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30 augustus 2011

What Diversity Can Do for Business

Glenn Llopis focuses on bringing the immigrant perspective to business leadership and workplace innovation. Founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership and the Center for Innovation and Humanity, Glenn is a consultant and author of Earning Serendipity: 4 Skills for Creating and Sustaining Good Fortune in Your Work; Why Hispanic Leadership will Save America’s Corporations; and Why a Personal Employee Brand will Save Your Career and Your Workplace. Glenn speaks frequently on issues concerning the global workplace, helping employees find new purpose, innovation, and maintaining ethical leadership. The son of Cuban immigrants who were victims of Castro’s revolution, Glenn has worked as an executive in the consumer packaged goods industry and as an entrepreneur. Glenn makes frequent appearances on local and national TV, including CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, and Univision. Family is Glenn's priority and he enjoys mentoring and giving back to the community.

The diversity model in most organizations is broken. But there is a new, compelling way forward: companies need to use diversity for growth. It’s time to take a business approach in order to get the most productivity, employee satisfaction and authenticity from the underutilized talent pool that hides within America’s corporations.

When I meet with corporate executives, the first thing I tell them is that I am a former C-level executive and not a diversity practitioner, but rather a business strategist interested in redefining the role of diversity to cultivate growth. They look at me as if to say, “why would you be wasting your time?” only to follow by saying, “thank you – we need a fresh business perspective to help our C-levels understand the powerful contributions that our diverse employees can deliver to driving business initiatives.” As the conversation continues, it is evident that there is frustration all around: the executives don’t think they’re getting much bang for the diversity buck, and the diversity leaders are having difficulty advancing the conversation internally with key business leaders.

So what should an organization do? In today’s marketplace, diversity must touch the roots of an organization’s business model – especially within growing segments that represent the rapidly changing cultural demographic shifts across America, and especially amongst Asians and Hispanics. Corporations must begin to align their recruitment and retention initiatives to support these growing market segments in order to match the changing demographics of their world. What are the key steps to take?

First of all, when a company announces a market expansion strategy that targets a particular community, it should stick to the plan. It has been shown that there is an increase in attrition when companies fail to support market expansion plans that target a certain diversity group. Why? Employees of color take their identity seriously and if their organization doesn’t, then they believe they can’t have a trustworthy affinity with their employer.

Secondly, support culturally-tailored professional development training programs for your diverse employees. Again, employees want to believe that your organization genuinely believes there is value by investing in their unique identity.

Third, support an Employee Resource Group (ERG) consortium model for your diverse employees across your industry vertical. In other words, get more of your diverse employees to engage with their ERGs within your organization by allowing them to share their voices with others within their own industry. This is a great approach to show that your organization is willing to invest in business growth by showcasing its unique characteristics and talents to cultivate new types of innovations with supply chain partners.

For too many years, people have talked about generating ERG – ROI. This attitude is misleading because if their ERGs are misrepresented, misunderstood and undefined, then the lack of ROI performance will not inspire others to participate. In today’s new workplace it’s about ERG business leadership. Diversity can no longer be viewed as a Human Resources function or support group but rather a business growth enabler that strategically utilizes the core principals of diversity. Until this happens, diversity will never get the budgets, time and required resources it needs to make an impact and influence on business outcomes within the organization.

As an executive for two decades, I have always believed that business success (especially during times of uncertainty), requires three (3) things: 1) forward-thinking leadership; 2) a transparent, trustworthy and committed workplace culture that is focused on winning through teamwork; and 3) the ability to utilize the unique characteristics that are embedded in your talent pool to ward off your competitors:

to see and seize new opportunities (immigrant perspective)
to mitigate risk (circular vision)
to pioneer new marketplace possibilities (passion)
to cultivate continuous innovation (entrepreneurial spirit)
to promote a spirit of giving (generous purpose)
to be significant (cultural promise)
Today’s business climate requires this kind of open-spirited approach. America’s corporations must do a better job of living the principals of diversity by managing them with a business approach.


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