The Bottom-Line Savings of Diversity & Inclusion in Business and at Work

20 years ago, when I was trained as a Diversity Facilitator at General Electric, a key component of that initiative was the data driving the ROI (Return On Investment) of training the GE workforce and its leadership to be more inclusive. FYI, here’s a succinct definition of workplace diversity from Cornell University ILR School:

As a concept, diversity is considered to be inclusive of everyone. In many ways, diversity initiatives complement non-discrimination compliance programs by creating the workplace environment and organizational culture for making differences work. Diversity is about learning from others who are not the same, about dignity and respect for all, and about creating workplace environments and practices that encourage learning from others and capture the advantage of diverse perspectives. (Emphasis mine.)

In addition to the critical values piece, diversity and inclusion awareness (starting at the CEO level and infused through every level of any organization) has a practical bottom-line impact. The workforce demographic trends stated 20 years ago resonate with today’s projections:  by 2050, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of those groups who are in the minority of workers today – e.g., the U.S. workforce will not be comprised mainly of white males. Practically speaking, in order to compete from a talent recruitment and retention standpoint, businesses must prepare themselves now to welcome and include all workers, regardless of current or future minority or majority status, if they are to have the right mix of human capital talent to achieve their long-range growth and sustainability. By the way, that also means including white men, too.

Makes business sense, right? 20 years ago, email and cell phones were just coming into common use – no one could imagine how today’s technology and communication channels would truly impact how much a lack of diversity and inclusion could impact the bottom line. Two recent cautionary tales of CEOs caught up in the fiscal impact of non-inclusion stand out:

  •  Mozilla CEO resigns, opposition to gay marriage drew fire

    (Reuters) – Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich has stepped down, the company said on Thursday, after an online dating service urged a boycott of the company’s web browser because of a donation Eich made to opponents of gay marriage.

    The software company came under fire for appointing Eich as CEO last month. In 2008, he gave money to oppose the legalization of gay marriage in California, a hot-button issue especially at a company that boasts about its policy of inclusiveness and diversity.

    “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act,” wrote Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker in a blog post. “We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry.”

    The next step for Mozilla’s leadership “is still being discussed,” she added, with more information to come next week.

While compensation data is not available publicly on Eich, the loss to Eich personally and Mozilla overall must total in the millions in dollars.

  • NBA bans Los Angeles Clippers owner for life over racist comments

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The National Basketball Association banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the game for life on Tuesday and fined him $2.5 million for racist comments that drew outrage from players, fans, commercial sponsors and even President Barack Obama.

Sterling, the longest-tenured owner of any of the 30 NBA teams, will be barred from any role in the operations of his team or be able to serve as one of the league’s governors, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told a news conference in New York.

Silver also urged the other owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, a move that would require approval of three-quarters of the current owners.

The $2.5 million fine is just the tip of the financial-loss iceberg for Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

There are heated arguments flying around both stories:  don’t CEOs have a right to privacy with regard to their personal communications and conduct?  With the transparency of social media and accompanying technology, the answer appears to be a resounding no.  And these two CEOs’ lack of inclusive behavior (including but not limited to the negative impact of communications / decisions telegraphing loud and clear that they don’t respect diversity at all levels, even though they both clearly employed a diverse workforce), whether in their personal lives or as the public leadership face of their respective companies, has incurred losses in the millions of dollars, which will not likely be recouped either by them personally, or by their respective organizations.  As the Bolshevik commander Strelnikov played by Tom Courtenay states in Dr. Zhivago:  there is no CEO personal life when it comes to decisions, communications or conduct that have the impact (e.g. impact is what matters, not intention) of excluding anyone in a CEO’s workforce or customer base.

How will you employ diversity and inclusiveness to save your organization bottom-line dollars this week and beyond, in business and at work?

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