Diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are crucial to an organization’s operations and growth. From a melting pot of characteristics, abilities, and innovation comes the creation of an organization’s most important asset: its culture. Yet, without the proper leadership driving these initiatives, the dynamic of an organization can fall flat.
Companies are working to address and implement D&I initiatives that best represent and meet the needs of their workforce. However, a written D&I policy can only go as far as the leadership team behind it. Actions speak louder than words: Leadership’s own attitude and execution of their statements are critical facets of a true cultural change.
Yet, what does executive leadership need to genuinely impact D&I initiatives and drive real change for their organization and its culture?
There is no room for confusion when it comes to the terms diversity and inclusion. Diversity refers to the range of human experiences from dimensions like ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation to addressing age, physical disabilities, and personal beliefs like politics or religion. Diversity takes into consideration the facets or ideologies that constitute unique individuals. It can also include educational backgrounds, professional skills, and geographic location. For companies, it is crucial to understand and exemplify the factors that make up their local communities.
While diversity focuses on the makeup of key stakeholders, personnel, communities, and others, inclusion refers to ensuring those involved with the organization are heard, embraced, and empowered. Inclusion means celebrating and endorsing the differences that make up each individual while providing the opportunities to collaborate and work to better the company.
Clearly defining terms at the start saves time, effort, and uncertainty regarding the goals of D&I initiatives. By celebrating and promoting D&I, companies can create the space and opportunities for employees and stakeholders to express their own viewpoints, experiences, and differences that together will benefit the entire company.
The Value of D&I
With D&I measures come feedback, benefits, and value for organizations. For public sector organizations specifically, D&I initiatives can be an open opportunity for communicating the organization’s purpose. As organizations are rooted within communities, their goals and employees should reflect the diverse public they serve. With many different kinds of people come many different voices that must be heard. Organizations dedicated to the public interest should meet their communities’ needs and interests while acknowledging as many voices as possible.
From a business perspective, D&I initiatives inspire and guide new ideas, encourage varying viewpoints, and drive innovation. Not only do they empower creativity and confidence, but they also impact revenue. Organizations with diverse leadership teams have seen higher revenue growth due to innovation over those without.
Additionally, when go-to-market products and strategies are developed, diverse teams can provide well-rounded insight and plans, enhanced objectives, and community-focused representation. Companies that embody a D&I approach are even found to be up to 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry peers.
Beginning with D&I in Mind
Organizations may be eager to have D&I initiatives, but starting them can be daunting. To begin, keep in mind a few key factors:
- Organizational buy-in is not automatic. Leadership teams may be gung-ho about their efforts, but if other employees are not as ambitious, the initiatives may fail from the start. Building up organizational buy-in is key for successful D&I efforts. To do so, leadership teams should address the why behind their D&I initiatives and identify where they are lacking. Setting goals and expectations can also help achieve a healthier and better-functioning organization with D&I at its core.
- Enhancing recruitment efforts can be a game-changer when it comes to the representation of an organization. While finding and recruiting diverse candidates is a priority, oftentimes, the search happens in the wrong places. Many efforts rely on old practices like using familiar networks or posting on the typical jobsites. What was successful before will not expand the pool of potential candidates. Instead, organizations need to leave their comfort zones and try new networks to find top candidates. This could include anything from partnering with new institutions to reaching out to universities or other local foundations. Expanding resources can provide a more well-rounded network and further enhance your D&I initiatives.
- Communicate with communities openly and often. As organizations need to represent the public they serve, keeping in touch with their communities helps them stay aligned with ideas, concerns, and necessary improvements. Conversations can and should be held with local business owners, religious institutions, and elected officials. By connecting with the community, especially as a leader in an organization, many voices and ideas can be heard and acknowledged, and true change and D&I efforts can be accomplished.
D&I should be embraced, and your own company’s representation should be celebrated. As leaders, you must make the changes necessary for your organization to better serve your communities. Let your people thrive, and success for the organization and its goals will follow.
As the CEO and a founder of Boardable, a board management software company serving nonprofits around the world, Jeb Banner is passionate about community nonprofits, entrepreneurship, and more. He also founded SmallBox, a creative agency for mission-driven organizations, and is cofounder of The Speak Easy and founder of Musical Family Tree, both 501(c)(3) nonprofits.