Benefits of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
There’s no single agreed upon definition of diversity. Confusion surfaces when equity is used interchangeably with “equality”, while we continue to discuss what it takes to create and measure inclusion. All three, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), continue to be drivers of cultural dialogue. But semantics aside, organizational leaders must recognize and understand Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as more than passing trends.
By nurturing high-performing inclusive cultures, leaders open the door to diverse perspectives and bold new ideas. Strong DE&I strategies boost organizational results through higher engagement when they tap into the passion and drive of all employees.
Reflecting on wise career advice offered by her mother, Talent Dimensions Co-Owner and Strategic Retention Expert Cile Johnson shared, “An organization is not only interviewing you, you’re interviewing them.”
Cile went on to explain, “When I have considered pursuing a new role or changing firms, I would ask questions during interviews and listen carefully to pick up indications of what this new environment could be like. I would ask myself whether I would have to ‘cover’ or if I could bring my full self to this new workplace. In other words, would I belong? When people can bring their full, authentic selves to the workplace, magic happens.”
Creating the Diversity Impact Awards
Each year, Talent Dimensions celebrates that magic with the Diversity Impact Awards. Recipients are recognized in multiple categories for their entire enterprise’s diversity initiatives, for a single ERG, for an enterprise ERG program, for a diversity action outside of their ERGs or for executive sponsor involvement in ERGs.
In 2020, the Diversity Impact Awards evolved from the ERG & Council Honors Awards – a program established by PRISM International in 2009. This program was the first annual award designed to recognize the critical work of Diversity Councils and ERGs at the national level. The awards became part of Talent Dimensions in 2018 with the acquisition of PRISM International, Inc where it became a global award.
Johnson and business partner, Lynn Cowart, recognized the potential to elevate how the impact of Councils and ERGs are measured and saw an opportunity to leverage sharing best practices and experiences with organizations globally. As they began work on revamping the awards to reflect the challenges of today, they learned of research in progress by Dr. Theresa Welbourne.
Welbourne’s Diversity Impact Model™ provided the means to enhance the Honors Awards with a data-driven approach to measure success. Incorporating this new model in the application review process was the final piece of the puzzle.
Welbourne’s research included interviews with executives to better understand the outcomes they wanted to achieve from their diversity programs. Key outcomes focused on talent management, culture and organizational growth potential. These domains were then examined and evaluated based on positive impact in three areas: individuals, the organization and external stakeholders.
The application process blends a quantitative survey (based on the Diversity Impact Model™) with the qualitative review that draws on 30 years of developing and helping organizations execute comprehensive, impactful DE&I strategies.
The value of taking part in the process extends far beyond the awards ceremony.
Even after the awards ceremony is finished, participants continue to benefit from this powerful impact measurement through a series of online reports and set of benchmarking data that builds greater awareness and understanding about their strengths and areas for improvement.
“You continue to get that data, so you can look year over year to see how you’re improving,” Johnson explains. “It’s a great temperature check and you get to see how you stack up against other best-in-class groups.”
As well as rigorously validating the progress of DE&I goals, Welbourne’s model allows participants to prove their missions are critical within their communities and organizations by demonstrating a genuine return on investment. Any applicant—not just award winners—may find this useful in securing funding for their ongoing work.
Cile Johnson cautions that the Diversity Impact Model™’s proven results can be lost if organizations view DE&I initiatives as an afterthought or separate from the core mission. The result of ignoring or viewing DE&I as outside other key strategies can be costly. “When people feel they don’t belong, they will leave, psychologically or physically. Organizations lose talent, ideas, competitive edge and more. It plays out over and over and costs organizations millions of dollars. It’s an avoidable cost,” says Johnson.
The Power of ERGs
An effective diversity program is all about building a healthy DE&I “ecosystem.” As Cile points out, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are crucial needle movers. Often staffed by volunteers from within the organization, ERGs meet employees’ needs on the frontlines and facilitate culture changes that align with their enterprise strategy.
The awards process supports the incredible, and often untapped, ability of ERG and Councils to learn, drive impact and gain recognition for their tireless efforts to support successful execution of an organization’s DE&I strategy. The success of these groups translates into an organization’s ability to drive a more inclusive culture.
At the outset of COVID-19 disruptions, executives were challenged with adapting their organizations overall strategy. However, at the grassroots level ERGs came through. From healthcare to food production and everywhere in-between, enterprises with well-built ERGs led the way, pivoting to fill newly emerging needs and responding to unprecedented demands within companies, agencies and communities. Johnson shares, “Through the work we do and the DIA application review process, we have learned about the creative and caring efforts of ERGs big and small. It’s truly inspiring!”
Built to listen and act, these ERGs were primed to understand the shifting conditions of the groups they represented and what people needed to thrive while maintaining the organization’s mission.
“It’s really about investing,” Johnson explains. “It’s investing not just in your clients, but in your community- in your brand. And ERGs? They’re the ones that can really help build some of those bridges and make those connections. I haven’t seen a person that participated in an ERG that wasn’t passionate about what they’re doing and what the organization is doing around that. They can be some of your greatest ambassadors.”