By Karen Gildea, Managing Partner, Amick Brown
We live, play and work in an immensely diverse world. To classify ourselves, we align with others of the same representative group. We categorize ourselves into numerous different groups based on race, gender, age, religion, culture, ethnic background, etc. The list of identity groupings can be endless.
The traditional view of diversity in the corporate world has had a focus on preventing discrimination of specific minority groups – preventing exclusion. We are experiencing a shift now….from preventing exclusion to embracing inclusion. We are moving away from regarding diversity only as a compliance requirement, to recognizing the value of and benefiting from the various perspectives of different identify groups as a business strategy.
The new view of diversity as defined by the Society for Human Resource Management encompasses “the qualities, life experiences, personalities, education, skills, competencies and collaboration of the many different types of people who are necessary to propel an organization to success.”
Some of the benefits associated with a focus on diversity and inclusion include:
- Diverse teams that include individuals of different ages and with different backgrounds and perspectives can be more creative and innovative because the contribution and influence is more varied and therefore rich.
- Employers want the best and brightest to join their organization. You don’t know what identity group your best match might be associated with. A company with strong diversity and inclusion goals and a diverse workforce will be attractive to high potential candidates regardless of their identity group.
- As with employees, customers will be associated with many identity groups as well. A diverse and inclusive workforce as well as a brand that represents a company’s diversity position will be helpful in attracting those customers.
- While affirmative action programs still exist to counter-balance historic discrimination, fostering a diverse workforce, and working with diversity supplies will satisfy compliance requirements – not doing so might result in missed opportunities.
At a high level, developing a business strategy to support diversity and inclusion can be approached in a similar fashion as other business strategies.
- Must have Executive commitment;
- Create a responsible party/organization to champion the effort and shepherd its development and progress;
- Perform an assessment of the current state that includes not only the demographics of the organization but also the perspectives of the employees regarding the company’s diversity;
- Evaluate the results of the assessment and determine path forward that might include hiring goals encompassing all of the dimensions of diversity, diversity supplier purchasing goals and organization leadership goals to name just a few;
- Facilitate organizational, process and any system changes required to support the strategy and goals;
- Communicate and provide training to all in the organization. Ensure the message is shared by the executive leadership to demonstrate its commitment to diversity;
- Monitor, measure and evaluate – adjust as needed over time.
Consider diversity in terms of the benefits it can bring to an organization. Companies that expand their hiring practices to include individuals from varying backgrounds and those just entering the workforce in addition to those that are seasoned with experience will be rewarded with a rich and diverse workforce. The brand will benefit as well, and at a minimum, the daily work life will be enriched by the many cultures, generations and viewpoints offered by a diverse group of individuals.
As a core belief in how we approach our business, Amick Brown works hard every day to promote the internal and client-facing benefits of diversity.