female talent. The important thing is to change the rules of the game by incorporating the perspectives of women in corporate management and work style,” Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once said.

    “International organizations including the World Economic Forum and the International Monetary Fund have long called on Japan to make more use of its female workforce to offset the labor shortage brought on by its rapidly aging population and antiquated traditions — some 60 percent of Japanese women quit work after giving birth. One of the obstacles blocking working moms from climbing the ladder, let alone staying employed, is posed by Japan’s notoriously and often unnecessarily long working hours”, according to a July 2014 article, Female Workers May Finally Get Foothold, in Working Woman Report.

    Japan isn’t the only country facing a shortage of skilled workers. Nor are they the only nation to consider fully-engaging women in the labor market and economy.

    Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has issued a Global Gender Gap Index. According to The Global Gender Gap Report 2013, the authors propose that closing gender gaps is important not only from an equity perspective, but also from an economic one: Research shows that investments in women’s education and use of female talent boost a country’s competitiveness.

    Report authors cite the benefits of more women working: The talent pool across leadership positions is larger, women’s decision making tends to be less risky, and gender-equal teams may be more successful. Countries that have closed education gaps and have high levels of women’s economic participation—the Nordic countries, the United States, the Philippines, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia–are better prepared for global competition.

  • Hedge Competitive Pressures with Innovation
    The competitive landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. For one, customer preferences are shifting rapidly, placing a higher preference on personalization, interaction and mobile solutions.

    In the Marketing Society’s Forum on “Are We Keeping Pace with Changing Consumer Preferences?”, Louis Fowler, Marketing Director at First Direct, asserts, “We are prone to making the mistake of thinking we can predict what’s going to happen, rather than finding a way to respond quickly when things do. Technology not only enables, but also holds us back as it can be slow and expensive. The answer is in people, not systems.” People, in particular diverse employees, are key to anticipating and addressing changing customer preferences before the competition meets their needs.

    The second major component of competition involves the global context of modern day business. These competitive pressures are not just being felt on businesses. Educational institutions, nonprofits and government entities are concerned about competition as well. For example, Inc. Magazine recently ran an article entitled, “Pushing the Boundaries” by Greg Lindsay. The article highlighted the fact that Santiago, Chile offers entrepreneurs a one-year visa, free workspace and $33,000 in cash to relocate. Meanwhile Tallinn, Estonia, began offering e-residencies, which grants foreigners the same digital identities that are Estonians’ birthright.

  • Stay Abreast of Continuously Changing Demographics & Projections
    California recently scaled back its 2050 Hispanic population projection by 7 million. A Pew Research Center report states that “Under projections published in 2007, the state’s Hispanic population was expected to reach 31 million in 2050, or 52.1% of all Californians. But according to updated projections released late last year, Hispanics are now expected to number 23.7 million in 2050, or 47.6% of all Californians. That pushes the prospect of a Hispanic demographic majority further into the future – perhaps to sometime after 2060.”

    California is not alone. In May 2015, the Washington Post reported, “As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades.”  Recent Census reports show that data pertaining to older workers, women, veterans, LGBT, and other demographic groups are also moving targets because of global population changes and the complexity of diversity.

  • Utilize Multi-Dimensional Frameworks
    Speaking of complexity, the U.S. Census Bureau is presently grappling with how to describe current demographics pertaining to existing definitions of race and family, as the current definitions are not as clear-cut as they used to be half a century ago.

    Likewise, in the workplace, using a uni-dimensional framework with employee resource groups, supplier diversity, or recruiting, worked well at some point in the last decade. But employers are quickly learning that using singular dimensions such as race, ethnicity or gender are not sufficient anymore. For example, some companies have been exploring how to create Business Resource Groups that include White men. Additionally, simply having an Employee Resource Group for individuals with disabilities may not adequately serve a company’s growing base of caregivers. Hence, organizations must think beyond current diversity efforts toward the future of inclusion.

