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:
- Improving 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.
- Attracting and retaining talent: Current employees and job seekers are raising the bar, asking what companies are doing to promote diversity and inclusion.
- Reflecting the marketplace and building reputation: Studies have shown that greater diversity equates to higher levels of corporate social responsibility.
- Increasing innovation and performance: Research by Scott E. Page has shown that business innovation depends less on IQ and more on diverse people working together.
Companies 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.
The 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 operations.
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 day.
- 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 warning.
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 workplace.
The Propel D&I Program
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 organizations.
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
- Unconscious Bias
- Deep Listening
- Key Behaviors of Inclusive Leadership
- The Diversity Wheel
- And more
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
firstname.lastname@example.org 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 paper]. https://infokf.kornferry.com/rs/494-VUC-482/images/5%20Classic%20DandI%20Mistakes_Portrait%20singlepages.pdf
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