By Leah Smiley
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Twitter hoped to capitalize on its surging revenue growth by adding new measurements, engaging its users, and shuffling its executive team. Herein lies the opportunity for diversity and inclusion. First, we must continue to stay abreast of industry trends and changes in our organizational strategy. Second, we must become better skilled at helping our organizations to understand complex cultural data about different demographic groups that may include our customers, students, constituents, or potential employees. And third, we have to become more adept at engaging new executive leaders– prior to changes at the helm.
Last week was the Society for Diversity’s inaugural leadership conference themed “Planning for the Future”. While it was an adventure, it was certainly power-packed with great speakers and lots of information. Over the next year, we want to focus on creating diversity and inclusion systems that support each other. For instance, many of us operate in an independent environment. We may not be connected to others within our organizations; we may not be connected to diversity practitioners in our industries; and we may not be connected to other entities that have diversity efforts (e.g., k-12 schools with colleges, with employers, and with the community).
Not only will this be the theme of next year’s diversity conference in Charlotte, but it will also be the primary focus of our efforts leading up to the October 2015 event.
Looking ahead, there are three things that should concern diversity practitioners: (1) impending U.S. Presidential elections, where it has become en vogue to pit diverse groups vs. traditional groups against each other during campaigns; (2) political and economic instability in several countries overseas; and (3) the restructuring of many diversity and inclusion offices. These external and internal drivers will ultimately impact our work, our vision for inclusion, as well as our ability to obtain desirable outcomes.
Keep in mind, our work ought to manifest characteristics of traditional business functions, while at the same time, balancing change with reliability in results. While the strategy at different organizations will vary, the expectation for results ought to remain the same. I always tell diversity practitioners that their CEO may not ask for an annual report, but one should be prepared and delivered anyway. Because at some point, your CEO is going to talk to another CEO and find out that you were supposed to prepare an annual report. Then the question will arise, why haven’t you done it? What have you been doing? What impact have you had on the organization? And how do you rate in a cost-benefit analysis– does your cost outweigh your benefit?
Within the field of Diversity and Inclusion, there is a tendency to think that we are exempt from demonstrating measurable, quantitative impact. It’s almost an acknowledgement that we were selected for our positions based on factors other than our experience and abilities. Not only does this subtle ‘acknowledgement’ hurt D&I efforts at our organizations, but it also impedes the field as a whole.
As with Twitter, the future of doing business better is change. What’s next for diversity and inclusion is increased accountability and demonstrated excellence in leveraging these changes. It’s up to diversity and inclusion to seize the opportunities and help our organizations to navigate change from a position of cultural competence, financial strength, and competitive advantage. We also must ensure that we don’t neglect to continuously plan for the future.
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