By Dr. Nika White
President and CEO, Nika White Consulting, LLC
Senior Advisor to the Greenville Chamber’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative
Viewing diversity and inclusion as a leadership function is vital for well-functioning organizations.
Years of experience have taught us that a diverse, inclusive workplace doesn’t just organically occur. Yet, as we look to the future, we recognize that huge demographic shifts are happening that impact society, requiring strategic diversity and intentional inclusion be practiced at every level for optimal performance.
To remain relevant, organizations must ensure their diversity and inclusion game is on and strong. To be passive about inclusion can be dangerous, and to ignore inclusion can be reckless. Matters of inclusion should be a C-suite level and board concern to set the tone for all corners of the organization. Now is the time to get in the game and be intentional about the work of inclusion.
Good intentions can be the greatest motivation to start a new initiative. But sometimes plans fail to reach implementation because of misguided information. Diversity and inclusion is one of those initiatives that is often absent or lacking in effectiveness in organizations for a myriad of reasons. Most often the reason is the lack of “know how” or understanding of the value to the organization’s mission. Passion for organizational effectiveness and an inclusive society fuels my drive to help influencers understand the essentials of intentional inclusion leadership as paramount to successful organizations and thriving communities.
As Greenville Business Magazine kindly offered me the opportunity to share my insight on diversity and inclusion, it was easy for me to rationalize writing this feature. It provides the opportunity to continue to educate those who desire to operate effectively in the work of diversity and to shift the paradigm from obligation to opportunity. Organizational leaders must believe that positive outcomes can occur when strategic diversity and intentional inclusion practices are integrated into the operations of an organization. The outcomes go beyond social responsibility and are a bottom line business imperative. It’s necessary to always align the reason for diversity and inclusion to a business case and be less concerned with trying to awaken people’s social consciousness regarding diversity.
An effective diversity and inclusion strategy begins with believing that the outcomes are worth it. To believe in the results, one must first become educated on the benefits of inclusion, becoming knowledgeable on what it is and what it’s not. Inclusion is not a program, it’s a mindset. Programs get canceled, but mindsets prevail. Inclusion is a strategy, philosophy, standard, expectation, and a driver of business success. I sound the alarm on this message every chance I get! Don’t just take my word for it, but acknowledge the research from McKinsey, Catalyst and Deloitte and the like, who suggest that gender and ethnically diverse companies outperform their peers as measured by business, financials, and talent outcomes.
I like to work with clients who believe that it is worth investing in their organizations to attract talent and yield high-performance results through strategic diversity and intentional inclusion. My clients understand that staying competitive in today’s marketplace requires sustainable solutions to effectively engage diverse constituents.
One of the greatest appreciations I have about being a diversity and inclusion practitioner is that after spending time learning the culture and practices, I can reveal to organizations insights about their work environment that employees may be thinking or experiencing, but are reluctant to share because of perceived repercussions. Having a person of authority on diversity and inclusion to identify the opportunities and barriers can be helpful for creating sustainable efforts. It’s not always easy to address less than ideal realities of an organization’s culture that may hinder success, but it’s essential to conduct an honest assessment to know where improvements are needed.
An effective diversity and inclusion consultant recognizes the importance of earning clients’ trust by confidently presenting data, offering solutions and encouragement to stay the course to reap rewards that come with strategic diversity and intentional inclusion. If you are a diversity champion in your organization, focus on what’s right for the organization. You could very well be the difference needed to move your workplace from one that is passive about inclusion to one that strives to intentionally model inclusion.
In these next few pages, you will experience what I hope will be a shot in the arm of good medicine by learning what two Upstate organizations are doing to help drive innovation in inclusion leadership to achieve their respective missions. There are many aspects to consider when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but three focus areas of priority for this feature include: business case for diversity, team engagement, and overcoming unconscious bias. I have yet to meet an organization that has all the answers and consistently executes all the right actions to leverage diversity and inclusion. Still, by sharing our plans, actions and outcomes, we can collectively start to make progress one organization at a time. I wish to thank Greenville Health System and the Greenville Chamber for allowing me the opportunity to highlight their work in this feature, so that others can be inspired to elevate their diversity and inclusion efforts to the championship level.
Game on. Game strong.