Joe Santana on Diversity & Inclusion: I Want to Challenge You

Just 10% of Twitter's technology department employees are women. Google's entire workforce is 3% Latino and 2% black. There are zero non-white C-level executives at eBay.

The headlines are everywhere and it's likely that diversity and inclusion (D&I) will continue to grow in importance as companies are pressured to release their diversity reports. What will happen to them if they're not diverse? Would you be ready to provide your company's diversity numbers?

To help organizations address this concern, i4cp is working with top D&I thought-leaders like Joseph Santana to uncover best and next practices.

Joseph Santana was one of the very first corporate diversity officers in the U.S., and is a well known thought-leader and author who regularly contributes to Diversity Executive magazine. Santana is also i4cp's Chief Diversity Officer Board facilitator and Chair, and is scheduled to present at the i4cp 2015 Conference on the business impact of D&I.

In a recent conversation with i4cp about his upcoming presentation, Santana discussed some common D&I issues.

Using diversity to solve a business problem

Joe SantanaMy own personal experience occurred years ago--when I was the head of a group of 300 employees providing information technology outsourcing services to clients in New York and New Jersey. One of my biggest challenges was securing qualified staff to fill the leadership roles that would be left open as people were pulled together to form management teams for newly acquired clients. I might have a $50 million dollar contract on my hands, but I wouldn't see a dime of revenue until I was able to deliver services. And I had to deliver these services without gutting other teams.

After numerous discussions with recruiters and training and development, it became clear to me that we needed to expand our pipeline of hires and reach deeper into underrepresented local talent pools; we also needed to do a better job of engaging and developing women as leaders (only men were groomed for account leadership at the time). The end result was the ability to serve new clients more efficiently and thus increase revenue for services rendered to those new clients.

Defining success

I define success as producing business/market impacting results. Based on recent i4cp research, business impacting D&I practices are those that seek to increase innovation, create a strong inclusive culture, and are embedded into the overall strategy. Conversely, utilizing diversity only to minimize corporate risk or meet legal compliance--the main drivers of D&I for the past five decades--does not correlate to business success.

Struggling with D&I

I think we are in a time of transition, where many of the old so-called "best-practices" need to be replaced with solutions that address the highly diverse local and global business environments of today. My experience has shown that some organizations still look at solutions that were developed to address the needs of the late- to mid-1960s. Five decades ago, highly creative people developed the diversity & inclusion solutions that brought us to where we are today by addressing the key issues of their time. Instead of immortalizing these tools as best practices, I think it serves us better to immortalize the boldness and creativity of that past generation's diversity leaders in addressing the issues of the time head-on.

Moving forward

I think over the next couple of years, high-performance organizations are going to focus on:
  1. Developing new ways to further leverage the diversity that exists within their environments in ways that sustain a competitive advantage.
  2. Developing metrics that better measure the correlation between their specific D&I investments of money and people to the specific areas of business advantage.
  3. Developing new and better ways to increase their organizational inclusion at both the institutional level and personal level.
  4. The continued integration of D&I as a component of business strategy, supporting function area strategies and all tactical plans.

Networking with peers

What I'm most looking forward to at the i4cp 2015 Conference is participating in a session that--using data and questions from my peers--stimulates new ways of thinking that help us go beyond conventional tools and practices and enable us to innovate the new diversity & inclusion practices that will help us meet 21st century challenges and opportunities.

I want to challenge you and be challenged by you.

Joseph Santana will present at the i4cp 2015 Conference, March 16-19, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Early-bird discounts end on Friday, Dec. 19. To save your seat at the most important HR event of the year, register now.