Inclusion Opportunity: Leveraging Diversity for Bottom-Line Results in Today's Global Marketplace: Don't Ignore Differences in the Workplace

Article excerpt

The Business Imperative

To those unfamiliar with workplace diversity, it can seem like a bewildering maze of abstract initiatives and intentions. Yet, from Dun & Bradstreet's (D&B) perspective, when properly implemented, diversity and inclusion efforts are among the best ways to attract and retain top talent and to impact the bottom line.

A few years ago, Volney Taylor, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, determined that D&B should be a company known as a preferred employer and a business partner of choice. A key to those goals, he believed, was taking a broad, global view of the markets in which we compete for business and for people. Regarding inclusion, he described his vision of the "new" D&B by explaining, "Inclusion is our future, a measure of our ability to adapt and thrive. . .This, today, is a broader challenge than it has ever been. And we intend to meet it head on."

In today's multicultural environment, employees no longer need to be cut from the same cloth. What was once appropriate to a one-size-fits-all local marketplace is today a risky and costly anachronism in a global environment. Organizations with the staying power to thrive in the global marketplace are not composed of employees with similarities in experience, background and educational exposure. They are communities of people with different characteristics, experiences and viewpoints. These broad, heterogeneous communities can leverage a variety of perspectives and approach business challenges in creative ways that homogeneous ones cannot. Thus, corporate communities that support differences are more creative, more resilient and generally more profitable.

Connecting the Workplace to the Marketplace

The inclusion challenge can be complex. Almost every employee population includes a multitude of backgrounds and needs, some of which can be poles apart. The issues usually go much further than easily discernible differences such as age, race, marital status, and gender to include different ways of thinking, talents and specialties, cultures, ethnicity, types of intelligence, emotional experiences and much more.

And inclusion extends beyond workforce issues to a company's financial performance. There is indeed a bottom-line price to be paid for ignoring differences in the workplace. For example, some years ago Chevrolet's sales of its car model, "Nova" failed in Latin America, due in part to the Spanish translation of the cat's name: "It doesn't go." On the flip side, in 1990 Honda, which had no presence within the Hispanic community, hired a Hispanic-owned advertising agency and started a targeted strategy to penetrate that market. Within three years, the number-one car sold to the Hispanic community was - guess what - Honda.

It's no accident that 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies have diversity programs. These global organizations not only honor difference, but also realize its power to create world-class performance. Clearly, inclusion is more than ethical action in the workplace. It is a first-class success strategy for the challenges that organizations face now and for the future.

Building Inclusion and Leveraging Diversity at D&B

Organizations considering inclusion programs should make sure they embark on this effort with "both feet on the ground" realism. Inclusion is not a simple matter of consciousness raising. It must be bolstered with a plan of action. In other words, it's not simply success in instilling an appreciation of differences, but literally putting the program supports and structures in place to make sure inclusion happens.

The Inclusion Initiative comprises several efforts that are already firmly underway:

Support Network Groups

Support Network Groups are being formed by D&B associates interested in raising awareness about identity groups both within and outside the company. The network groups will be national in scope and will focus on the particular needs of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, women and others. …