In the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, there is a movement of unity for those who have not been the beneficiary of justice and equality. This rise of solidarity for change has transcended beyond American borders to countries all over the world. Now, more than ever, there are discussions being held on the need for diversity and inclusion in our military, in colleges and universities, in professional sports teams, and in corporate America.
Diversity incorporates elements that make us different, which include race, gender, culture, age and religion, among others. It has been proven that when these elements are represented proportionately within an organization, the company prospers. Diversity provides different perspectives and experience, which results in innovation, creativity and increased profits.
Inclusion refers to the behaviors and norms that ensure people feel welcome. In inclusive offices, employees should be treated fairly, respectfully and should have equal opportunities for growth. Everyone should feel like they are a part of the team and that their opinions are desired and heard. Organizations that practice inclusion within their culture benefit from high morale, job satisfaction and high efficiency.
As companies begin to embrace diversity and inclusion, the change they want will require a cultural shift. While serving as a director of diversity and inclusion for a major corporation, I personally witnessed the positive impacts of a diverse and inclusive culture. If you put a variety of world views in a room, you will come out the other side with better ideas. The company I was with achieved explosive growth, historic sales and its highest retention rates only after committing to a culture that embraced the diversity of its workforce and vendor partners.
The knowledge and experience that was unveiled produced new leaders, new production systems, people-supply pipelines and management retention that continues to fuel the company’s success today. It provided better insight into customers, which facilitated better marketing and service to our patrons.
The diversity and inclusion provided a safe, comfortable space for teams, associates and focus groups to have meaningful discussions on race and culture. This transformation enabled problems to be solved, and innovation and creativity to flourish.
For decades, organizations have operated within certain comfort zones that lacked variety of thought and perspective. They’ve assuredly missed opportunities for inclusion, innovation, faster problem-solving and talent retention.
Today, as hundreds of thousands of people of all races are peacefully protesting for change across the world, I am hopeful that our government, universities and corporations will hear their cry for justice and equality.
I am hopeful that these groups will fully embrace the need for diversity and inclusion and establish it as a core value within their organizations.
I’m hopeful that diversity and inclusion will be the goal of every company, not only because it is the moral thing to do, but because it is good for business, it’s good for America, and it’s good for the world.
Ray Daniels is board chair for Commerce Lexington Inc.