In our next webinar for the 2015 Diversity Leadership Retreat, l will discuss 7 areas where you could make more of an impact with diversity and inclusion. To register for this FREE webinar, click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4193645463497400833

Also, we need your feedback! Please participate in a brief survey on “Global Supplier Diversity Trends” at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DXYLK5B

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto www.societyfordiversity.org

 

How Data Can Change Traditional Approaches to Diversity & Inclusion

data2Lately, I have been fascinated with the ABC-TV hit, “How to Get Away with Murder”. Interestingly enough, I simultaneously read the Twitter comments while watching the show. Afterwards, I check Wikipedia to learn the ratings data (i.e., how many people watched the show) in the prior week.

What does this have to do with diversity and inclusion? Alot. Instead of simply stating that there are not enough television shows featuring diverse individuals, a stronger business case for diversity in television programming would center around Nielsen ratings and Twitter use—which USA Today also reports on a regular basis. One could also make the case based on the quantity and quality of advertisers.

Pertaining to the workplace, I recently read the October 2014 U.S. Department of Labor Unemployment Report, which stated that the unemployment rate for whites declined to 4.8 percent; while blacks were at 10.9 percent; Hispanics, 6.8 percent; and Asians, 5.0 percent. The question is, ‘with all of this so-called diversity and inclusion in the workplace, why is the unemployment rate so high for blacks?

In June 2014, Forbes ran article entitled, “White High School Drop-Outs Are As Likely To Land Jobs As Black College Students” by Susan Adams. The author asserts that there are “numerous theories to explain the employment gap between the races and a list of proposed solutions. Persistent racial discrimination in hiring is one obvious cause. The high incarceration rate among African-Americans is another reason, says the report, citing a 2014 Brookings study showing that there is nearly a 70% chance that an African-American male without a high school diploma will be in prison by his mid-30s; having a criminal record makes it much tougher to find a job.”

The federal government has its own theories. The Bureau of Labor Statistics contends that the unemployment rate for blacks has always been higher than whites. In other words, this is status quo—no need for alarm. Another government report states that blacks simply “look for the right job longer”. Yet the title of Susan Adams’ article is particularly troubling as it implies that even highly educated blacks are likely to be the last to find jobs—especially if folks are more willing to hire a white high school drop-out before they hire a black college student.

But other data suggests that the disparity is different depending on where one lives. For instance, the Midwest sees a much wider gap between black and white unemployment than other regions — especially the West. In some states (Vermont, South Dakota, Utah, etc.), the black population is so small that the comparison doesn’t shed much light. But in states with substantial black populations, there has been only one year in one state in which the unemployment rate for blacks was lower than that for whites: 2007 in Massachusetts. That year, the average unemployment rate for blacks in the state was 4.3 percent. For whites, it was 4.7.

What is interesting about 2007 in Massachusetts is that the crime rate, in large cities like Boston, dropped significantly. Property crime, for example, consistently occurred above the national average in prior years. But starting in 2008, it began to fall so dramatically that now it is consistently below the national average, according to City-Data.com. Additionally, the Boston Globe reported that “some 84.7 percent of students who entered Boston high schools in fall 2008 graduated in 2012, an increase of 4.8 percentage points from six years earlier.” Note that the graduation rate was higher than the U.S. Department of Education’s 2012 national average of 80%, an all-time high.

My point is that many people complain about high crime, the lack of education, and more, that plague inner cities in America. Yet, one of the best indicators as to whether things will be different is the monthly unemployment report. If unemployment, for example, is particularly disparate, it will likely be reflected in other areas of society. But instead of saying, “the unemployment rate for blacks is much higher than any other group”, the business case for ensuring equal employment opportunity lies in improving the quality of life, reducing crime, and creating an educational system that works for all individuals, as well as for their future employers. Not surprisingly, much of this data points to the notion of interdependence within the diversity and inclusion space where employers, educators and community leaders, as well as government officials must connect their efforts.

