By Angela Roseboro
Throughout my career as a diversity practitioner, I have had the opportunity to support organizations that understood and leveraged diversity, as well as companies that were in the beginning of their diversity journey.
Over the years, I have noticed some common patterns that have the potential to impact the longevity and success of an organization’s diversity imitative.
“The Right Thing to Do” Diversity Initiative
I don’t think anyone will argue that diversity isn’t the right thing to do. although it is an honorable reason for a diversity initiative, a social strategy may not be sustainable in the long term. In an era where innovation, global markets, and con- sumer loyalty are drivers to business growth, a comprehen- sive diversity strategy can prove to be the ‘X’ factor that dis- tinguishes good companies from great ones. Organizations that approach diversity as more of a ‘feel good’ initiative will not only miss out on true business opportunities but, during recessionary times, also find that diversity initiatives are at risk of being cut back or cut out altogether. as one executive point- ed out very recently, “Diversity is important, but it’s just not a priority right now.”
Diversity Efforts Are Not Aligned to Business Objectives
Positioning diversity as a key business objective is vital to a successful diversity initiative. The first document I ask to see when developing a strategy is the company’s strategic priorities. Knowing the goals and objectives of the organization enables me to understand how diversity might impact (directly or indi- rectly) business performance. Organizations are often motivated by the bottom line; if diversity is perceived as not adding any business value, it will be difficult to gain support, commitment, and momentum throughout the organization.
Diversity Is Not Implemented as a Change Management Strategy
When creating or redefining a diversity initiative, it is im- portant to keep in mind that a successful implementation will require both organizational and individual change. Two things I know for sure about change—it is never easy and there is a natu- ral resistance against it. In some aspects, creating the diversity strategy is the least difficult phase; getting a company to adopt and embrace it proves to be the most difficult. Companies that implement diversity as a short-term program may have some quick success, but these results will not be sustainable over the long term.
Lack of Accountability Systems
a primary derailer of a diversity initiative is lack of accountability. Each layer of the organization must not only have diversity goals, they must also be accountable for the results. Diversity goals that are tied to both reward and performance systems are key to operationalizing diversity principles throughout the organization, ensuring that diversity becomes an expectation rather than option.
Middle Managers Are Not Engaged Early in the Process
Middle managers are the soldiers of the organization, responsible for executing the organization’s strategic priorities. additionally, for most employees, managers are the ‘face’ of the organization, and often influence how employees feel about the company. If managers don’t fully understand the business case for diversity, and don’t feel accountable on an individual and/or organizational level, the diversity strategy will not be adopted by the businesses/functions, no matter how sound it may be.
Human Resources Is Not Active in the Implementation
In most organizations, the Office of Diversity reports in to the Human resource function. We automatically presume that diversity and human resources is a natural fit; yet that is not always the case. Hr owns most of the people processes and accountability systems, while the Office of Diversity wants to ensure the policies are inclusive, and to integrate diversity prin- ciples into those accountability systems. In order for a diversity initiative to be fully successful, not only must there be a strong collaboration between the Office of Diversity and Human resources to achieve the organization’s diversity objectives, but Hr leadership must also be an active and strong champion of diversity efforts.
As a CDO, my primary goal is always to ensure that my organization is in the best position to capitalize on the benefits of diversity and inclusion. recognizing the potential warn- ing signs allows me to address barriers and create an approach that not only overcomes the obstacles, but also accelerates our progress.