Diversity Management is Outdated and Demands a New Approach
The voices of America’s diverse populations were heard and their votes counted during the recent re-election of President Barack Obama – who was recently named Time Magazine’s 2012 Person of the Year and noted as “the beneficiary and the author of a kind of a New America, a new demographic, a new cultural America.” With Obama’s victory and America’s new multicultural demographic landscape, corporations must take notice and start paying more attention to diversity management and its influence on new markets, revenue streams, product and service offerings, branding efforts, community outreach and employee recruitment and retention. While America’s corporations are slowly warming up to the importance of diversity as a business imperative, a lot of work still needs to be done – and it begins with demanding a new approach to diversity management.
Diversity management is about business strategy, brand management, product development, creating leaders, recruiting talent, and discovering active thought-leaders whose voices can educate and inspire business growth and opportunity within industries. As such, diversity management can no longer be a departmental and/or functional responsibility led by a few people in the human resources department with limited budgets. Diversity management must be a profit center that is measureable and directly connected to revenue generation, research & development activities and new ventures; it no longer can be just a cost center valued only as a line item first to be cut from the budget when revenue projections are not met.
Diversity management is not something that can be turned-on and then turned-off like this – in an instant. Because this has historically been the case, it has been impossible to build any type of continuity, impact or momentum when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent.
Diversity management is a responsibility that every corporate C-level executive and department head must embrace as part of their job description, and make part of their business plan and budget. It must be ingrained in how they think, act and innovate. In fact, diversity management certification should be required across all management and leadership roles. This is such an important issue that my organization launched – Hispanic Training Center – a diversity management certification program five years in the making – in September 2012.
Diversity management must move beyond the favored nation “check box” mentality – where different groups are favored at different times instead of all groups at all times – and become an everyday responsibility inherent within the organization’s culture that everyone embraces. We must view diversity though a lens that is less about managing the political dynamics of a melting pot and filling pot holes – and more about the endless opportunities of leading a cultural mosaic fueled by untapped intelligence and know-how. Until then, diversity will not be taken seriously because people remain uninformed about what it really means to business and their careers.
During a time when budgets are being scrutinized and ROI is carefully measured, corporations will not invest in advocacy and this is what diversity is perceived as being. This is how diversity has been historically managed and how decisions have been made – not just by corporations but by the countless non-profit professional organizations that advocate and support their specific constituencies. These organizations are important and they serve a role; but they too must reinvent themselves to leverage their valuable resources in ways that directly impact the totality of a corporation’s supply chain – focused on driving business results and easily measured ROI.
Diversity management has a brand image problem that must be corrected quickly. Many believe that the word “diversity” itself carries with it a negative connotation that makes people feel uncomfortable – and that has become more of a disrupter rather than an enabler for key influencers whose attention is focused on business specific / bottom-line results. In fact, many executives believe that diversity stands in their way when asked to participate in key initiatives.
As one Fortune 100 senior executive recently told me, “I am being told to sponsor an employee resource group that is disorganized; it will demand more of my time that I don’t have and now puts me in a vulnerable position. This is the last thing I needed to worry about as it puts my reputation that I have worked so hard to build at risk.”
It’s time for organizations to invest wisely in diversity management – in ways that enable positive experiences and education, and where active participation promotes growth and opportunity; not just for the business but equally for the individuals who are courageous enough to help change paradigms.
To be a “diversity practitioner” is admirable and important – but it is no longer enough. The conversations must move well beyond representation issues – and focus on supporting the new normal of inclusiveness (i.e., the Modern Family effect is in full force in America). Diversity management must shift its efforts on converting initiatives (that stop and start) into best practices (that become an embedded part of the company’s central ethos). Diversity management is about being culturally intelligent about yourself and others in order to enable higher levels of workplace performance; market and sell in more authentic ways; and enjoy sustainable growth and profitability in the new markets that serve America’s changing demographics. Diversity management is about acquiring global market perspective and know-how to forge meaningful strategic business alliances that strengthen the supply chain.
Now that we have suggested a new mindset and approach for diversity management, please be mindful that to successfully lead these diversity best practices, the organization’s diversity management leadership must embody a set of competencies to assure the organization is living diversity every day through its people, business, and brands in purposeful and meaningful ways that should include (but are not limited to):
- Culturally relevant education & training (to support understanding, better decision making, etc.)
- Brand Management Advisors (to enable the most effective communication, messaging, positioning, etc.)
- Personal Branding (to allow people to be their authentic selves and strengthen the core of their identity)
- Content Marketing that is transcendent (relatable across demographics, generations and corporate leadership)
- Cross Cultural Think-Tanks (infusing cultural intelligence into the business equation)
- Thought Leadership (that introduces new perspectives to advance today’s new “diversity movement”)
- Social Media & Mobile Messaging (to expand content accessibility, community engagement and reach)
Let’s stop minimizing the value of diversity management in corporate America and its influential role on our economy and global competitiveness. The time is now to give diversity management a well-deserved and much needed refresh!
Glenn Llopis Contributor
Best known for what I call the “the immigrant perspective” most of my writings, speaking engagements and consulting assignments focus on leadership, Hispanics in America, career advancement, marketing diversity management, entrepreneurship, business development and turn around operations. I focus on the idea that if people embrace the natural skills and characteristics that are influenced by their culture, they enable an “immigrant mentality” that gives them a distinct competitive advantage to cultivate success and significance in one’s career, business and life. Chairman of the Glenn Llopis Group and Founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership, I am consultant and author of Earning Serendipity: 4 Skills for Creating and Sustaining Good Fortune in Your Work; The Six Reasons Why Hispanic Leadership will Save America’s Corporations; and Why a Personal Employee Brand will Save Your Career and Your Workplace. The son of Cuban immigrants who were victims of Castro’s revolution, I have worked as a senior executive in the consumer packaged goods industry and as an entrepreneur. I make frequent appearances on local and national TV, including CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, and Univision. Family is my priority and I enjoy mentoring and giving back to the communityThe author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.