Today, more than ever, executive leadership’s understanding of and championing for diversity and inclusion will separate good leadership from great leadership. In a study conducted by DeIoitte Australia, researchers found inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments.
For decades, the notion of diversity and inclusion has been misunderstood by C-Suite executives.
By definition, diversity is the intersection of all the biological, social, physical and emotional characteristics of an individual. This definition suggests that an individual is diverse beyond race and gender, which are traditionally understood as the main diversity characteristics deserving of a CEO’s attention and driving measurement outcomes. Generally, race and gender are the easiest characteristics to count and quantify.
Interestingly, the U.S. population is becoming more diverse. According the Pew Research Center, Fact Tank 2016, Millennials (young adults born after 1980) have surpassed the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) as the largest U.S. generation and they are the most racially and ethnically diverse. The over 65 population will be the most populous segment of our society by 2050.
Women’s role in the labor force and leadership positions has grown dramatically. The American family is changing. More American heterosexual couples are deciding not to marry. At the same time, there is an increasing number of LGBTQ couples getting married. Divorce is on the rise and two parent households are declining.
The changing U.S. population trends, echo in the workplace as corporate executives realized that in order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage, diversity and inclusion must become a business imperative. These corporations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on diversity efforts. For example, in 2015 Google announced it would spend nearly $150 million dollars towards diversity. Intel announced $500 million and Apple was at $50 million.
Despite these huge investments in diversity, it is estimated that nearly 2 million employees voluntarily leave the workforce due to workplace uncivility, bias and discrimination and $64 billion or so seems to be the figure associated with these employees’ departures from the U.S. companies. Therefore, creating inclusive cultures and deploying inclusive policies and practices has become a paramount priority for executives.
Inclusion, the other side of the coin of diversity, is the intentional, ongoing interaction with diversity. Inclusion is much more nuanced; thus it is harder to quantify than diversity. Inclusion takes substantially more emotional energy and intelligence. Whereas diversity focuses on the characteristics of an individual, inclusion centers on the experience of an individual.
In a Deloitte’s University Press, Global Human Capital Trends 2014, found that retaining key employees is one major outcome of embracing inclusion. The study asserts that one reason people leave organizations is that they feel they no longer “belong.” Or perhaps they feel they will “belong” and thrive in another organization that appreciates their unique value. A company that fails to create a diverse and inclusive workplace risks alienating or excluding key employees, who are then more likely to disengage and eventually leave the organization.
Generally speaking, CEOs are supportive of the tenets of inclusion (respect, dignity, and democracy to name a few), however, many have not internalized inclusion on a personal level to drive innovation through inclusion within the organization. Inclusion is a contact sport. You can’t delegate inclusion to a human resources or diversity and inclusion professional.
To successfully create a culture of inclusion every day, the CEO must plow the ground and plant the seeds from their own experiences and examples of being inclusive. If those experiences or examples are limited, then this blog will assist the chief executive in creating the circumstances in which more examples can be harnessed and inclusion can take root in the culture.
There are three equal dynamic parts that intersect within the organization that the CEO must come to understand and impact if she/he is going to be the catalyst and prime driver of innovation through inclusion every day. Known as what I call the S.E.E. Framework, the CEO must daily examine self, corporate ecosystem, and employees through the lens of inclusion.
The S.E.E. Framework
CEO self-awareness is critical in his/her ability to drive innovation through inclusion within the enterprise. Like any other individual in the organization, the CEO brings his/her narrative to work based on his/her unique experiences, perspectives, skills and talents. Like every other individual in the organization, in order to develop and keep pace with an ever evolving world, the CEO must continue to develop new skills and embrace different perspectives. They must continue to explore how their unique diversity characteristics interact with the world around them. For example, have you ever considered how your sibling order has shaped your perspective? Or what about the region of the world in which you were raised? These factors have a profound influence on how we see and interact with others around us.
Organizations are made up of many connected parts held together by the institution's’ mission. The CEO influences the corporate ecosystem by his/her leadership style, the people he/she hires, the way critical information is communicated and his/her level of presence and openness. The CEO must continually explore how they can enable and activate inclusion throughout the ecosystem on a daily basis.
Externally, customers are the heart of any organization. Internally, employees are the power that makes the heartbeat. Like the CEO, employees’ lives do not happen in a vacuum. When they come to work, they bring their entire self with them. Issues of the heart, family matters and societal concerns follow employees as they walk into the office every day. Therefore, the CEO needs to authentically interact with his/her employees in order to keep informed as to how their personal and work lives intersect and sometimes collide.