— Because achieving diversity in the workplace requires an ongoing commitment, many businesses in San Diego County are working to develop more inclusive recruiting, hiring, and promotion practices.

Achieving ethnic, gender, and cultural diversity is all about commitment, said Steven Jones, the CEO of Jones & Associates Consulting Inc., a leadership advisory and organizational change consulting firm based in San Diego.

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Steve Jones

“Diversity has got to be led and engaged from the top of the organization,” Jones said. “Middle managers have to be taught the skills to lead inclusively. Frontline employees have to feel the safety to share their viewpoints.”

Many business owners recognize that companies that make a commitment to be inclusive typically perform better. Businesses with a diverse workforce are better positioned to create products and services that have broad consumer appeal, Jones said. A workplace that embraces diversity and inclusion can find new ways to understand the needs of customers.

“I would frame it as an opportunity for innovation,” Jones said. “When we talk about diversity we say it’s important to focus on diversity of thought. Diversity of thought is a key driver to innovation...The core part of that is to make sure a commitment to inclusion and diversity is connected to business goals and objectives.”

Recognizing Biases

Having a positive impact on a business’s bottom line requires that employees at all level have the skills to recognize conscious and unconscious biases, he said. Many local companies are struggling with how to recruit and develop diverse talent. Some companies say they want diversity but have a hard time accepting it. The tendency is to encourage people who are different to fit in. While intentions may be good, the result is a workplace that doesn’t encourage new ideas, Jones said.

“I believe most executives want to have a team that wins,” Jones said. “What we know from research is diverse teams outperform teams that are similar.”

Denise Hummel, founder and chief innovation officer of Lead Inclusively Inc, agrees. The former attorney said her talent advisory firm focuses on the connection between inclusion and performance.

When companies commit to diversity and inclusion, they need to follow through to make sure their goals are being implemented, Hummel said.

“It starts at the top but it can’t end there,” she said.

Taking Action

If the commitment isn’t part of the corporate culture, inclusion efforts won’t be sustainable, she said. While a CEO may call for more diversity, if that isn’t being acted upon by executives or the company’s human resources department, the business won’t make the shift. If workers are recruited to bring diversity to a company but aren’t included in decisions, there will be attrition.

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