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Reclaiming Diversity Management: A D&I Reboot
James O. Rodgers, PhD, FIMC -- The Diversity Coach(tm) James O. Rodgers, PhD, FIMC -- The Diversity Coach(tm)
Lithonia, GA
Tuesday, May 5, 2020


Reclaiming Diversity Management: A D&I Reboot

Despite the rash of new appointments to the role of Chief Diversity Officer in all kinds of institutions, many offices of D&I are considered marginal, nonessential, or lip service. Organizations seldom can sustain efforts like that even during normal times. In times of crisis or disruption, it is even more of a challenge. So how can we avoid the decline of D&I efforts during times of crisis and dislocation? Here are  some ideas that may help.

Upgrade or Reboot

If your D&I efforts were adding tangible value to the enterprise before the crisis, it would be criminal to lose that value after the crisis. It may be an opportunity to upgrade your efforts to make D&I a more central part of your strategy execution. On the other hand, if you cannot claim any added value from your current D&I efforts, the crisis may provide you a chance to rethink your D&I approach and reboot (or eliminate) D&I as part of your business process. Rethinking begins with asking "Why" (what business problem are we trying to solve with our D&I efforts?)

As a researcher and writer in the field of diversity management, I often hear about tremendous benefits that come from effectively managing diversity. Diversity practitioners and frontline diversity managers have been responsible for many ideas that resulted in revenue production and cost savings for their companies. In the process they have demonstrated the value of diverse perspectives. Recognizing that things will never be the same after a global crisis, like Covid-19, wise companies should use the capability to engage a wide range of perspectives to help define their "new normal". D&I efforts can help them develop those capabilities.

More than anything, this is a time to call on all the best of your human capital. Many companies will learn from a period of "closed for business". If they got caught off-guard by the downturn, it will cause them to put in new safeguards to sustain their business in all circumstances. In the process of confirming their strategy and developing new operational plans, it would be good to think about how a more robust D&I capability might add to their strategic mix. D&I work is most effective when you use it as a central part of your business model.

Learn to learn

A shutdown or downturn in business often reveals holes in a company's processes (things that they are doing without thinking about why they are doing them). D&I, when done well, expands a company's capacity to see what is working and what needs to be changed. It invites more ideas and more perspectives to rework processes and introduce more innovative approaches to the marketplace. Increasing D&I is a misnomer. Diversity is a fact of life (a condition). Inclusion is a smart practice (like team building). The management element of D&I (diversity management) is a strategy and capability and should be added to every company's plan so that they overcome blind spots and increase their capacity to identify and capture new markets and to communicate more effectively to all stakeholder groups.

There is a danger that many firms will abandon their D&I efforts without ever having realized the benefits. For many companies, if they look at the fruits of their D&I efforts prior to the crisis, they could easily conclude that it was not a cost-effective venture. There are so many reports of diversity efforts not working (e.g. Why Diversity Training Doesn't Work). These firms may look at their results and conclude that D&I doesn't work instead of experimenting with new approaches and new intentions. If they do not know what success looks like, they will never work toward achieving that success. Generic diversity work seldom yields positive business outcomes. Only specific focused efforts have a chance to produce tangible commercial value for the firm.

Now is a good time to rethink D&I along with every other aspect of the enterprise. What do you need to do to make sure you are prepared for every eventuality? Ask, "What contingency plans do we need to put in place to make sure we are not caught off guard?" For D&I planning, ask, "How do we prove the efficacy of D&I? How do we more fully engage all our people in executing our strategy so that we beat the competition? What do we want to from our D&I efforts?" Planning to succeed with D&I requires clear intention. Spend time now figuring out what that intention needs to be. Otherwise, kill it.

Success leaves clues

The most successful CDOs follow a tried and true formula for effectiveness. It begins with building relationships with the key players of the enterprise and inviting their input. Next, they spend time really understanding the business (the business model, the essentials of success, how we make money, what matters to our success).Then they figure out how they could possibly contribute to that success.

  1. Using this formula, one serial CDO has successfully identified and activated market segments that eventually added 20% revenue increase to his pharmaceutical company.
  2. Using this formula, another CDO helped his CEO develop a trust building process that now serves as the anchor values that sustains the consistent performance of his energy company.
  3. Using this process, a medical center CDO has helped the executive team (of which he is a legitimate respected member) increase results in several KPIs like average revenue per patient and number of inpatient days. He helped open up a neglected market which has paid off handsomely for the hospital.
  4. A non-CDO executive used the principles of Deliberate Diversity to make sure all her design and execution teams included a broad range of perspectives. She was able to confirm consistently better results form the more diverse teams.

Notice that all these examples are based on tangible results, not rhetoric to make the case for the D&I agenda.

Plan to win

Make D&I a part of the strategy execution process. Leaders must lead; CDOs must teach; frontline managers must manage effectively. CEOs must begin by doing their homework and discovering why D&I should be on the agenda in the first place. Then they must develop specific assignments (with success criteria) for the office of D&I. Finally, the CDO must be held accountable for contributing to business outcomes, not just holding down a visible position. When done right, D&I can be a strategic asset and a competitive advantage. It should be everyone's business. It requires study, practice, and experimentation to get it right. It is not for everyone; it is only for the winners.

These are excerpts from the research that supports the upcoming book Diversity and Exclusion by James O. Rodgers, Ph.D.


About the author

Dr. James O. Rodgers is recognized as the leading strategist in the field of diversity management. He is an expert in workplace dynamics and the author of Managing Differently: Getting 100% from 100% of your people 100% of the time.

Email: james@jamesorodgers.com

Phone: 770-331-3246



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Name: James O. Rodgers, PhD, FIMC
Group: J.O. Rodgers and Associates, Inc.
Dateline: Lithonia, GA United States
Direct Phone: 770 331-3246
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