At the end of the day, whether you are in the U.S. or in another country, the proliferation of data should enable you to build a stronger business case—easily comparing data points, providing deeper insights, and establishing connections to business objectives. Hence, moving beyond merely stating how many diverse people work, or don’t work, with an organization, toward utilizing more meaningful data to effect change.

By Leah Smiley

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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.

 

A Lesson for Chief Diversity Officers: Unabridged Liberty or Tyranny?

By Leah Smiley

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Working in the Office of Diversity requires individuals to walk a fine line. On one hand, you can’t call everything racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, etc. Likewise, you can’t let some situations go unaddressed.

Last week, one of my neighbors had a Halloween party and the music was bumping all night. When my husband and I woke up in the morning, there was a straw man and a straw woman hanging on a tree– each with a rope around their necks. My first thought was, “What will my kids think?” Often, they learn things before I have a chance to tell them. For instance, my 5-year old recently learned how to call 911 at school. One day, I heard him say, “Hi 9-1-1.” I quickly grabbed the phone, only to hear it ringing. I instinctively hung up but the operator called me back and dispatched a police officer to my house. For that reason, I briefly thought about my kids learning about America’s sordid past in school and was immediately concerned that after seeing the straw men, they would become fearful that someone would hang them too.

My second thought was, “I am going to act like I didn’t see it. I’ll just be rude when I see them again because I don’t want a burning cross in my yard next.” But my conscience wouldn’t let me repress my feelings. The next thing I knew, I was on their doorstep. When the door opened, I asked, “Can I talk to you for a minute? Did we do anything to offend you? I came out here this morning and thought, ‘our neighbors must hate us’ and I just wanted to make sure that we don’t have any conflict between us.” I didn’t mention race or history; I addressed it from the perspective that neighbors should make an effort to have a cordial or friendly relationship. The neighbor explained that it was all out of fun, and it was harmless. We chatted for a minute and then I left. But when I came home that day, the straw men were gone.

At first, my husband did not want me to go to the neighbor’s house. But afterwards, he realized that the other Black family or the Indian family or any of the White families could have been offended too.

Now, some people can say, “It’s their home; they can do what they want.” And this is correct. But guess what, we all have “liberty” and one’s freedom under the law should not be used as an opportunity to make others feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Thomas Jefferson said it like this, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

Thomas Jefferson used the word “tyrant” because it implies that one who says, “I can do whatever I want” is one who can be cruel, oppressive, unrestrained, and even unprofessional to others. This type of behavior is inappropriate in the workplace, schools, and the community because it is archaic in a modern-day world that values technology, innovation and advancement. Relationship, through communication and understanding, gives people real freedom—not offending folks because you have the ‘liberty’ to do so.

President Obama was in a precarious situation as well. As the first (visibly) mixed race President, he was subject to a lot of cruel and unprofessional insults by his political colleagues, the news media, the American public, and even international leaders. While everything wasn’t racism, race was a factor in many situations. Although he did not respond to these attacks, believe me when I tell you, it bothered him. Yet, positioned as one of the most powerful men in the world, his inability to purposefully address the elephant in the room caused others to view him as a weak and incompetent leader. This empowered his critics to gain more momentum and confirmation that their attacks were spot on.

This is what makes a Diversity Officer’s work different from any other job in the organization. As I said earlier, the Office of Diversity has to walk a fine line—in addition to attaining measurable outcomes. If you address issues from a radical agenda (e.g., that’s racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, etc.), you may be regarded as a “troublemaker”, “whiner”, or “complainer”. That’s worse than getting branded as a ‘racist’. On the other hand, if you don’t address the issues, you may be considered “incompetent”, “unqualified” or “unnecessary”. At the same time, you will jeopardize inclusion, equity, engagement, and fairness for all. In fact, when we consider the diversity in America’s Capitol over the last few years, the elected officials couldn’t get anything done. Now that there is more homogeneity in political affiliation, it will be interesting to see if they will send a strong message about diversity and productivity.

