by Marie Y. Philippe, PhD

Corporate Vice President, Culture and Organizational Effectiveness
The Lifetime Healthcare Companies

It has been nearly 25 years since Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. created the American Institute for Managing Diversity. At the time, few corporations and first-time diversity practitioners could articulate with clarity what requirements would be needed to produce a successful diversity strategy. There were no road maps to guide these early diversity pioneers, nothing to go on but instinct, common sense, and guts.

We have learned much in the last two and half decades. Volumes have been written about how to lead a successful initiative, and the topic of diversity management has been dissected and analyzed from a wide range of viewpoints.

We have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work. Yet, I have found by observation throughout my career that there are, in fact, ten identifiable elements that I consider absolutely essential for success. These elements are so important that without them, you will likely fail; but with them, success is nearly guaranteed.

  1. Have a committed Ceo and senior management team that can encourage the entire enterprise to embrace change and hold managers accountable.
  2. Build on existing organizational structures. It is more efficient and practical to expand on what is already present, rather than to reinvent the wheel. initial programs gain traction when they utilize structures already in place.
  3. Establish financial justification and business relevance. The business case for diversity needs to be promulgated and reinforced to all stakeholders throughout the organization.
  4. Allocate dedicated resources. The diversity leader needs to be focused on that one initiative. “Second Hat” responsibility for someone with another functional purpose is a short cut that short-changes the outcome.
  5. Establish a budget. Each functional area in an organization needs a budget. The diversity budget ought to reflect its importance. As progress is achieved, further investments should be made in staffing, program expansion, and support.
  6. Monitor progress. A diversity scorecard should be put in place to monitor both qualitative and quantitative objectives. furthermore, it should be shared with everyone in the organization.
  7. Establish community partnerships. The selection of relevant business partners in the communities where the organization conducts business should become part of a long-term strategy.
  8. Get regular feedback. at a minimum, survey employees once a year to gather anonymous feedback on their perceptions of the organization’s culture and its diversity and inclusion efforts.
  9. Seek organizational alignment. A well-designed diversity strategy builds on current succession planning and leadership development programs. These programs are adjusted for greater inclusion.
  10. Have a contingency plan. Anticipating potential difficulties should not be seen as a lack of confidence, but rather as smart planning, similar to the way sales forecasting takes into account different scenarios.

Where Do We Go From Here? Clearly, we have learned much over the last twenty plus years. Diversity initiatives will continue to evolve in the workplace. I believe, however, that the elements described above will stand the test of time and be central to diversity success well into the 21st century.

Marie Y. Philippe, Ph.D.

Marie Y. Philippe, Ph.D.

Corporate Vice President, Culture and Organizational Effectiveness
The Lifetime Healthcare Companies

Well known for her leadership contribution in corporate culture transformation through strategic diversity initiatives and organizational change management. She can be reached at [email protected].