By: Stanley J. Sherman, Principal Consultant and Coach , The Propel Consulting Group
The global response to recent acts of racial injustice has affected
businesses directly and indirectly. In the wake of this national reckoning, people
are primed for the next level of discourse around diversity and inclusion – one
aimed at actual solutions.
Companies today realize that championing diversity,
equity, and inclusion is essential to long-term growth. They cite the following
pillars of a business case:
financial performance: Research undertaken by McKinsey (2012) found that
companies with diverse top teams exceeded others by 56% in operating
results and achieved 53% higher returns on equity.
and retaining talent: Current employees and job seekers are raising the
bar, asking what companies are doing to promote diversity and
the marketplace and building reputation: Studies have shown that greater
diversity equates to higher levels of corporate social responsibility.
innovation and performance: Research by Scott E. Page has shown that
business innovation depends less on IQ and more on diverse people working
have invested time and resources in diversity and inclusion programs, yet
challenges persist. Common mistakes include assuming the root cause of a
D&I gap is strictly related to D&I; going for easy fixes over a
comprehensive approach; promising something impossible; aiming for
best-in-class prematurely; and focusing on representation rather than the
talent pipeline, a report by management consultant Korn Ferry suggests.
Propel Consulting Group recognizes that the subject of diversity is nuanced.
Every company has distinct challenges and needs. We offer this resource for
organizations as they develop their D&I programs.
We are seeing great work being done in D&I and have
identified some actionable steps to bolster these efforts. We believe D&I
programs are most effective when new behaviors and organizational practices are
ingrained in the corporate culture and “baked-in” to everyday business
Whether starting or growing a
D&I program, sufficient collection and analysis of data are key to developing
a baseline. For example, recruitment data and employee satisfaction
surveys provide insights that can be used to help identify gaps and ensure that
employers avoid unconscious bias.
We advocate for a fully integrated learning experience in
which D&I coexists with all development and training activities. A recent presentation
by Independence Blue Cross, a civic and community leader recognized for its
expertise in D&I, states, “Diversity and Inclusion is not an initiative
separate from human resources and learning and development –it is ingrained in
the fabric of those entities.”
The unique nature of the learner’s experience should be considered.
While content is important, people are even more important. “Learners need an
inclusive space to feel supported, explore new ideas, and grapple with complex
issues,” according to Independence Blue Cross.
Formalize Internal and External Strategies
A diversity pledge is one tool that can help organizations signal their
commitment. Some examples include:
- Uniqueness is powerful. Be
yourself. We like it that way. Diversity fuels the Un-carrier spirit.
- Our commitment to inclusion across
race, gender, age, religion, identity, and experience drives us forward every
- We are inclusive. We celebrate multiple approaches and
points of view. We believe diversity drives innovation, so we’re building a
culture where difference is valued.
- We take a holistic approach. We’re always growing our
network of people, programs, and tools all designed to help employees grow and
manage their careers. We foster both a top-down and grassroots approach. This
gives us the freedom to address the broadest set of initiatives.
- We focus
on corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion; health equity; economic equity;
and leadership in social justice.
Here are some other things companies are doing to support a
dynamic and diverse workplace culture:
- Make learning resources – books, movies, podcasts, articles,
trainings – available to employees through an online D&I Resource Center.
- Establish employee resource groups to foster a sense of belonging.
- Organize Reverse Mentoring and Mentor Matching programs.
- Pilot lunch-and-learn sessions that offer education and a safe space
to discuss D&I topics.
It is important to note that these are not quick fixes. The
best measures are those that are implemented with intention, reinforce key
learnings, and honor the contributions of everyone involved.
Foster High-Performing Teams
Teams that are high performing are also diverse, inclusive,
safe, and courageous. Without a real, ongoing concentration in D&I, there is a risk
that teams might not operate at the level near their highest potential.
We also believe that people need to have some skin in the game to
make them hungry for change. We believe there are a few factors that motivate
someone to change, especially when an individual might not see the need to. Such
change can be subtle yet spark a ripple effect.
