The moral fiber of diversity and inclusion professionals in the business milieu has always been that of great champions, creating a framework for best practices in areas such as recruitment, retention, performance management to organizational development and beyond.
In helping companies become an ‘employer of choice’ these professionals are true agents of change within their organizations by not only holding steadfast for the need for an equitable and just workplace but being guardians of the underlying necessities of a healthy corporate culture. However, in this time of civil unrest, where racial injustice, bias, and otherness has come to the forefront of not only the American consciousness but a significant global awakening that will continue to have reverberations. Numerous corporations have taken very strong stances against intolerance and injustice from Starbucks, Nike, McDonald’s, and even the National Football League. As companies become more vocal, we know this is not enough. Corporate leaders have to recognize that this sea change is no longer window dressing, but a fundamental component to the survival and ultimately the long-term success story that will drive the internal harmony and external growth of there business. The obvious question to ask is, where do we go from here? How do companies continue to tackle this systemic problem while continuing to grow their business? A key answer lies in the indispensable nature of diversity and inclusion professionals, but even more importantly, in the wake of the protests and a call to action, it is even more important than ever to reevaluate the role of diversity and inclusion professionals and their relation to the business.
It is time for diversity and inclusion professionals to transform themselves once again. No longer are they just there to develop best practices across business units, but rather, diversity and inclusion professionals must be in the business of innovation. They must be drivers of change and be the proponents to illustrate that all businesses can effectively be agents of change. Cultural transformation is a tall order, but diversity and inclusion professionals are best positioned to spearhead these changes and help to re-author the narrative of an organization by injecting a purpose-driven philosophy that will be fundamental in shaping their value to be a company of choice.
If diversity and inclusion professionals are going to embrace this new identity it is important to explore what this truly means to be in the business of innovation. Both Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, and Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs saw one of the key principles of innovation as listening to your customer. Through listening, you can ensure you make and sell the product you want and have a direct connection to your target audience. Building on this principle it is crucial that diversity professionals think of listening as one of the central instruments they have to impact organizational change. It is through the act of listening that diversity and inclusion professionals can learn from the people that make up the organization and help to enact real culture change. It is important to remember not only what one is listening for, but also how to utilize the act of passive and active listening. Each serves a role in helping diversity and inclusion professionals challenge organizational standards and at moments make employees across the organizational chart feel uncomfortable by challenging their world views and getting to the crux of biases. It is in these moments where diversity and inclusion professionals challenge the status quo and make people feel comfortable being uncomfortable where real innovative change can happen.
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As this movement where the fight against bigotry and hatred builds to a groundswell, it is important to explore the role of diversity and inclusion professionals as key players in this effort. As they continue to occupy a larger role for a corporate response, they must also see their responsibility growing toward a much more humanistic approach for greater equity and justice. One of the ways this can be done is for diversity and inclusion professionals to look towards the disability community as a way to embrace an interconnection across many stakeholders and develop a strategy that touches upon a multitude of communities.
This July marks the 30th Anniversary of the signing of The Americans with Disabilities Act, a seminal moment not just for the disability community but for all of humanity. The disability community is the only minority group anyone can join at any time. It is a community that is ever-expanding. Diversity and inclusion professionals must see this community as a powerful template that can be used to listen, learn, and adapt to effect real change.
By: Jonathan Kaufman
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