By Michael L. Wheeler

Diversity is the most important performance factor of the 21st century. as a global demographic business fact, it matters at every business interface—in the marketplace, the talent pool, across global operations, and within our communities. It matters in how we lead people, work as teams, innovate for product development and ultimately, it influences the profitability and sustainability of our organizations.

Define Diversity and Inclusion as Actions:

  • Respecting differences,
  • Valuing uniqueness,
  • Maximizing individual and team potential, and
  • Synergizing collective talents, experiences, perspectives.

Taking Diversity beyond a static statistic or a compliance function to an action-oriented strategic opportunity for inclusion is the start to Diversity as business strategy.

Know Your Business Goals and DPfs:

Once you have a solid definition, identify the Diversity Performance Factors™ (DPFs) for each business goal and objective. DPFs are the issues, challenges, opportunities, and dynamics that come into play as a result of differences based upon primary or secondary dimensions2 such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and so on.

Differences can result in misunderstandings, complexity, and conflict, and are all too often the basis for exclusion and discrimination—barriers to goal achievement. Conversely, differences provide new and fresh perspectives; they link us to the global marketplace, drive innovation, and help us come up with better solutions—enablers for goal achievement.

When we explicitly identify DPFs relative to goals and objectives, we can then create proactive interventions and tactics that help ensure that Diversity’s strengths are indeed leveraged for business performance enhancement. The following chart shows examples:

2010 Corporate Article_Business Case.pdf (1 page)

Create a Strategy:

  1. Build: recruit and build diverse teams throughout the organization in all levels and functions.
  2. Include: It is one thing to recruit diversity and build diverse teams; it is another to welcome, engage, and respect differences. It’s practical—ask, listen, act, end exclusion.
  3. Lead: leaders need to model inclusive and respectful behaviors, inspire, and proactively ensure the essential tactics for leveraging Diversity. It’s cultural competence.
  4. Leverage: Explicitly and actively seek out and include diversity in product development, planning, decision making, marketing, and more!

Measure Success:

Qualitative and quantitative, implicit and explicit, and process and results metrics need to be put into place. The current problem, in part, is that we are not typically considering DPFs in how we measure processes, results, and business success. Demonstrating the value of Diversity to the bottom line is important, but that is not enough—we must believe it and feel it and be committed to it.

Diversity is a fact. What we do or do not do relative to that fact will ultimately determine our success in today’s and tomorrow’s global economy.

Michael L. Wheeler is a strategic management consultant, author, and entrepreneur specializing in workforce diversity and organizational effectiveness.