Nevertheless, regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, it’s best to choose your battles wisely and address the negativity quickly from the perspective of relationship, professionalism, opportunity, excellence, and common purpose. Even if Congress restricts women, LGBT groups, different religions, various nationalities, and others, diversity is not the law of the land. It is a concept that is good for business; and therefore, it is not going away.

In the words of President Harry S. Truman, “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” Thus, how well an organization does through diversity and inclusion is up to the diversity officer and his/her relationships with others. Keep in mind, our work is a global phenomenon with a competitive advantage—ensuring that the most committed organizations leverage unlimited possibilities now, as well as in the future.

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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.

How to Diversify Your Workforce: Part II, The Steps to Success

By Leah Smiley, CDE

diversity_workforce

 

In Part I, I discussed the rationale behind diversity recruiting. Here, I will detail how you can take a series of calculated steps to increase the likelihood of diversifying your employee base. Some of these steps include:

1. Assessing Inclusion

It’s possible to have diversity without inclusion. Therefore, this term is not a substitute for diversity. Inclusion describes the way that an organization configures opportunity, interaction, communication and decision-making to utilize the potential of its diversity. Inclusion makes diversity work and leverages the resources that diverse individuals bring. In other words, diversity pertains to people, while inclusion concerns the organization.

You can use a variety of tools to assess whether your organization is inclusive such as conducting a cultural climate audit, organizing a diverse focus group to review corporate policies, and examining exit interview data. If reviewing exit interviews, go back 6-months to 1-year so that the data is current. Look for answers to two simple questions: why did the employee leave? Was the company inclusive enough for the individual to contribute 100% of his/her knowledge and skills?

Analyze inclusiveness before hiring more diverse workers. If the organization finds that it is not inclusive, take proactive actions (e.g., rewarding desired behaviors, training, mentoring, etc.) to ensure that anyone will feel comfortable “fitting in” and performing on the highest possible level.

2. Build Your Bench Strength

There’s probably a lot of diversity in your organization already. The key is to find out where your most successful diverse candidates come from. If you don’t know the answer to that question, ask supervisors.

The next question is, “who are your high-potential” workers? How can you develop their skills so that they are adequately challenged within your organization? What vehicle would work best to advance their careers? By developing your current workers, you will minimize the “threat” that is often associated with bringing in outsiders.

3. Evaluate Your Job Advertisements and Announcements

A few years ago, almost everyone wrote “diverse candidates are encouraged to apply” in their job announcements. The only problem is that it may have implied that “white guys need not apply” or it may have encouraged diverse candidates who were not qualified to apply simply because they saw two words that pertained to them “diverse candidates”. The same thing may inadvertently happen when an organization announces “recent college graduates are encouraged”. It may unintentionally exclude experienced candidates who recently retired and are willing to work for lower wages.

To make a point, I looked at several current job advertisements on Monster.com to provide real-life examples of what NOT to list on a job announcement if you want to diversify your workforce. These organizations said they were seeking candidates with:

  • a “stable work history” (this may exclude qualified men or women who took time off to be a caregiver)
  • the “ability to stand for extended periods of time” (this may exclude someone with a disability)
  • “Excellent English reading and writing skills and good verbal English communication skills” (this may exclude highly skilled immigrants who, although they speak well, may not be confident in their English language skills). Before some people object, the actual job description said “preferred” so English language proficiency was not required to do the job effectively.

4. Train hiring managers

Managers are typically very skilled in, and confident about, what they do. However, when it comes to hiring people who are different, these same managers may not feel as comfortable. Instead of being inactive or reactive, proactively aid these managers. Help them to identify discriminatory practices (such as screening a candidate out because of an accent or due to their nationality) and unconscious biases (such as thinking a black person is not supposed to be articulate or a man cannot be a caregiver). But also assist them in adjusting to this new age of recruiting (such as selling candidates on the company and adjusting to the greater comfort of the interviewee) and retention (such as onboarding and engaging workers).

