by Marie Y. Phillipe, PhD
Chief Diversity Officer, Corporate Vice President
The Lifetime Healthcare Companies
Many diversity leaders are so focused on developing and sustaining the moving parts of a diversity and inclusion initiative that they lose sight of the important role they must play alongside public relations executives in building diversity power in the corporate image.
The business case for diversity is well understood by most executives in corporate America. The choice to specifically maximize diversity and inclusion practices to advance business results depends on each company. However, when a company chooses—consciously or unconsciously—to refrain from integrating D&I as a priority in their operations, they underestimate the power diversity brings into building a strong corporate image.
Here is food for thought when assessing the value-add of diversity in one’s corporate image.
[sws_pullquote_right]“A public commitment to diversity helps position the organization as a desirable place to work.” [/sws_pullquote_right]
If we can agree on the simple definition that a corporate image is the mental picture that emerges in someone’s mind when the name of an organization is mentioned, then we can also agree that this mental picture is associated with the psychological impression and emotions created by what the media, employees and other credible sources say about that organization.
A public commitment to diversity helps position the organization as a desirable place to work. This increases the organization’s ability to attract and retain a superior caliber of employees from diverse groups.
What about the risk for long lasting memories of discriminatory practices? Even when the financial costs of lengthy court battles may not be a severe drain on the organization, or when employee or supplier complaints do not reach the legal system, the stain on a company through word of mouth or published record could haunt it for years. The poor image may, in itself, prevent mergers or friendly acquisition deals, or create some unfavorable business outcome that a clean corporate image could have avoided.
Can an organization build and sustain brand integrity and profitable growth without paying attention to the diversity component of its corporate image? In this 21st century, in this age of instantaneous news across the globe, it is doubtful. More than ever consumers are cognizant of firms endorsing child labor in foreign countries, of preserving homogenous board rooms, or of blatantly violating human and social rights. Brand loyalty is the direct result of favorable psychological and emotional impressions that the corporate image evokes. Without a positive corporate image, why would anyone pay a premium for essentially different packaging?
It is absolutely critical to maintain an internal focus on creating a diverse and inclusive environment, but there should be strong credit given to the power that diversity and inclusion bring to the corporate image. Once this asset is fully valued and recognized by an organization, the executives focused externally will integrate the positive contribution of diversity, whether in building goodwill or reporting higher stock prices.
Marie Y. Philippe, PhD, is well known for her leadership contribution in corporate culture transformation through strategic diversity initiatives and organizational change management. She can be reached at [email protected]
SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition | Oct. 24-26 2011
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