Disclaimer: I am writing today’s post up from a mobile device so please pardon any departure from my ususal formatting.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a pilot diversity and inclusion training program. Lots of good stuff in there, including the facts that diversity is not just EEOC compliance (which it can be easy to forget in under-staffed plant environments) and that being diverse doesn’t just mean focusing on protected classess as defined under U.S. anti-discrimination law. What organizations are really driving for when they aspire for diversity is to cultivate teams possessing thoughts and experiences that reflect the wide range of customers they serve and communities they work within. By sounding, looking, and thinking like the customers they serve, companies drive new business by making inroads at every stage of the supply chain (while simultaneously strengthening relationships with existing customers). Promoting diversity also has the added benefits of fostering good in the communities a business serves, creating jobs for members of the local population and fostering ties that can drive brand loyalty (and in the process market share).

With that said, perhaps the most powerful takeaway of yesterday’s event was that it gave me a greater understanding of why diversity and inclusion initiatives fail. My understanding here is that for any large-scale change program to succeed the following three ingredients must be present:

1. People need to understand the issue (in this case understanding what diversity and inclusion means and where the opportunities for growth are).

2. People must have the capabilites to address the issue (this could be training, tools, or additional resources)

3. People need an incentive to address the issue (among other things, this could be emphasis from leaders at the top, recognition in the form of intrinsic and/or extrinsic rewards for champions of the agenda, or even tying performance goals to diversity and inclusion targets/metrics).

…So the above is the skeleton of a starting point. With that said, when an organization is doing really well it can be difficult to recognize the need to make diversity a priority (and to that point kudos to companies like Google who are making diversity a priority even as they come off a historically great year).

What is your organization doing to make diversity a priority? And again, I am not just referring to protected and/or obvious dimensions like race/gender/sexual orientation/religion/age/disability/language. Just as important when thinking about diversity are dimensions such as communication style, socioeconomic status, educational background, and the way one thinks about the world. There is evidence to suggest that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams, so this should be top of mind to leaders at every company.

…Or maybe I have this wrong? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.