5. Look for partners

If your organization uses a recruiting or executive search firm, check out their management team. If the firm has all female managers, raise a red flag—where are the men? If the firm has all white managers, raise a red flag—how can you help my organization to diversify if your firm is not diverse? If the firm has all older managers, raise a red flag—where are the Millennials and Generation Xers? Also, ask for references and check them out. Some firms have been pulling the old “bait-and-switch” in diversity recruiting trick. Their references will tell you if the firm promised a diverse candidate, but did not deliver.

If your organization uses internal recruiters, make sure the recruiting team is diverse. Here’s where you want to go beyond simply hiring one person of color, to getting individuals with different religions, sexual orientations, generations, etc., to assist with recruiting. One of the reasons why companies “can’t find” highly skilled diverse candidates is because some recruiters don’t know where to look. That’s why a team approach will help. If you don’t have the budget for a large recruiting team, utilize your diversity council. They can help you to develop a comprehensive list of sources where you can recruit potential candidates.

Diverse candidates may be found at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (such as Hampton, Howard, Spelman, Tuskegee); Hispanic Serving Institutions (such as Hodges University, Nova Southeastern University, Texas State University, City College of New York); nonprofit and professional associations (such as the National Black MBA Association, National Council of La Raza, National Association of Asian American Professionals, Hire Heroes USA); international job boards (OverseasJobs.com, LatPro.com); social networking sites (LinkedIn, Twitter); places of worship (for example, some large black churches will make an announcement during services); fraternities and sororities, see the list on the National Pan-Hellenic Council site (www.nphchq.org); employee referrals; and more!

6. Evaluate your efforts annually

As the saying goes, “What gets measured, gets done”. So…we’re not Affirmative Action Officers, therefore reports on the number of diverse new hires may not be the best gauge of success. You can report on the increase in diverse applicants or specific departments that have become more diverse, but you want to focus on what impact these diverse new hires have made on the organization (such as who received a promotion, how have sales surged, was there a new product developed, have retention rates increased, etc.). Providing this level of insight requires tracking the candidates and their achievements over time. This will also encourage the organization to remove barriers or hindrances to high performance for all employees.

Diversifying your workforce is not as simple as it sounds. Nevertheless, many organizations have been successful in this area. You can achieve success too if you are willing to make a commitment to the process, and seek other organic ways to build a strong pipeline of highly skilled candidates. Also, invite your traditional workers to join the journey!

I would love to hear from you. What else would you suggest?

 

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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.

Why Employees Hate Diversity Training

By Leah Smiley

A relatively new high school math teacher, by the name of “J.J.”, pulled out a $5 bill in his third period class. He taped the $5 onto the white board and told the students that “someone was going to get the money if they made the right choices and took the right actions.” Everyone in the class participated in the lessons, showed respect, and waited for J.J. to hand over the $5. Nothing happened. J.J. issued the same challenge to fourth, fifth, sixth, and finally, seventh period classes. In the seventh period, one student said, “I’m going to just walk up there and take that $5 off the board.” But he did not. Another student, who was hearing impaired, walked up to the front of the classroom, took the $5 bill and put it in his pocket. J.J. congratulated him and said, “In this life, you have to have the courage to go and get what you want.” That simple lesson proved far more powerful than telling the students what they needed to do.

My daughter was in that class. And after she spent 20 minutes telling me all of the ways that J.J. inspired and motivated them to excel and achieve, I too, came to the conclusion that J.J. was on to something. Isn’t it interesting that J.J. took a subject that some students have negative feelings about, and turned it into a “rock star”?

In the corporate, education, nonprofit and government sectors, folks around the world hate diversity training. I’m just going to put it on the table:  they hate it. Unequivocally. But let’s talk about why the mere mention of the word is detestable.

