October 15, 2018

Leverage diversity to your benefit

Bonnie J. Walker, executive director of diversity & inclusion strategy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Diversity is all the ways we are unique by demographics, beliefs, backgrounds, talents, capabilities, ideas, ways of living, generation and experience.

Having a diverse collective stimulates new and different thinking, leading to greater possibilities in scholarship, problem-solving and innovation. Here is how you can create that diversity in your organization and how to best help it thrive.

Diversity fails without inclusion

Inclusion connects diverse people to create an environment of involvement and respect, where the richness of diversity is integrated at all organizational levels and operations to create value.

Change depends on changing mindsets

Pervasive messages and culture are pronounced and perpetuated by the people who create the policies and structures of organizations. Be introspective and be the change you want to see. We do what we care about.

Understand one size does not fit all

Benchmarking is important, but different institutional histories and structures influence and impact organizations, creating very different cultural climates. Set agendas aligning with the unique organizational culture.

Set diversity plans and goals

Like any major institutional initiative, diversity plans must have calculated, concrete direction and goals shared across every level, with strategies and metrics that align them. Evaluate and reevaluate over time.

Represent diversity in senior leaders

Diverse leadership manifests the benefits of workplace diversity. United leaders are spokespeople for diversity issues, and create a culture deploying inclusive best practices, development tools, and resources to maximize talent engagement and satisfaction, advancement, and workplace performance.

Put diversity in your branding and visibility

The message is very clear: diversity and inclusion must be woven into the fabric of organizations across all levels and dimensions and integrated into the communication plan; it's a strategic business imperative.

Initiatives must be funded

Diversity and inclusion initiatives must be tied to sufficient, targeted funding. Return-on-investment gains might be slow to start, but they will have lasting positive impact on business vitality, including results showing a diverse workforce, high-employee retention, job satisfaction, etc.

Continued training is a must

Strategically aligned diversity and inclusion training meets the needs of organizational members in all areas at all levels. Long-term leveled training, with targeted leadership training, is important for sustained educational growth.

Achieve Inclusive excellence

Diversity initiatives originate from legal compliance policies. The next step is inclusion change initiatives. Linking diversity and inclusion to thought leadership, where innovation and opportunity maximize the full potential of people, brands, and businesses, is inclusive excellence.

Bonnie J. Walker is executive director of diversity & inclusion strategy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, plying this arena in higher education in Massachusetts for 15 years. Contact her at bjhall@wpi.edu.


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