The topic of Diversity & Inclusion has never been more important, as many large multinational corporations face mounting public backlash over homogenous employee ranks. To help companies address this critical workforce issue, the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has launched the Chief Diversity Officer Board, a place where top executives from some of the world's most forward-thinking companies come together to explore the future of D&I and its evolving role in an increasingly multicultural, multi-generational, and regulated environment.
To inspire the most cutting-edge discussions, i4cp is proud to welcome Joe Santana as the Chief Diversity Officer Board facilitator and Chair.
Prior to working in diversity consulting, Mr. Santana was the first diversity officer for Siemens in the United States. Tasked with creating the architecture for how the diversity initiative was to operate, he successfully designed and implemented a business-aligned approach that widened the talent pool, increased employee engagement, and supported increases in productivity and market share. Mr. Santana is also a well known thought-leadership author who regularly contributes to Diversity Executive magazine.
In a recent conversation with i4cp, Mr. Santana outlined the current state of Diversity & Inclusion, and offered his vision of the future.
From time to time when I go to events and do presentations in the U.S. and abroad, representatives from companies--that seem fairly advanced in the area of D&I--raise their hands and ask, "How can we better retain and engage the diverse people that we've hired into our organization?"
The state of D&I progress
While this question certainly communicates a desire to continue making progress, it's also a reminder that a lot of work remains to fully include and engage formerly underrepresented groups.
Not only is inclusion needed for the engagement and retention of diverse people, it's also needed to reap the business benefits of having that diversity, beyond meeting any local compliance regulations.
Inclusion is required for diverse organizations
Take, for example, the potential creative benefits that exist in a diverse team. If there are twenty diverse people in the room, but most of their voices are shut out by a dominant point of view held by the leader, for all practical purposes, there is no diversity of thought.
In order to reap the benefits of diversity, all voices need to be authentic and heard.
As a field, D&I is essentially always moving under our feet. The solutions being created need to take into account the fact that more and more is being put into the mix, while much of the legacy work remains in a state of progress.
D&I is not static
No one can say, "Well, we've conquered the gender issue, so now we can check that box and move on to the next thing." Organizations must continue driving legacy topics while taking on new challenges.
D&I initiatives that support the development of inclusive cultures at a global scale will continue to grow in importance as we become even more interconnected and face new challenges. Company cultures that exist today are mostly rooted in the values and beliefs common to parts of the world where the founders first lived and interacted with their employees, clients, and suppliers.
Global culture has to be on the radar
Today, most organizations operate globally. As any multinational employee knows, exporting the founder's national culture to fifteen different countries simply does not work. D&I leaders, therefore, need to ask themselves: "How do we support the creation of globally inclusive cultural environments?"
Another way of putting this is, "How do we support the company's evolution from a multinational, with one regionally dominant culture, toward a truly borderless, globally united enterprise?" And this international culture needs to be addressed while increasing domestic inclusion at the same time.
Many businesses are doing in D&I what they've been doing in other areas of business for years: looking at other companies they think are doing something well and trying to copy them.
"Cookie-cutter" approaches to D&I won't suffice
Unfortunately, what often happens is that the so-called "best practices" of one company flop at another company because of differences in culture, practices, values, and other environmental factors. Even on the rare occasion when organizations are practically identical, the copied practices work in their new home as a "me-too" strategy; this is not competitive and is not for companies that seek to be and/or remain leaders.
For D&I leaders, I see three key values in i4cp's Chief Diversity Board:
The value of i4cp's Chief Diversity Officer Board
First, the Board gives CDOs the opportunity to shape the future of what D&I will look like as we evolve past the current "best" practices to the "next" practices that we need in order to address challenges and opportunities. As leaders, shapers, and first adopters, this provides a valuable competitive advantage.
Second, the Board's strong focus on inclusion is really where the opportunities lie for building business-impacting domestic and global solutions.
Finally, the Chief Diversity Officer Board is vendor-free. I think being part of a more open environment, as opposed to one that is directed toward particular tools or ways of thinking about solutions, presents a platform for healthier exploration into what are yet-to-be-discovered strategies and practices.