#1:  The trainer regurgitates information that participants already know.

OK, if you did the same training session for 3 years in a row, it is pretty safe to say, “they got it.” Alternatively, just because the facilitator is new to the field, doesn’t mean that the employees are new to the diversity training experience.

This is where advanced diversity education comes in handy. The field of diversity and inclusion is so immense that you can talk about a different topic each day for an entire year and still have more to educate people about. Every year, Indiana State University holds a diversity retreat for its faculty, staff and community members. A few weeks ago, I did a training session about their competitors’ diversity efforts,  as well as on diversity trends in higher education. It was a fascinating session for me, let alone very interesting for the participants because they contributed their observations, knowledge and backgrounds to the discussion.

#2: The trainer plays ‘games’ that are unrelated to work.

Years ago, I worked at a benefits consulting firm called CGI Consulting Group before it was purchased by Willis. I facilitated over 200 employee benefit meetings– giving workers the bad news: your benefits are changing, your costs are going up and you’re not getting a raise. My boss, who was the office comedian, taught me how to deliver the message so good that when I finished, employees said, “Thank you for such a good meeting!” At one company in Tennessee, things got ugly though. The employees were yelling, throwing things, and mad! It taught me one lesson– never to go back to Tennessee.  I’m joking. When I talked to my boss about it however, he told me, “Here’s where you went wrong. You made light out of a very serious situation. You need to be able to discern when to tell jokes and when not to.”

I share this story to say that in many workplaces, diversity and inclusion is a very serious matter. Certainly, there are exercises that can drive points home but the greater issue is that those exercises must be connected to business goals and training outcomes. This brings me to my third and final point.

#3. The trainer is working to change the minds of his/her participants.

The Houston Chronicle published an article called, “The Purpose of Internal Training for Employees” by Shelagh Dillon. In it, the author asserts that, “the purpose of internal training is to create a motivated, skilled and effective workforce through which organizational goals are achieved.” The problem with most diversity training is that the facilitator is trying to change the minds of participants about diversity and inclusion, and he/she is not trying to change their skills. I believe that if you change someone’s skills, you will change their mind. But the emphasis has to move away from an individual focus toward addressing the bigger picture: how can we, as a cohesive unit, create more opportunity by achieving the organization’s goals? How can we stop contending against one another and vie against a much bigger threat: our external competitors, new technology, and other revolutionary changes within our industry? How can we advance our work with cultural knowledge, skills, and strategies for engaging the best talent and the most customers/students/constituents?

At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that diversity training is necessary. After all, if you get sued, that’s going to be one of the first questions: have you had training recently? But if we are going to get more employees excited about diversity training, we must do things differently– like J.J.

I would love to hear your suggestions about how to create better diversity training experiences.

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Leah Smiley, CDE, 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. For specific strategies on how to change your diversity training outcomes, get CDE (Certified Diversity Executive ) or CDP (Certified Diversity Professional) credentials from the Institute for Diversity Certification.  Learn more at http://www.diversitycertification.org

What Every CEO Should Know About Diversity & Inclusion

By Leah Smiley

After 5 1/2 years and more than 400 members, the Society for Diversity is organizing an Executive Council on Diversity and Inclusion. This body of Fortune 1000 senior level leaders will meet quarterly starting in 2015, and provide strategic direction to the Society for Diversity regarding global business trends, demographic projections, benchmarking, best practices and international legislative issues.  The advisory group will be central to the Society for Diversity’s upcoming programs– ensuring relevance to real business concerns and identifying strategic opportunities for global engagement.

The Council will also be instrumental in helping us to reach more senior level leaders. Over the last few years, the Society for Diversity has come to understand that many of the problems in the diversity and inclusion field can be attributed to organizational leadership.  For example, the practice of assigning a woman or minority to the role of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) without any regard to their qualifications, experience, or credentials. When few results are achieved, the company comes to the conclusion that “diversity doesn’t work”.  Take for instance, the practice of letting D&I executives or diversity councils “figure it out”– a posture the company would never assume with finance, marketing, information technology, or even HR functions.

