I recently read an article written by a self-proclaimed "national diversity expert" in which the author purposefully derides the role of chief diversity officer just to elicit an emotional response from readers, only to overshadow the author's real position, which is made clear at the end of the article: "Limiting the practice of diversity to workforce representation issues diminishes the business value that can be garnered from diversity, marginalizes the practice, and is time-limited." We are all familiar with issues on which the arrogance of a few (generally high-profile personalities) either contributes to or exploits the ignorance of many. The topic of diversity and inclusion (D&I) seems perfectly aligned to this ruse and it's time we move beyond the baiting and on to the substance. What follows is pure substance.

Since i4cp published its research on the 12 Diversity Practices of High-Performance Organizations, we've increasingly seen where D&I is a contributing factor to key business initiatives such as developing effective global leaders, ensuring a more customer-focused workforce, and enabling greater organizational agility. In fact, our research shows that at high-performance organizations, D&I is much more an enabler to the business than it is an initiative or program viewed in isolation from the business.

The following are three examples from recent conversations that I've had with the chief diversity officers (CDOs) of high-performance organizations. Each example speaks directly to the strategic application of D&I and its related business impact:

1) A single branch office of a leading bank drove that branch's revenue by over $2M U.S. dollars in just one year by analyzing demographic data in its area and then adopting inclusion practices and promotions that appealed to the LGBT community;

2) The CDO of a large financial services/insurance company used data analytics to analyze new hires and associated business impact to determine which community partnerships the company would sunset or invest in during the coming year. Those decisions have netted the company 15 highly productive new employees as well as millions in US dollars from new clients attracted to their firm via those partnerships;

3) The CDO of a large regional healthcare provider in the southwest U.S. spearheaded the company's supplier diversity initiative (one of three key business initiatives for that year) and, as a result of practices the CDO's function recommended and executed, is near its 2016 goal of achieving 25% of its spend with diverse suppliers and also has seen impressive gains in its supplier satisfaction scores and--most importantly--its quality of services rendered.

It's understandable that some of us are easily offended by claims about diversity and inclusion that come across as ignorant and/or arrogant as often they are unsubstantiated by data or real-world examples. To combat this, take some action! Join i4cp as we advance the interest in and application of D&I. You will be on the leading edge of how high-performance organizations apply diversity and inclusion practices and strategies to achieve competitive differentiation, and drive business value. Here's some of what you can do:

  • Take 15 minutes to participate in our new survey on the Values and Behaviors that Drive D&I--all participants will receive the preliminary findings: /aH5fuu
  • Join i4cp's Chief Diversity Officer Board. Members of this board are CDOs by title, but business people at the core and work for some of the world's leading employers.
  • Nominate a female business leader to be profiled as part of The SheSuite™ interview series dedicated to gathering perspectives and insights on leadership from female executives.
  • Look for our new ground-breaking research report Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This report will be published October 7, 2014, and will be part of something much, much bigger than you expect.
Stay tuned for more!