Creating Inclusion Strategies

While we may not be completely aware of the impact, SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women, or Veteran Business Enterprise) business owners are often the beneficiaries of the supplier diversity inclusion initiatives taken by large organizations. I found my favorite definition of D&I on the Royal Bank of Canada’s web site: “In simple terms, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.”

We’ve been talking about The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan for about a year now and have reached chapter nine. Here the authors talk about the need for a strategy to “create true and sustainable change” rather than planning individual events. In fact, they indicate the limited events can “… actually work to undermine inclusion” because “If these one-off diversity events are not connected to a larger strategy and to bigger efforts … the D&I (diversity and inclusion) effort may be seen in a cynical light.” An organization’s stakeholders – both internal and external – need to see the commitment to D&I as a central tenet of its business model.

Kaplan and Donovan suggest that a change strategy must include human, process and structural components. Chapter 9 can be used by businesses as a guideline to research, develop, implement and measure strategies to effectively establish on-going diversity and inclusion programs.

From our decidely information technology background, we see phase one research as an assessment of the current state of D&I which requires a comprehensive review of existing: human capital resources; organizational, environmental (technology and tools) and process documentation; a current state risk analysis, and; a future state definition in order to draft a set of supporting conclusions and recommendations.  Gathering the information and involving key exectuives will help the organization create a strong business case and strategy in phase two.

The authors discuss how a good strategy requires strong data (gathered in phase one), a “solid business rationale connected to profitability … and a realistic implementation plan.”  They suggest that the best tool is a diversity council empowered to create the strategy.  This can’t be a council of members who simply meet to discuss ideas.  A council of this type should be owned at the C-level of executive management and be comprised of leaders who have actual and broad descision-making authority. As such, this council should identify the most critical D&I challenges and be able to create strategies to deal with them, both short- and long-term. Speaking of long term, this council should likely become a permanent part of the organization.  The membership may change periodically, but D&I is really about a commitment to continuous improvements.  In some ways, this council should look like a Project Management Office with responsibility for change management and communications management.  Kaplan and Donovan discuss best practices for Diversity Councils in this chapter.  They also talk about D&I departments, HR D&I task forces and multi-cultural marketing.

Finally, the authors cover “making it stick”.  Again, in our world, that means measurement.  You can’t show progress without a beginning frame of references and key metrics that are collected and reviewed periodically.  The metrics should not be just about numbers, be should evaluate quality of perceptions by key audiences and stakeholders.  They say “Like everything else you do as leaders, successful change always comes down to commitment, authenticity, engagement and persistence.”  Go forth and apply their knowledge to increase diversity and inclusion in your organization.