By Anise D. Wiley-Little
Chief Diversity Officer
Allstate Insurance Company
Is there truly a business case for Diversity? After looking at the current global economic climate, just ask yourself, “can my company afford to miss such an opportunity?” Today, companies large and small must take every step necessary to secure the future of their organizations – for themselves and their shareholders.
We often do what is top-of-mind, so tomorrow’s reward may not be in sight. Large organizations, pressured to meet financial metrics, might place what they consider ‘soft issues’ on the back burner. But is Diversity truly a soft issue? Is any business opportunity with the potential to grow your business, retain your customers, or build your brand a soft issue? If you operate under the fallacy that Diversity and Inclusion are soft factors and not business issues, you are missing the opportunity to increase your company’s profits.
Chief Diversity Officers and other business leaders should regularly assess the optimal way to include Diversity and the manner in which it can enhance profitability. The assessment includes leadership commitment, community relations, supplier diversity, and relevant marketing measures for your targeted demographic groups, production metrics, hiring demographics, and customer demographics. All these factors are, of course, balanced with current business challenges. Calculating a missed business opportunity is the matter of a gap analysis of current business strategies and practices with business goals that include key diversity factors.
Failure to actively pursue the value of diversity in your marketplace through leveraging this assessment across your businesses is a missed opportunity.
Profitable Diversity is on the mind of every business leader who understands change and has products and services that touch the lives of a diverse population. Most diversity strategies fall short of expectations because they don’t incorporate the same thinking that is applied to the analysis of an important product launch, for example. Just having a great work environment with a breadth of diversity does little good if it is not captured and translated into growth of new business, increased market share, or greater customer service. Strategies are commonly built for specific market segments with little or no thought on who will deliver on that promise to the customer. People strategies that may be just a step above Affirmative Action are developed with little understanding on how to fully deploy those individuals to get maximum return for the organization. As a result, talented individuals are brought into an environment that may not be ready for them to share their differences.
Having a profitable diversity strategy requires you to develop an integrated business strategy that incorporates all of the unique ways in which your company executes or goes to market. The reason some diversity strategies have marginalized success is they are off-the-shelf or built in silo darkness, not understanding what the organization stands to gain. Diversity strategies can’t be a one-size-fits-all as diversity, difference, and inclusion are not the same for any one individual, group or organization.
A full-cycle, profitable diversity strategy takes into consideration the following elements:
- Business planning experience is imbedded into all aspects of its people;
- Leadership commitment to the holistic view of diversity;
- Defined goals and metrics;
- Tailored products, services and delivery;
- Custom communications;
- Clear accountability and aligned rewards;
- Process development and execution;
- Internal environment; external reputation;
- Strategic giving and social responsibility leveraged across the business.
Place a different lens–the diversity lens–on your business planning to capture the often illusive Profitable Diversity. You will see improved results for your company, employees, and the bottom line.