by L. Mecole Brown

Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer
Wal-Mart Stores, U.S.

Diversity is built on a tradition of strong leaders—a spirit that guides us today to break new ground, meet challenges head-on, and propel to the next level of excellence. It is a time to celebrate our accomplishments—and a time to develop a vision on elevating diversity in a new era of inclusion.

Diversity has evolved from a compliance initiative to a cornerstone of a high-performing culture based on inclusion—it’s about harnessing all the differences employees bring to the workplace.

In this transformation, it’s no longer enough to be “diverse” in the sense of numbers and data, stand-alone programs and initiatives. It’s time to move beyond a “check-the-box” mind set, and build a truly inclusive work environment that leverages unique talents, ideas, styles, geographic origins, perspectives, and backgrounds.

While diversity is valuable in that it gives opportunities to individuals, inclusion is what allows organizations to thrive and grow. Looking ahead, it will be an important factor that will separate those organizations that succeed from those that don’t.

Becoming Ambassadors of Diversity and Inclusion.

To help our organizations succeed in the future, we all must take a renewed leadership role as ambassadors of diversity and models of inclusion. This requires vision, influence, acting as a change agent, and being truly authentic.

“While diversity is valuable in that it gives opportunities to individuals, inclusion is what allows organizations to thrive and grow.”

Be visionary.

Be passionate and intentional to create a culture of leadership that leverages diversity of thought. Build diversity and inclusion in the leadership competency model to drive desired cultural behaviors. Diversity and inclusion must live inside, not run alongside, the business.

Be influential.

Be resourceful and get everyone engaged. Enhance people’s career experience by developing them and equipping them with opportunities to maximize their talent.

Be a change agent.

Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work now. Think in new ways. Be willing to swim upstream. This allows you to leverage differences and encourage collaboration and innovation.

Be authentic.

Be real in the way that you invite and welcome all employees to bring their ideas to the table. When you are authentic, people feel valued. When you honor individual differences and empower others to be authentic, they can make their greatest contribution to your organization.

A Vision for the New Era

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. We’ll only reach our potential when we begin taking the steps to propel diversity to a new standard of inclusion. Each and every one of our people has unique gifts to share. It’s up to us to build an environment where they are willing and able to do so. With collective efforts, we can build high-performing teams with an innovative mindset and a collaborative spirit.