“If you don’t embrace diversity, it’s kind of like not embracing technology,” said Mi’Shon Landry, director of supplier diversity for the central region at Zones Inc., a hardware, software and IT solutions supplier out of Auburn, Washington. By ignoring the importance of diversity in the workplace, “you’re going to get lost and left behind.”
According to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of Americans will be part of a minority group by 2044. Also, by 2060, about 20 percent of the country will be foreign born. This inevitable diversity of the country means talent will reflect those demographics. If not, potential employees could shy away from a company, making it difficult to recruit talent.
To get an organization on board to embrace these changes and a culture of diversity, Landry said to do the following:
- Diversity advocates must have a common goal.
- Provide information to help stakeholders understand the value diversity brings.
- Show the outcomes of how diversity makes a positive impact on the organization and its customers.
- Get stakeholders on board.
- Have leaders talk about diversity and its importance.
One way that Landry frames an argument for diversity is, “when you think about customers that buy from you as a company, customers are diverse in all shapes, forms and sizes and colors and creeds and things of that nature. When you think about it from that respect, we do business with all types of customers just like we would like for those types of customers to do business with us.”
This strategic approach also became apparent through her previous work at ADP. As a chair of the diversity business resource group at the company, she brought strategic awareness about diversity itself, along with training and aligning with business goals. She also spearheaded a mentoring program and volunteer day, among other initiatives such as speaker series that covered diversity. This helped to educate people on various topics, such as differences between generations, she said. “If you’re in diversity and you’re seeing it all the time, you know it. But if you’re not seeing it all the time, you don’t know.” Starting these conversations helped educate staff and build a culture that embraces diversity.
The benefits that come from these efforts can be huge. “When you have employees that are engaged, they’re more likely to stay with the company,” she said. “They are more likely to grow and want the company to grow. They’re more dedicated to the company, and they want to see the company succeed. When you have employees like that that want to see the company succeed, that goes a long way.”
In the end, though, leadership support is integral. Landry likens diversity initiatives to fighting a small war. When facing a challenge, you need the right armor to assist in winning. “That battle armor is that support that you’re going to get from your leadership and your key stakeholders and from others around you with like minds.”