There has been an evolution taking place in America over the past several years. Like any evolution it was fueled, initially, by a few passionate voices – ours included. It has occurred in fits and starts and has sometimes lain dormant for a time as other priorities emerged and distracted organizations from a focus that might have yielded significant positive business results.
This evolution has been the one from a focus on diversity to a focus on inclusion, a cause we have been championing for more than 20 years now as a business imperative—the key to positive business growth. And although, we have made some progress, we still have a long way to go. Most recently, the economic climate in the United States caused many organizations to move into survival mode, shifting their attention away from initiatives designed to embrace inclusion in a misguided effort to cut costs by focusing staff attention on more visible efforts to positively impact the bottom line. As we see some slight signs of economic improvement, and as we continue to stress that inclusion is a business imperative, we are seeing some organizations come back around to the realization that without engaged employees whose efforts can yield engaged customers, bottom lines won’t budge.
Part of the problem with the adoption of what we believe to be critical business practices is that diversity efforts have not worked. Yes, we’ve said it: diversity efforts have not worked. Why? Because almost without exception those efforts have focused on the wrong numbers – not bottom line numbers, but numbers of people of various types: numbers of women, numbers of people of color, numbers of members of every variety of protected classification under Title VII.
We’re here to tell you it’s not about those kind of numbers. It’s not about counting people. We view that focus as “then.” This is now. For businesses to succeed today in a competitive, global economy, they must be firmly focused on now – on the business initiatives designed around inclusion that can result in more engaged, loyal employees and, in turn, more engaged loyal customers.