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Trailblazers: How America's Top Companies Are Leveraging a Diverse Workforce

Rules of Engagement: Seven Moves from the Trailblazers CEO Playbook to Help You Reap the Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in Your Organization

Success in the global marketplace requires companies to think outside the box. In order to achieve truly innovative solutions, they must engage their employees' diverse and unique perspectives through diversity and inclusion initiatives. Success for these
initiatives, say authors Redia Anderson and Lenora Billings-Harris, starts at the top.

Hoboken, NJ (September 2010)-Today the world is one big marketplace. In it, companies of all shapes and sizes are vying for evermore diverse customers from diverse cultures in an evermore diverse marketplace. The companies that will prosper in this global marketplace understand that in order to stay open for business, they must mine their employees' own diverse perspectives to differentiate themselves from their competition, define who they really are, and increase their relevancy in a global economy.

Yes, in today's global marketplace, engaging different perspectives through diversity and inclusion initiatives is more important than ever, say Redia Anderson and Lenora Billings-Harris, authors of the new book Trailblazers: How Top Business Leaders Are Accelerating Results Through Inclusion and Diversity (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-59347-9, $27.95, www.AboutTrailblazers.com). And to be truly effective, this engagement must start at the top.

"The bottom line is that today's clients, customers, and coworkers expect innovative solutions in response to pressing business issues," says Anderson. "The 'we've always done it that way' line of thinking must be eliminated. In almost every situation where CEO commitment exists, an organizational culture of curiosity, appreciation, and resolve to apply the lessons from a diverse and inclusive workforce will rise.

"Combined with supporting infrastructure-communications, education, accountability, and metrics-CEO commitment has created awareness that has raised the importance of inclusion and diversity as a strategic business imperative-one that provides tangible results for organizations."

Trailblazers takes readers into some of the world's top-performing companies for insights on how they are expanding the definition, practice, and bottom-line benefits of diversity. With best practices and innovative techniques drawn from path-making companies like IBM, Verizon, Dell, The Coca-Cola Company, Shell, Merck, and more, Trailblazers gives readers an up-to-date toolset to leverage diversity and inclusion in a global marketplace.

"To receive the great bottom-line results that come with a healthy diversity and inclusion program, the CEO absolutely has to be on board," says Billings-Harris. "What the CEO says, focuses on, and communicates to the rest of the company becomes the cornerstone of what is measured and thus considered most important to success."

"The best CEOs recognize the importance of including diverse perspectives, thoughts, and approaches to problem solving in the way their companies do business," says Anderson. "They see how diversity and inclusion can bring innovation and positive impact to their businesses, and they make sure everyone from senior leadership to middle management understands these same principles and acts on them on a daily basis. Growth and profitability are still the name of the game." 

As a leader and manager, what are some of the things you can do to "walk the walk and talk the talk" regarding inclusion and diversity? The authors recommend seven actions that you can take from the Trailblazers CEO playbook to begin to influence your culture and overtly show your clear intent regarding these incredibly important objectives:

1. Share your stories. Your personal experiences of difference-as well as stories in which you're keenly aware of being included-make strong statements about how willing you are to be transparent and learn from others. "You must 'give to get,' so talk about your experiences," advises Anderson. "What did it feel like when you were the 'only one'-woman, person of color, over a certain age-at a major business function? What was going through your head at the time? What biases and assumptions did you have to overcome, if any, to participate fully? How accepting were others of you, and what did that do for you? What did you learn about yourself?"

2. Become an active mentor. Get to know three high-potential, junior-level individuals who come from a different background from your own. "Keep it informal," says Anderson. "Have coffee or go to lunch. Tell them what you'd like to learn about. Be open to their experiences and suspend your own judgment. Reverse mentoring is also likely to occur, so remain open to letting it happen. You'll be grateful for what you can learn from your mentees."

3. Support your organization's employee resource groups. Become an executive liaison for the group. Or, if that assignment has been filled, regularly attend and support their functions. These groups can be an incubator of leadership talent, so get to know their leaders and nurture them into your organization's leadership ranks.

4. Get diversity on the operations meeting agenda. Make inclusion and diversity updates a standing agenda item at your regular leadership team meetings. "Set and provide clear expectations of advancement and consequences," says Anderson. "Reward and communicate progress broadly. Recognize that, when the organization sees and hears little, they assume nothing is happening, so communicate often to let them know about everything that is indeed happening."

5. Speak it. Seek opportunities to include messages of the business imperative and the impact of inclusion and diversity to your company's bottom line in every speech you give and every meeting you hold-internally and externally. Work with the chief diversity officer and the public affairs team to proactively brand your company in the marketplace as an inclusive employer-one that respects the broad definition of diversity and believes in the value of an inclusive and inviting culture.

6. Build diverse leadership teams. As key assignments, business projects, and candidate slate opportunities arise, ensure that you're consciously staffing your team with the broadest, best, and most diverse perspectives to solve customer issues.

7. Monitor, measure, and reward evidence of inclusion and diversity progress. Utilize the performance management system as well as your organization's rewards and recognition programs to emphasize progress. "Recognize the efforts that others put forth in a way that is meaningful to them," says Anderson. "And remember that it may not always be a monetary reward. In fact, many of the organizations discussed in Trailblazers utilized a variety of rewards and compensation. While many of these included traditional year-end monetary and spot awards, they also used more creative means to recognize people-an extra day or two of paid time off, theater tickets, a small grant of stock options, dinner reservations for two at top-notch local restaurants, and simple 'thank-you' notes handwritten by senior leaders. All of these methods convey a message of respect and recognition for results."

"The global nature of business today is exciting," says Billings-Harris. "But with the opportunities come many challenges. Today, 'business as usual' simply will not cut it. Clients want innovative, outside-the-box solutions. To achieve these ideas, you need to have a diverse team in place that is constantly being engaged and appreciated by all senior leaders and especially the CEO."

"The CEOs who lead their companies to sustained success in the global marketplace are staunch advocates of inclusion, fairness, and bottom-line business results," says Anderson. "They communicate their convictions and expectations regarding inclusion and diversity every day, in every way, just like they do for all of their business objectives...through all the communication vehicles at their disposal. They measure progress, and they get results."

About the Authors

Redia Anderson, executive coach and nationally recognized leader in the field of inclusion and diversity, is a former chief diversity officer (Deloitte & Touche, Equiva Services-joint venture between Shell/Texaco/Saudi Aramco) and has worked with Fortune 500 corporations, partnerships, and universities. Redia is managing partner of Anderson People Strategies, LLC, where she helps organizations align people, performance, and results. Redia has been featured in national publications such as Working Mother and DiversityInc magazine.

Lenora Billings-Harris is a diversity strategist and international speaker who helps organizations make diversity a competitive advantage. Diversity Woman magazine named her as one of twenty top influential diversity leaders in 2008, and she is a past president of the National Speakers Association. Lenora serves on the adjunct faculties of the business schools of Averett University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

About the Book

Trailblazers: How Top Business Leaders Are Accelerating Results Through Inclusion and Diversity (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-59347-9, $27.95, www.AboutTrailblazers.com) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.

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