By Ray Carson
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Highmark Inc.

Diversity is even more important in a down economy.

Companies today are sensitive to the need for providing employees with a work environment that is safe and secure. The reason is simple. Apart from the direct toll on human life, aggressive acts cause untold financial loss from resulting lawsuits and damage awards, workplace disruptions, insurance premium escalations, declines in employee productivity, workforce retention issues and customer anxiety.

To remain competitive, businesses must evolve by maximizing the potential of their employees. When everyone contributes and feels valued, the company is better positioned to succeed.

Innovation is key to making diversity a priority.

Challenging business environments require innovation. Original ideas happen most often when diversity of thought is supported and rewarded in an inclusive organization.

Don’t allow diversity and inclusion programs to fall victim.

In this light, diversity and inclusion are smart business and hold the key to your competitiveness— even more so as talent and consumer markets change. Companies that fail to account for demographics in the current environment will fall behind as the economy accelerates.

How do you maintain diversity and inclusion commitments from your organization?

Listen to your customers and make sure that you are representative of your total customer base. Monitor your talent pools. Internship programs are particularly helpful ways to get in front of changing workforce demographics.