Companies benefit from having people with many different perspectives working together toward a unified vision.
I’m a past chapter president for a well-known international women’s organization, The Links, Incorporated. Before I took office, I had a vision to ensure that we were a diverse group of women comprised of a vast range of talents, exposures and life experiences who were prepared to serve youth, the arts and good causes.
Thinking of this mathematically, you could say that as a result of diversifying the “numerators,” representing different talents, backgrounds, gender and races on the team, we were able to synergize our talents to work toward the same common denominator—the organization’s mission.
When I think about diversity, I think about how important it is to first know what diversity really means. Diversity is everything that makes us who we are as individuals. According to the National Credit Union Administration, diversity includes racial background, skin color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, age, religion, language, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, family structure, geographic differences, diversity of thought and life experiences.
Here are four ways to promote diversity in your numerator, so your team can more effectively work toward your credit union’s common denominator:
1. Get leadership buy-in. The tone at the top must be loud and clear. CEOs and the entire C-suite must drive the importance of diversity and inclusion throughout the organization. The message has to include the benefits of diversity and the disadvantages of a non-diverse workforce. Leaders can communicate this to their direct reports during exclusive discussions or during town hall meetings with their entire workforce.
2. Broaden your recruiting pool. Having the right people in the right roles is important to most companies today. Having a defined strategy for hiring the best talent to fill the most important roles in the company is another way to promote diversity and inclusion. Being able to attract the best talent involves knowing where to look. Many companies have formal recruiting programs that involve on-campus visits during career days at local colleges and universities. To take this a step further, credit unions may want to recruit employees from diverse college campuses. Adding working with historically black colleges and universities would be a step in the right direction. Notably, credit unions that want to become more inclusive and culturally diverse should not limit their scope of talent to those with only credit union experience.
3. Institute an international culture day or month. Why not have a day or a month where you acknowledge the different cultures in the work place? Some companies do this by hosting an international potluck or by acknowledging world religious holidays observed by other cultures represented in the work place.
4. Create awareness. Educating your team members, especially at the management level and those responsible for hiring, is an excellent way to promote diversity and inclusion. The best leaders want team members who share a common vision but also come at that vision from different perspectives. Education would include workshops and training sessions where diversity and inclusion are defined, and examples and case studies are presented that demonstrate how being inclusive and open to a diverse workforce benefits the entire organization. Other specific strategies include:
- Developing a diversity and inclusion policy
- Adopting hiring practices informed by a commitment to diversity and inclusion
- Conducting training that identifies bias that can exist in the work place
- Hiring a chief diversity officer
- Creating mentoring programs
- Enhancing your vendor management program to include vetting minority-owned businesses
Your denominator (goals, missions and objectives) should remain constant, however, being open to using as many different numerators as possible will move your organization toward creating the best opportunities for success. Diversity and inclusion breeds possibilities for an organization’s growth. The most successful organizations understand the importance of diversity and inclusion. Notably, many of the larger financial service and investment banks have comprehensive diversity and inclusion programs, including Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Black Rock and Goldman Sachs.
Christine Fowler-Phillips is president and founder of Discover Your Best Self LLC. She helps you bring your A-game every day to achieve the success you want, giving you the best chance to accomplish all you desire in life. Check out her book, “Discover Your Best Self…and Stick with It.”