For these reasons and more, the Society for Diversity has identified three pillars of high performance in diversity and inclusion for CEO’s. These include:

 

1.  Think “usable”

When candidates for the Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) or Certified Diversity Professional (CDP) credential prepare a Candidate Project, the Institute for Diversity Certification advises them to submit a professional work that is usable, or needed, for their job– don’t create a Candidate Project simply for the sake of getting credentials.

Likewise, don’t create an office of diversity simply for the sake of having “diversity”. To avoid this, you’ll need to answer a few questions, such as: How will this position be useful in achieving the organization’s goals? What skills will be useful for a person in this position to get maximum results? How can diversity and inclusion interventions become  integrated with other business operations? How will different perspectives help us to become more innovative? How will our customers perceive diversity at our organization?  Think usable.

2.  Link Social Responsibility to your inclusion efforts

Corporate America’s response to the NFL has been swift and effective– sending a powerful message about bad decisions and unscrupulous behavior in professional sports. The response speaks volumes about the sponsors’ commitment to a growing market segment: women and their children. This demonstration of social responsibility impacts everyone because it makes a clear point: our sponsorship dollars will only support what our organization values.

Leaders must also act with boldness and decisiveness in diversity and inclusion as well.  Diversity and inclusion presents enormous opportunities to capitalize on change. Getting people to respond positively to D&I interventions is not about political correctness; it is about doing what is good for business. You can demonstrate inclusion through social responsibility in your selection of diverse vendors, your contributions to different non-profit organizations, and your support of equal education for all.

3.  Score more points with a solid strategy

Every once in a while, I like to play Scrabble online. This affords me an opportunity to compete against the best players in the world. I figured out how to win consistently. First, I need to seek bonus point opportunities (e.g., using all 7 letters). Then, I can not fall below 10 points per word. And finally, I can’t feel bad about crushing the competition. There’s always the potential that they will stage a last minute come-back and win the game.

In the same manner, we must have a strategy to win in this arena called “diversity and inclusion”. The strategy must be meticulous so that whoever assumes leadership can deploy the same tactics and get consistent results. At the end of the day, your organization’s ability to beat the competition is going to depend on your strategy for engaging diverse talent, your strategy for acquiring diverse consumers, and your strategy for diversifying your investors.

 

Practicing new habits require time to master. However, if you are committed to making diversity and inclusion a priority, and you don’t let past mistakes derail the future, you will find that the benefits of diversity and inclusion far outweigh the costs.

I would love to hear from you. What are some other pillars that you would suggest for CEO’s?

 

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

How Does Your Organization Respond to Trends: Proactive or Reactive?

By Leah Smiley

Analyzing diversity and inclusion trends should be a key component of your organization’s growth and development. Trends consider data, such as demographic projections, buying patterns, attendance rates, utilization reports, and other statistics in the past, present and future. As with all things in the diversity and inclusion space, it helps to understand trends better from a financial perspective.

Investopedia defines a trend as “the general direction of a market or of the price of an asset. Trends can vary in length from short, to intermediate, to long term. As a general strategy, it is best to trade with trends, meaning that if the general trend of the market is headed up, you should be very cautious about taking any positions that rely on the trend going in the opposite direction.”

Most of you know that the Society for Diversity defines diversity as an asset. An asset can be characterized as a resource that brings value to an organization. These “assets” can be your employees, students, constituents, citizens, senior executives, customers, board members, volunteers, grantmakers, shareholders, investors, or other forms of human capital. The assets just happen to have unique dimensions such as varying ages, races, genders, economic statuses, geographic locations, educational levels, backgrounds, employment histories, family statuses, interests, preferences, and other distinctions. Assets are not uni-dimensional (i.e., defined by race or gender alone); there are an infinite number of ways in which assets can be different.

