By Dr. Nika White
President and CEO, Nika White Consulting, LLC
Research shows that gender and ethnically diverse companies outperform their peers as measured by business, financials, and talent outcomes. The value of diversity and inclusion drives innovation, enriches experiences, promotes growth and strengthens economic competitiveness. Both Greenville Health System and the Greenville Chamber recognize the value of consistently communicating the business case for diversity and inclusion to educate stakeholders and drive business success. This leadership practice serves as a great reminder of the importance of aligning the reason for diversity and inclusion to a business case. Then, exercise intention to communicate and communicate often on the subject until the message permeates throughout the organization.
Greenville Health System
Dr. Scott Porter, vice president of culture and inclusivity with Greenville Health System, is excited about the changes that are taking place within the diversity and inclusion department. Porter notes that diversity and inclusion at GHS is being elevated to a system-wide service line to emphasize its importance. The title for the most senior diversity and inclusion role previously was chief diversity officer, but has since been changed to a vice president title that reports directly to the president of GHS. In many organizations, the diversity officer position reports to human resources leadership. With GHS’ new organizational structure, the existing leadership has openly stated that diversity and inclusion will continue to be a focus in the future of GHS to drive business success.
Porter speaks with excitement and honor about the opportunity to serve in this increased capacity. Originally from a small city in northern Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, Porter attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. From there, he studied medicine at Yale University and trained at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., for orthopedic surgery. He was the first African-American to train at that program and then went on to train at the University of Chicago for oncology. After a short year stint on staff at the University of Mississippi in Jackson, Miss., Porter moved to Greenville to reestablish the cancer program in the department of orthopedic surgery.
In addressing GHS’ business case for diversity and inclusion, Porter expressed that the rationale aligns with the ability to increase the bottom line. GHS’ success is directly attributable to enhancing the diversity of the people that deliver the goods and services for the organization, as well as the customers serviced by the organization.
GHS’ priority in ensuring all stakeholders agreed to and examined its reasons for seeking diversity, was to get all senior leaders on board. This best practice is common in many organizations with sustainable inclusion efforts.
“I don’t think an organization that has 15,000 employees can reach a level of understanding for all of its employees for any initiative,” Porter says. “I think the most important initial steps in the effort are the steps that get all of senior management on board. Once this step occurs, those influencers help promulgate the message to the next level of the organization. From there, the message can reach a critical mass of people extending to all corners of an organization.”
A significant aspect of GHS’ business case for diversity and inclusion is to help ensure employees are at their best, which allows them to provide the optimal care to patients. GHS has policies that grant the organization the ability to ensure equity across all aspects of its work. Examples include a non-discrimination policy for patients, visitors and employees, and a workplace flexibility policy allowing employees the ability to work in a way that helps them thrive professionally and personally.
The Greenville Chamber’s diversity and inclusion initiative has also experienced some changes. Earlier this year, the Greenville Chamber announced its new partnership with Nika White Consulting. White served as a vice president for the Greenville Chamber since the organization launched its diversity and inclusion initiative in August of 2012. The Chamber’s diversity and inclusion programming and efforts continue to expand with White serving as senior advisor to the Greenville Chamber’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. The Chamber’s vision is to create a globally competitive upstate economy where businesses succeed and people prosper. To align with this vision, the business case for the Chamber’s diversity and inclusion efforts is rationalized by the following:
• Community prosperity is best realized when there is continual effort to allow every possible advantage for economic parity underscoring the significance of economic inclusion efforts of underutilized/disadvantaged businesses.
• Economic inclusion allows disadvantaged businesses the opportunity to create more sustainable jobs and better contribute to the overall economic base of the Upstate.
• Expanding the entrepreneurial community establishes a comprehensive pool of highly qualified suppliers that can be used by corporations doing business throughout South Carolina and beyond.
• An inclusive Upstate produces a more marketable economy and enhances the overall attractiveness to outside businesses and individuals considering a relocation to the market area (talent attraction and retention).
To develop your organization’s business case for diversity and inclusion, consider these three talking points as a foundation:
• The link between workforce diversity and financial performance
• Workplace diversity and inclusion as the catalyst for innovation
• Rapidly evolving U.S. workforce demographics
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 toward meaningful action that will produce business growth results.