By Judith Michelle Williams, SAP

Fostering a diverse workforce is essential in order to innovate and drive prosperity in today’s fast-paced corporate world. Building an inclusive culture doesn’t begin with simply “doing the right thing.” Instead, it starts with making it hard for employees to do anything but the right thing. Taking a dynamic, top-down approach, when it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts, is key to maintaining an inclusive culture. By leveraging data, closely monitoring and measuring success, and investing in key talent, today’s best leaders and companies are more equipped than ever before to foster an innovative, inclusive workplace amid rapid cultural shifts. Here are three ways leaders can take their D&I initiatives to the next level:

Setting Attainable Goals

To drive real change, leaders must assess the current state of diversity and inclusion, and map it to their long-term goals. Often the first step in approaching a successful D&I strategy is to take an honest look at where you are and compare that to where you want to be. The power of technology such as artificial intelligence to organize, analyze, and correlate diverse sets of data allows today’s forward-thinking leaders to set attainable goals and achieve real outcomes.

Inspiring Future Leaders

Today’s biggest companies were once startups, and some of today’s most influential leaders are the brilliant entrepreneurs behind them. Another key way to curate a diverse ecosystem is to pay it forward to underrepresented founders. While intelligence is equally distributed in the population regardless of background or experience, opportunity is not. At SAP, we invest in some of the most cutting-edge startups in the B2B space. The SAP.iO Foundries program has accelerated nearly 100 early-stage software startups, more than 30 percent of which are founded or led by women or other minority entrepreneurs. An essential ingredient of building a diverse and inclusive environment is to create a place where all people have the same opportunity to be their best selves—despite gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. This investment in innovation is priceless.

Driving Economic Success

Diversity isn’t just good for business, it is good business. According to a report from McKinsey (Diversity Matters by Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince), companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. When considering the elements of an inclusive, intelligent enterprise, diversity needs to be top of mind. To enhance the culture of an organization, Listening to what employees at every level are saying is vital. One way organizations can strategically do this is by creating community and funding employee network groups.

D&I efforts go far beyond building programs and “talking the talk.” To drive change, organizations must “walk the walk” and drive structural, organizational interventions. By promoting behavioral changes that lead to inclusion, leaders are able to create clear accountability with measurable goals for everyone. With these practices in place, I expect it will be a very different technology landscape in five to ten years—one that is rich with diversity and fueled by exceptional ideas.

Judith Michelle Williams

Judith Michelle Williams

Head of people sustainability and chief diversity and inclusion officer. She leads business health and diversity and inclusion, which focuses on gender intelligence, cross-generational intelligence, culture and identity, and differently abled people.