Diversity Insight: Conscious Inclusivity Is a Competitive Advantage

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By Keely Witherow

4 minutes

Organizations can expect positive payback from promoting cultural diversity.

Diversity and inclusion training is no longer a well-intentioned afterthought, and for good reason: the 2019 L&D Report from confirms that the fastest-growing companies are 72% more likely to have high diversity in their organization compared to the ones who didn’t see growth last year.

Thanks to multi-modal approaches and what Max Avruch of BCG Digital Ventures calls “radical inclusion,” the next generation of D&I training is a catalyst for positive change and innovation. As explained by Avruch, the company’s learning and organizational development specialist:

“It’s the notion of really trying to include everyone and not feeling like there’s the segregation that can easily happen in a work-type community.”

This radical inclusion is achievable by creating a company culture that embraces diversity in several ways. More than just a mandatory HR initiative or a single course, this new approach combines formal training with a strategy tailored to the specific company’s needs.

D&I Training in Daily Life

BCG Digital Ventures is especially proud of its initiative regarding LGBTQ pride, which included putting Kinsey scales (a spectrum of sexual orientation) inside bathroom stalls and encouraging employees to anonymously mark where they fall on the scale. “It was a way for us to show diversity on our walls and to show people there is a spectrum around orientation,” says Avruch.

Other initiatives by the company include employee business resource groups, which allow people with shared identities or cultures to come together to discuss common concerns. A company that embraces diversity in a genuine way is more likely to foster innovation and development than a company that restricts D&I training to a mandatory PowerPoint lecture.

Small Initiatives Add Up

Top D&I programs are multi-pronged, involve more than one method of delivery and are developed over time. Just ask Janine le Sueur, the VP/programs at The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.: “It is true that a single training or resource cannot solve.” By combining tried-and-true training methods with ground-up initiatives, D&I becomes ingrained within company culture.

Since 1943 Junior League leaders have been growing their D&I practices into the comprehensive program they comprise today. Online and print resources are complimented by in-person conferences, which the company’s chief learning officer, JuWon Choi ,hopes will give “members the confidence to become D&I advocates” themselves. The tri-annual conference, which focuses on topics like microaggressions, unconscious bias and blind spots, has proved extremely popular among League Members.

It’s worth taking a page out of Junior League’s book by implementing intentional, systematic action to make D&I central to all aspects of your organization.

Strength in Our Differences

When you’re tasked with making important decisions, having different cultural voices at the table is an invaluable competitive advantage. As one of the largest pharmaceutical companies with a presence in 120 countries, Merck knows this well. “When thinking about our mission, there’s strength in our differences,” says Texanna Reeves, executive director of the Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence at Merck.

Diverse talent is critical at Merck, where translating medicine packaging into different languages is just the tip of the iceberg. Possibly more important is considering how medicine will be perceived culturally. Whether in the lab, clinical trials or the office, it’s crucial to have diverse perspectives in the room when you’re in the business of improving and saving lives.

Diversity Leads to Innovation

Research shows that companies with diverse and inclusive workforces are more innovative and profitable.

A great example is Bayer, which has received The Catalyst Award, the highest honor for diversity in the U.S. Bayer’s head of U.S. learning and talent development, Karen Bicking, attributes this success to the company’s active promotion of women in the workplace: “We have programs geared toward diversity and inclusion, so we partner with some external organizations to help develop our women leaders.”

Other companies, like EY, use diversity to set themselves apart from the competition and spark innovation within the team. According to Martin Hayter, EY’S global assurance learning leader:

“The team has a global flavor to it. It brings more creativity and higher quality and we know that the content we develop is going to be applicable to different cultures, and to both emerging and mature markets.”

So, if your organization is among the 48% that still do not offer any type of D&I training, there’s no time like the present. Reeves of Merck provides one last piece of advice: “Start small. Really look at where you can get started and then just go ahead and chip away at it!”

Keely Witherow writes and publishes content for, the leading search engine for professional training in the US and North America.

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