Perhaps it’s a new experience that takes someone outside of his or
her comfort zone. Travel or another transformational experience is one example,
rather than the occurrences that hit us over the head, like a tragedy or health
Encouraging employees to give D&I-related feedback and
assessing their performance on D&I measures can also be effective.
We want to develop motivation to ensure that people have the skills,
commitment, and conviction to create a safe, equitable, and transformed
The Propel D&I
Sun Tzu, in The
Art of War, writes, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to
victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Achieving a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization
requires a strategic approach marked by new styles of leadership, engagement,
and planning. There is no way to shortcut this process. It is a developmental progression that requires a commitment to systemic
change over a sustained period.
When people feel that they are being
treated fairly, that they have a voice, and that their uniqueness is valued and
they have a sense of belonging, then they will feel included. Leaders who are highly inclusive,
heart-based, emotionally intelligent, and courageous are best equipped to empower
people and harness the power of diverse perspectives.
In the words of executive leadership
coach and author Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
In most academic and professional courses, the exposure to diversity and
inclusion programming is minimal to nonexistent. Leaders are now being
challenged to educate themselves on D&I and share these learnings within
A commitment to a diverse and
inclusive organization is a long process. No one has all the answers and change
won’t happen overnight. It is crucial to approach diversity and inclusion with
humility, vulnerability, and authenticity. Missteps along the way are inevitable,
and part of the process of getting it right.
During the Discovery Stage we will begin to assess the
current state of your organization. This stage includes an audit of current
D&I programming and interviews with leaders, teams, and associates. We genuinely
want to understand where the organization is today and where it wants to be in
the future. This step will ensure that we are moving in the direction of
creating the change at the highest place possible.
Stage 2- Insight:
During the Insight Stage and based on the information collected in
Stage 1- Discovery, our team of organizational experts, D&I trainers, and
facilitators will begin to create an Action Plan that is balanced, effective,
and aligned with the organization’s goals and commitment. Understanding that this is not an overnight process,
we will balance depth of design with recognizable value to catalyze sustainable
change. In addition, we strive to amplify all voices and include a range
of viewpoints to drive innovation and problem-solving. These insights, along
with our Action Plan, are then presented to the leadership team for review.
Stage 3- Action:
The path to inclusion is a chain reaction and we believe
that everything big starts small. Building
a solid business case for the need to change is essential at this stage to
create buy-in and a hunger for learning.
Examples of Action Steps could include:
- Creation of a diversity pledge, if one does not
exist, to ensure everyone on the team is aligned around a common vision.
- Administration of our Group Development
Questionnaire (GDQ), a unique team analysis tool that helps measure the level
of current team engagement and performance.
- Administration of a D&I appraisal to help participants
uncover potential gaps or blind spots.
- Development of a specialized series of
micro-learnings to facilitate the transition from the current state to the
desired future state. Possible training topics include:
- How to have the D&I conversation – Do’s and Don’ts
- Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and how it impacts D&I
- Key Behaviors of Inclusive Leadership
Our experience is that change takes time, persistence, and
dedication. All of us at The Propel Consulting Group understand that this is a
process and not an event. We have participated in hundreds of events over the
years and have witnessed what is possible on many levels. Our entire team is
committed to helping individuals and organizations transform at the appropriate
pace for their unique situation. There’s not one big finish line, there are
many, and each one is important to long-term victory.
For more information on our D&I Program or other
Leadership and Team programs please contact us at
or call direct at 610-766-1209
Beilock, Sian. “How Diverse Teams Produce Better Outcomes.”
Forbes, 4 Apr. 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/sianbeilock/2019/04/04/how-diversity-leads-to-better-outcomes/#5ea77d465ced
Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.
Goldsmith, Marshall. What Got You Here Won’t Get You
There. Hachette Books, 2007.
The Korn Ferry Institute. (2020). Five Classic (And
Overlooked) D&I Mistakes: What D&I Diagnostics Have Taught Us. [White
Miller, F.A. & Katz, J.H. (1995). The Path from
Exclusive Club to Inclusive Organization: A Developmental Process [White
paper]. The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group.
The Diversity Pledges came from Genentech, T-Mobil and IBX