Magazine article Mortgage Banking

The ROI of Diversity

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

The ROI of Diversity

Article excerpt

CHANGE IS HEALTHY--ESPECIALLY when it brings you into better alignment with what is already occurring in the world around you. This is especially true in business. This is partly what propelled the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and its member companies to embark on a new dedicated strategy to embrace diversity.

MBA member companies continue to reach out to increasingly diverse customers in an increasingly global marketplace. But to truly promote diversity, MBA decided it must also increase the diversity of the organization's leadership and further promote diversity within MBA's member companies. Jonathan L. Kempner, MBA president and chief executive officer, explained the details of MBA's diversity initiative in his column titled "Strategically Correct" in the June 2005 issue of Mortgage Banking. He quite correctly stated, "... It's not only about connecting with your customer. It's also about preparing your company for the changes that are ahead."

Yet, diversity initiatives, in general, are at a crossroads. If not carried out correctly, they are at the very least a potential waste of valuable time, resources and focus--and may, in fact, put your company at greater risk. Diversity initiatives must either evolve into a new, more effective form or suffer the fate of antiquated models.

Inclusion is the new and improved model.

The principles of inclusion must be focused on achieving measurable business results and return on investment (ROI). A viable strategy requires getting past guilt, shame, blame, anger and many other issues that get in the way.

Creating an inclusive environment requires getting beyond diversity as a nice thing to do or the right thing to do, and making it a business priority. It requires learning from the past and moving into the future. It promises nothing less than individual and corporate transformation.

The true practice of inclusion releases unlimited potential. It has the capacity to unlock the next great idea, process or product. It creates an environment where the best people with the best talent can do their best work--productivity in its highest form.

Business institutions--be they small neighborhood establishments, giant international corporations or midsized companies--are leaders of social change, whether they like it or not. The best cure for many of the social, economic and political challenges we face today is to increase real opportunities and profits so that everyone can share in the enterprise. Inclusion fosters the kind of growth that will ultimately provide more opportunity for everyone.

Most diversity initiatives are currently structured in a way that cannot achieve corporate or social change. Certainly many organizations have been struggling to find the solution. During the past 20 years, I've worked with scores of organizations, large and small, to develop a best-practices model called The Phoenix Principles. This model proposes an innovative and viable framework that can help you create, or successfully restructure, your diversity initiative into a team that uses the principles and practices of inclusion to increase corporate profits.

In my work as a consultant for diversity/inclusion and leadership, I've identified five key elements necessary for a diversity or inclusion initiative to be successful. In fact, by analyzing which of these elements may be missing from an initiative, I can predict and correct certain dysfunctions that will arise.

1. The best people: Choose those individuals for your inclusion team who not only have influence in your company and the community, but who also possess a superior level of commitment to the company's diversity/inclusion initiative.

2. Compelling focus: A sound initiative requires absolute alignment with the company's overall business strategies, and will focus on return on investment. Compelling purpose also addresses the scope of authority, clarity about inclusion/diversity, vision of end-state and reason the initiative has come into being. …

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