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The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion

Marilyn Tam Speaker

About Marilyn Tam

Marilyn Tam, Ph.D. is a Speaker, best selling Author, Consultant, Board Certified Executive/Corporate Coach, CEO of Marilyn Tam & Co. and Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation. She was formerly the CEO of Aveda Corp., President of Reebok Apparel and Retail Group, Vice President of Nike Inc. and also a successful entrepreneur who has built four companies.

The current protests and consequent disruptions we are experiencing are painful reminders that we are nowhere close to having meaningful and equitable diversity and inclusion in the business world. This disparity has caused deep seated resentment and underutilization of valuable resources at a pivotal time in the world.

Diversity and Inclusion have been discussed and nominally adopted by businesses and other organizations for years. The actual integration of minorities into the management and decision-making factors of organizations have severely lagged the organizational lip service. There are bright spots created by dedicated and visionary leaders who understand the power of using the full array of human resources to accomplish their goals; it’s wise, strategic and ethical.

Let’s look at some of the facts of why Diversity & Inclusion is good for business.

1. The US population as well as the world population is increasingly diverse and nonwhite.

2. A business will suffer increasing deficit of vital human capital if portions of the overall population are not hired and promoted to their full potential.

3. To miss the diversity market because of the business’s lack of understanding and support of diversity is to lose more potential business as time goes on.

4. The lack of diversity and inclusion in an organization’s workforce will hamper morale, recruitment and retention.

5. Customers increasingly are demanding that businesses they patronize be socially responsible and equitable.

6. It’s the right thing to do.

USA’s population is getting older, more diverse and reproducing at less than at a sustainable population rate. Meanwhile the majority of the world population growth in is coming from nonwhite countries.

The demographics of the world’s population is changing rapidly. Businesses need to strategize accordingly.

Currently there is a total of 25 minority CEOs in Fortune 500 companies according to Diversity Inc.; amounting to 5% of the CEOs as compared to 39.6% minority in the US population. In 2018, there was 16.1% of minority board members in Fortune 500 companies; 912 out of the total of 5670 board members. This number includes the most significant increase in minority board members between 2016 to 2018; progress is slow. Based on this trajectory, the time to achieve meaningful parity is very far off.

Businesses are losing out on vast segments of human resources who could provide the range of perspectives, wisdom and expertise to power optimal results.

Each minority group brings with them a point of view, knowledge and sensitivities that add insights, experience and tools to an organization’s issues, strategies and mission. According to International Labor Organization research report on 13,000 enterprises in 70 countries, when the organization is diverse, a number of positive results emerge:

  • Improved business performance and profit
  • Increased innovation, creativity and openness
  • Greater talent retention
  • Recruitment advantage
  • Boosts organization’s reputation
  • Enhanced clients, vendors and community relationships
  • Better environmental records
  • Being able to use all available talent
  • When everyone is able to fully contribute, the world will benefit from their perspectives and talents and peace will ensue

Conversely, when the organization is dominated overwhelmingly by one sector, say, heterosexual white males, the decisions and outcomes tend to be suboptimal due to a lack of comprehensive input. In addition to internal strategic considerations, it would result in an incomplete understanding of the customer base. Especially with people’s/customers’ growing awareness and demand for socially and environmentally responsible companies, the lack of diversity and inclusion in any organization is another negative.

What are the key points to ensure that your organization attains the diversification needed for success and ongoing flourishing? Below are the factors that that in my work and research have proven to be instrumental in creating a thriving, creative and productive workplace for everyone.

1. Commitment from the CEO and all top management to increase diversity and inclusion.

2. Measurable metrics — key performance indicators are discussed, adopted and tracked as part of regular performance reviews.

3. Evaluation and compensation of each person is linked to their progress in the metrics.

4. Mentorship programs for associates to promote communication, support and to broaden exposure.

5. Internal Diversity networks/associations to foster community, friendships and understanding.

6. Effective feedback system with actionable results so that issues, questions and suggestions are heard, acted upon and resolved.

7. Flexible work: hours, conditions & locations to accommodate personal restrictions — a great example is the current work from home policy which has proven to be as effective as being in the office, and in cases even more so.

8. Diversity integrated into the company culture — present and regard diversity and inclusion as enhancing the workplace, productivity & competitiveness.

Gallup Research’s 3 Pillars of Diversity and Inclusion, sets out how to establish a policy to ensure that diversity has a solid chance to survive and thrive as it is brought into an organization. The three points are useful for general management for all employees.

1. Employees are treated with respect.

• When everyone is treated and treat each other with civility and decency, employees to speak up and share new ideas.

2. Employees are valued for their strengths.

• Effective collaboration, productivity and profitability can help your organization create a culture of inclusion.

3. Leaders do what is right.

• Leaders create a safe environment so employees can express themselves about concerns with transparency and confidence. Trust that the leaders will do the right thing if discrimination concerns are raised.

  • Perceived bias in hiring, assigning work, evaluating compensation and making promotions can instantly erase an employee’s belief that the company is genuinely committed to diversity & inclusion. And that goes for all workers, whether in the minority or not.

We have an opportunity now to assess, plan and implement strategies and action steps that will empower and ensure that our organizations, the country and the world is fair, supportive and good for everyone. It is not only the right thing to do, it is what is needed for us all to survive and thrive into the future.

To Learn more about Dr. Tam contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]