The ROI of Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

(The first of a three-part series on Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace)

www.culturefit2020.com

By Susanne Bowen & Alan Letton, PhD

Diversity and inclusion have been gaining attention for the important role they play in maintaining a strong corporate culture, and rightly so. Diversity and inclusion drive employee engagement by embracing the different backgrounds, experiences, religions, sexual orientations and disabilities – to name just a few – of a diverse workplace. At the same time, contributions of each and every individual are recognized and valued. The presence of this myriad of different individuals brings with it an important layer of perspective that is not possible within a homogenous group. Without a sustained effort towards inclusion, however, diversity cannot succeed.

Inclusion makes diversity actionable by creating an environment where each individual is accepted for the skills and experiences they contribute to the organization. Forbes1 state that “Inclusion is the only scalable way to build diversity within an organization. Without thoughtful and deliberate discussion and action to cultivate an inclusive environment, all the energy and resources spent on recruiting a diverse workforce are for naught.” For example, an effort to employ both able-bodied and disabled people create diversity, but if there are no handicap-accessible facilities in the building, inclusion has failed.

In contemplating the best manner in which to describe the sum total impact of diversity and inclusion organization – wide, and specifically with regard to ROI, I turn to my colleague, Dr. Alan Letton. Alan has the personal and professional experience, and subject matter expertise to aptly speak to the effect diversity and inclusion have on ROI. As is clear, the ROI of implementing diversity and inclusion programs and activities can be measured in a variety of ways.

Throughout my career, for that matter throughout my life, I’ve watched organizations struggle with diversity and inclusion for a myriad of reasons. As they struggle with understanding the bias within their own environments, intentional or not, they fail to understand the real impact to their bottom line.

There is the obvious investment loss; recruitment and development capital that is lost when a candidate never matriculates to maturity in an organization, loss of business when bandwidth and work capacity are diminished thus having to be developed again, lawsuits associated with unrecognized or unintended behaviors, and the social equity loss when the global community challenges the organization by ignoring its products or services. The result is a significant drop in the corporate ROI. 

However, what is more often missed is the reduction in ROI associated with loss in growth, loss of opportunity, limited access to new clients because the organization failed to see the myopic way in which it viewed the world. My father served as a Victor Mills fellow at Procter & Gamble, as one of the top technical contributors to the company’s bottom line. Through his eyes I watched the company identify the business opportunities it was losing because it lacked diversity in its workplace. Look at the evolution of their commercials, segmented for diverse communities, reflecting their personal values and standards in the use of P&G products and how this inclusionary behavior in the company and the marketplace has led to incremental growth culturally and financially.

Because of lessons I’ve absorbed in corporations in which I’ve been employed, and in which I’ve led, and through interactions with other organizations, I’ve learned to create diversity processes and strategies that focus not just on inclusion, but on ways in which it improves the bottom line. There truly is a win-win once diversity [and inclusion] is understood as a contributor to the company’s bottom line, and its ROI.”

 

Susanne Bowen – Co-founder and Managing Partner of Culture Fit 20/20 has championed cross – cultural communications and management her entire career in various roles and leadership positions.

 

Dr. Alan Letton – From founding companies and serving as CEO, leading in academia to designing and directing corporate scientific initiatives, Dr. Letton’s skills in strategic planning, process design, and quality have won him followers and a rewarding career.

Dr. Letton joins Culture Fit 20/20 in August as, Practice Lead: Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics. linkedin.com/in/aletton

1 Forbes, 01.17.18, What Should Inclusion Really Look Like In The Workplace?

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