By Gilbert Rice,2014-07-04 08:23
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    Changing Mindsets Leads to an Inclusive Culture

    I view my role as an HR professional in encouraging and motivating senior management to promote diversity and inclusion in our company’s culture as a long-term investment that provides sustainability in

    a very competitive marketplace. Clearly articulating the business case for diversity and inclusion is the key in gaining buy-in from senior management as it highlights the business benefits of creating a culture that fosters a respectful, inclusive, knowledge-based environment where each employee has the opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to an organization’s success. The benefits are clear:

    ; Diversity and inclusion is profitable. Human capital and workforce relationships are the

    backbone of any organization’s success. The flow of information among colleagues, work teams,

    customers and vendors which emanates from a diversity of experience, skill, talent and

    perspective is key to establishing long-term relationships. Therefore, workplace diversity should

    be seen as an essential factor to being competitive in today’s business environment.

    ; Diversity and inclusion attracts talent. When organizations develop external partnerships with

    minority communities and suppliers/vendors, it leads to good will and a positive reputation.

    Employees who are proud of their organization’s contributions and connections to the community

    develop loyalty to their employer and are more likely to boast about their company to colleagues

    and friends. The result is lower turnover and a positive employer brand as an “employer of

    choice”, which attracts the best talent in the marketplace.

    ; Diversity and inclusion enhances innovation. Albert Einstein once suggested that solving new

    problems requires new thinking. Using this same concept, companies are discovering that the key

    to better ideas lies with teams composed of people from varied social and ethnic backgrounds.

    After presenting the business case for diversity benefits to my General Manager, we developed a diversity and inclusion initiative that incorporated the following key components: strategic planning, assessment, measurement, links to other initiatives, policy review, training and mentoring. We wanted to avoid the most common stumbling blocks in building our diversity program, like placing too much

    Changing Mindsets Leads to an Inclusive Culture

    emphasis on recruitment as the solution to attaining diversity and inclusion. While hiring more diverse employees may make it seem on the surface that the problem is solved, hiring to raise diversity numbers does not facilitate true inclusion.

    The first step we took in addressing diversity as a value-added initiative was forming a company Diversity and Inclusion Council in May 2009, which I serve on as Chair. A charter was developed detailing the Council’s mission, purpose, expectations, roles and responsibilities. The ten-member

    Council serves as an advisory board to help senior leadership understand the complexities and nuances associated with diversity success.

    The Council held a full-day retreat in November 2009 to focus on team building and strategic planning and invited two professional diversity experts to conduct workshops. The Council prepared and discussed 25 action plans in six focus areas: Leadership, Assessment/Continuous Improvement, Recruiting, Retention, Employee Engagement and Community Outreach. One of our presenters commented, “Having been a corporate diversity leader for many years I was very impressed to work with the Council, which appears to be a fully engaged, self-directed team. The focus areas presented were well developed, resulting in realistic goals and an actionable timetable for deployment. I predict that in 2010 the company will have evidence of a well-managed diversity program coupled with sustainable progress as a result of the Council’s leadership”.

     Since it is crucial to take the time to locate and address the specific needs of your organization in order to set up an effective and successful diversity initiative, two of the action plans were implemented immediately by contracting with a diversity expert to assist the Council in understanding the current state of our organization’s culture and attitudes toward diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Six employee focus groups were conducted in February and March 2010, designed to solicit employee feedback on the cultural strengths our organization has to build on and the possible cultural barriers affecting higher team performance. The facilitator also probed for employee attitudes toward the value of diversity and

    Changing Mindsets Leads to an Inclusive Culture

    inclusion within the organization. We used information from these sessions to identify issues, educate senior management on our findings and fine tune other action plans.

    The effectiveness of the Council is a visible sign to our employees that senior leadership is sincere about its commitment to diversity success. The following activities have been undertaken as a result of this commitment as well as the Council’s focus on serving as management’s eyes and ears to help our

    organization’s diverse stakeholders experience the value of inclusion:

    ; Diversity and Inclusion Website The Council created a robust company diversity website that

    provides details about our diversity initiative; educational resources; Council information; and

    upcoming community outreach activities. It is accessible to the public and job applicants because

    studies show companies with diversity websites increase the probability of attracting and

    retaining minority employees.

    ; HBCU/MI Summit This event, held in 2009 and 2010, is sponsored by the Council in support

    of our commitment to build long-standing partnerships with HBCU/MI engineering programs.

    Research shows that corporate/academic partnerships increase graduation rates and enhance

    corporate recruiting efforts at participating HBCUs/MIs. We believe that cultivating partnerships

    with HBCUs/MIs extends our visibility to a diverse population and encourages minorities to

    pursue education and careers in engineering, science and technology fields.

    ; Job Shadowing The Council most recently sponsored a program geared toward female and

    minority college freshmen and sophomores to allow these students to explore their career

    interests in a realistic job setting. One student commented, “It was a wonderful experience that

    taught me valuable intangibles that will aid me in my professional career. This is an amazing

    company that any professional of any background would desire to work for after completing this


    Changing Mindsets Leads to an Inclusive Culture

; Diversity Newsletter Column/GM Blog Senior management and the Council use these

    information forums to describe ways that the diversity process is helping us realize organizational goals. We also emphasize the fact that all organizational stakeholders must play a role in our organization’s journey to diversity and inclusion success.

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