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10 Apr. 2012 | Comments (0)

If we are to expand the impact and sustainability of Diversity and Inclusion and demonstrate its value across the entire business, we must fully integrate D&I into our organizations.  To do this, we need to broaden our application of D&I to include more stakeholders in more functions, and embed D&I into daily decisions and standard processes in every function, at every level, and in every location.  D&I must be integrated into the daily functioning of our businesses. 

Too often, organizations focus D&I initiatives only in human resources to make the most of diversity among employees.  This is clearly a valuable and important focus of D&I work.  It is at the core of ensuring we have a relevant and inclusive mix of differences among our leadership and talent, and it is central to cultivating an inclusive work environment to catalyze engagement and results. 

But it does not make sense to restrict the value of D&I to human resources.  We need to make the most of the diverse mix of our employees, and there is also critical business value in understanding the diversity among our customers, investors, suppliers and other stakeholders. What is it costing your organization when you ignore these opportunities?

Contemporary D&I strategies and initiatives have the capacity to contribute to innovation, profit, global growth and other vital business results.  However, when we do not broadly apply these efforts, we constrain the potential of D&I.  To enable an enterprise’s ability to successfully deliver its value proposition means that we must comprehensively weave D&I into the fabric of our entire organization. 

How do you achieve this?  You might begin with a listening tour, engaging stakeholders across the value chain of your business to learn about their key priorities.  Meet with leaders in all branches of your organization chart.  Learn about the needs, priorities, objectives and expectations of investors, suppliers, operations, research and development, marketing, sales, customer service, and customers themselves.  Find out what is important not only to human resources, but also to those focused on information technology, corporate citizenship, finance, government relations, security, mergers and acquisitions, and other functions. 

Start by asking questions about why the function exists and what its primary function is.  Ask questions to determine whom the function serves.  Find out what the function’s guiding principles are.  Ask what their vision of success looks like.  Invite them to share their priority goals.  Listen with attention to how D&I might add value to their efforts by helping to address challenges and opportunities from ideation and design to marketing and sales and everything in between.

When you have built a clear understanding of the mission critical goals of each piece, and of the enterprise as a whole, you can then build a D&I strategy that enables each and every part of the organization, that integrates into the growth and profitability strategies of the organization, and that adds value for all stakeholders associated with it. 

Increasing numbers of organizations are making the most of diversity and inclusion in a variety of functions.  To generate differentiated product or service ideas, some research and development teams are employing the Medici Effect, bringing diverse people from a variety of domains and perspectives together to generate breakthrough innovations.  Some marketing teams are collaborating with D&I professionals to better understand diverse market segments and build relationships, customer experiences and a brand in unfamiliar markets.  To improve results with multicultural customers, some sales and customer support functions are progressively employing diversity skills and competencies.

Still, others are breaking new ground with administrative functions outside of human resources.  Consider the innovative work of Shari Slate, Cisco’s Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Strategist, who led a panel of Chief Information Officers and Chief Diversity Officers to explore the interplay between inclusion, collaboration and technology to discover new ways to propel business value.  Through this forum, Cisco and ITSMF strengthened the strategic relationship and dialogue between Chief Diversity Officers and Chief Information Officers.  This revealed reciprocally beneficial opportunities with value for technology, inclusion, and key organizational priorities as a whole.   In Profiles In Diversity Journal, Slate offers the following guidance to diversity leaders:

Invite your CIO to envision and articulate the impact that a highly inclusive environment could have on technology adoption and ROI. Ask the question: How can we align both inclusion and technology goals to enhance the way we collaborate across our workforce and with our customers globally, remotely, virtually, and cross-culturally?

Next, explore the role that technology plays in advancing inclusion. What tools and technologies are we employing now, or should we employ, to ensure that everyone feels welcome and able to fully participate, leverage diverse perspectives, and add value?

By reframing D&I as an enabler to all areas of a business, we can devise broader strategies to engage stakeholders in and beyond human resources to extend the value D&I can deliver.

View our complete listing of Diversity & Inclusion blogs.

  • About the Author: Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele is a senior fellow providing diversity & inclusion (D&I) expertise for The Conference Board. She serves as program director for both the Diversity & Inclusion Executives and…

    Full Bio | More from Rebekah Steele


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