by Alfred J. Torres

Executive Director, Talent Acquisition and Diversity

Recently, I was reading a white paper addressing the state of the diversity and inclusion field. One of the observations stated was that as a field, we have made tremendous strides in promoting the business case for diversity and inclusion, while creating greater awareness about the importance of diversity as essential for success in the marketplace. The paper also presented perspectives on the underlying issues that we need to continue to address—developing a universal definition of diversity; establishing a skills / competency model for diversity practitioners; and, what I’ll characterize as more effort in the diversity management field.

What most caught my attention was the sense that there was less optimism about our progress, and the continuing evolution of our body of work. There is still significant concern about what diversity and inclusion really mean. Diversity practitioners are looking for that next big breakthrough in the field that will lend greater clarity and focus to the work that we do. I’m a proponent of the notion that the glass is always half full; and I believe the field is ripe with opportunity. It begins with the “and.”

“I like to believe that diversity and inclusion is about how we attract, develop and retain the best talent regardless of the “package” it’s in.”

One immediate opportunity is to let go of trying to define what diversity means and recognize what it is. Diversity and inclusion is about gender, race, and other representation in the workforce. And it’s about having the right set of skills and leadership competencies to manage and lead diverse and complex organizations. And our global economy requires that we embrace a broader perspective about the knowledge and tools needed to drive success on that larger stage. And yes, diversity is about the bottom line, measuring impact. Demonstrating performance and result linkages is what every good business discipline does. And we should be held to the same standard.

To take a step back, how we define our work has some importance. Consider the view offered by Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. He promotes the view that diversity (and inclusion) is about mixtures. As he observes, our opportunity is to understand what those mixtures represent, and recognize and appreciate the complexity inherent in those mixtures, and figure out the most effective ways to help our organizations manage the mix, while creating and driving value—for employees, shareholders and potentially for society at large.

I like to believe that diversity and inclusion is about how we attract, develop and retain the best talent regardless of the “package” it’s in. And it’s about how we effectively engage and leverage inclusion of that talent to drive high performance; and translate that performance into outstanding customer service and results for our business. Our opportunity is in the “and.”