New beginnings. New opportunities.
Today is Day 1 for me as president of Diversity Best Practices. It's also Day 18,479 of my life, Day 2,566 of officially being in the diversity field. And for each of us, it's a new day to address the challenges of life and work. And in our case, of making the world more inclusive in all its splendorous diversity.
And for Diversity Best Practices this marks an inflection point for us and our members. Diversity Best Practices will continue to do what it has been doing so well in providing members—and the field as a whole—with the best benchmarking data and the cataloguing, explanations, and descriptions of the best practices being implemented by leading edge companies and practitioners. It will continue doing this through members-only content on our website, exclusive Diversity & Inclusion Solutions white papers, and roundtables as well as through public web seminars, conferences, and books.
The inflection is this: that rather than peripherally and occasionally calling out sightings of future trends and new ways of thinking, thought leadership will become central to Diversity Best Practices' mission. In addition to rear-view mirror reflection on what is currently going on in the diversity and inclusion field, Diversity Best Practices and its members will also be significantly creating and shaping where the field will go next.
In this spirit, here are some of my opening thoughts on what need to be new tenets of next generation diversity...and what we need to let go of.
For many of us, diversity and inclusion has its own sacred place in our lives, with its own set of beliefs, foremost of which, that as our world gets more diverse, its implications must be addressed. This diversity and inclusion gospel is often evangelized by way of myriad gatherings, web seminars, roundtables, awards, books and magazines, and the message becomes self-reinforcing. The proclaimed gospel serves to reassure and inspire its adherents, and attract new followers. Yet, as we are all too aware, the work of diversity and inclusion has fallen short in corporations’ ability to be diverse and inclusive. Nonetheless, even with that realization, we have good news—there is a way through to a place of social and economic redemption and virtue.
The journey to redemption will require change, and all the questions and rumblings of doubt will circulate about the gospel truth. This moment of questioning is never easy; it’s frequently threatening. The instinct is to stamp out emergent heresy. And it is at this inflection point that beliefs either become anachronistic or find renewal.
In the debris of the early 21st Century economic cataclysm, the gospel surrounding diversity and inclusion is up for renewal. There are three D&I tenets that no longer hold up in 21st Century business and three new ones we must consider.
Old Tenet No. 1: Tolerance and sensitivity is the desired behavior. While I am not advocating for intolerance and insensitivity, focusing our efforts here is the same as thinking it’s enough to just teach our kids to say please and thank you and not say rude things aloud.
NEW Tenet No. 1: Inclusion requires cross-cultural competence. Inclusion is not an attitude; it’s a competence. Individuals and organizations may have the best intentions in the world when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace, but that’s not easily done without certain skills. We need to know how to perform the actual behaviors, techniques, and approaches to manage both the upsides and downsides of difference. In doing so, we’ll be better equipped to consider other people’s subjective ways of doing the same things while staying true to who we are and producing the desired business outcomes.
Old Tenet No. 2: Launching fabulous programs is a must. I love best-in-class programs, but I have yet to see one consistently lead to breakthrough results in that most basic metric: the advancement of targeted, underrepresented groups.
NEW Tenet No. 2: Diversity is a must for short- and long-term business strategy success. Only when executive leaders and managers are convinced that advancing diversity and inclusion in the workforce and the marketplace is essential for their success—as measured by meeting revenue, margin, and operational goals—will we see consistent and sustainable diversity breakthroughs.
Old Tenet No. 3: The HR business case is about getting the best people. I don’t deny that this is true, but it’s incomplete. Sure, we want to source the best talent from all available talent pools. But diverse backgrounds alone do not guarantee that greater creativity and innovation emanating from diverse perspectives will automatically happen. These perspectives must be mined, managed, and leveraged appropriately.
NEW Tenet No. 3: The HR business case is about getting talent that knows how to leverage its own and others’ diversity. This means that it’s not enough for employees to be diverse; they also need to know how to maximize their own differences for business impact. Further, it’s not enough for managers and executive leaders to be diversity sponsors; they must be able to apply D&I principles to their core functional and business responsibilities, such as R&D, marketing and sales. Finally, it’s not enough for diversity executives to be role models of how to live the diversity gospel. They must also be business practitioners who can collaborate on interdisciplinary actions with business leaders.
These updated tenets will require the same leadership energy from diversity leaders as is needed from any chief executive who, in order to be effective, has to believe in the organization he or she leads and who operates off a set of assumptions about how a company, its customers, its competition, and the marketplace work.
What old and new tenets would you add?
Se hace el camino al andar. We make our path as we walk it.
So on this Day 1 of the rest of our lives, together let's go out there and influence our organizations into becoming stronger, more profitable, and sustainable through the powerful inclusive leveraging of all of our diverse talent.