Viewing diversity as an asset means that each individual is valuable– whether white, black, purple or green. The more assets that an organization attracts and retains, the greater its ability to grow, innovate, compete, and experience additional benefits.

Fortune ranked 14 tech companies from most diverse to least, assigning points based on how these companies ranked in five categories: overall gender diversity, overall ethnic diversity, gender diversity of the leadership team, ethnic diversity of the leadership team, and gender diversity among technical workers. Fortune found that the top 3 businesses were:  LinkedIn, Apple and eBay (in that order). It’s no surprise that:

  • Of the social networking companies, LinkedIn’s stock is trading around $230 per share (according to the New York Stock Exchange – NYSE at 9:00am today)
  • Apple is projected to be the first trillion dollar company (according to Forbes)
  • eBay is experiencing such phenomenal growth that when it acquired PayPal 12 years ago, PayPal only contributed to 8% of eBay’s revenue. Fast forward to 2014– now PayPal contributes to nearly 50% of eBay’s revenue, with an estimated $40 billion valuation (according to Bidness ETC)

The point that I’m making is that the ability to tap various market segments around the world is directly tied to a team’s strength in identifying, cultivating, and engaging more assets than your competitors. Keep in mind, that globalization makes all of this growth and development possible, and the effect of globalization locally is diversity. Therefore, diversity and inclusion is not a trend– it is a concept to help you do business better in accordance with the trends of increased competition, high-touch customer expectations, and continual product evolution.

From this perspective, you can look at diversity and inclusion as a vehicle to analyze your organization’s path and compare it to the overall direction of the market.  In keeping with that, there are several things that we should be aware of:

1.  Diversity must play a huge role in your global strategy for growth, innovation, cost savings, and talent management.

Bruce Levenson, managing partner of the Atlanta Hawks, was not wrong in his e-mails about diversity and its impact on season ticket sales. After all, he did increase revenue after those “inappropriate and offensive” messages. In my opinion, he went wrong when he viewed the potential for growth from a limited perspective. While it is true that the environment, music and activities must appeal to an audience broader than “black” folks, White people are not the only individuals who can purchase season tickets. This brings me to point #2.

2.  Stop relegating diversity to a discussion about “black and white”.

Smart organizations are finding ways to leverage different nationalities, generations, genders, sexual orientations, religions, economic statuses, geographic locations, and more, in their efforts to drive stronger business results.

To change the context of the conversation, use non-traditional examples of diversity. Not only is it less “inappropriate and offensive” but it may help to get the point across better.

3.  Diversity leadership requires an approach that is consistent with the times.

Currently, organizations around the globe believe that including women is a game changer.

For example, France has a gender quota requirement for its large corporate boards. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan recently unveiled a reshuffled cabinet that includes five women– an apparent nod toward his promises to revive Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, by more fully unleashing the potential of its huge pool of highly educated women. And according to CNN, the Center for American Progress and the Center for Economic and Policy Research recently released a report, which was partially funded by the Department of Labor, finding that if women worked at 1979 levels, the U.S. economy would have lost over $1.7 trillion in economic output in 2012. That amount – $1.7 trillion dollars – is roughly the GDP of Canada.

When you take advantage of the times, you can seize more opportunities. But before you leap, see point #4.

4.  Never forget that diversity is a fast moving target. If you are going to compete effectively in this arena, you must be proactive.

For an example of ‘reactive’, go back and read what happened in Ferguson, Missouri.

An example of a fast-moving target is the LGBT community. Look at what has happened over the last few years with public opinions, gay marriage, and equal taxation in the U.S. alone.

Here’s the issue with diversity: it is a slow-moving beast. It may seem like things happen quickly, but the breaking point or the break-through took a lot of time, and even more effort.

Proactive, by definition, means that a person, policy or action “creates or controls a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.”

Therefore, the question of the day is, how will your organization respond?

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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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