Why You Have to Align Diversity with Business Goals

January 31st, 2011

“For a sustainable change in diversity, make sure every activity is well aligned with the business strategy; it is much more likely to last!”

In reference to this statement, key to my teachings on Leveraging Difference, Mistinguette Smith recently posed this question to me through Facebook: “Every CEO knows to say this, but what does it really mean? Where have you seen good examples of it in the private sector? Public sector?”

All it really means is that altruistic-driven stuff has an expiration date. “We’ll bring more women in because it’s the right thing to do” usually means, “We’ll bring more women in and they’ll all be gone in two years.”

If any organization wants the changes in diversity to stick, the leaders and the people in the organization have to have skin in the game—they have to want to change. The best way to drive that is to align changes in diversity with things that really make the organization work better. For example: A U.S. software company makes a big push to retain Indian engineers who are leaving at a rapid rate. Having the Indians means two things: it creates greater diversity, and they can make better software. And making software is the mission of the company. That company will learn to maintain its cultural diversity.

This works for any organization. You just have to decide what differences make a difference for that organization (easier said than done).

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