How to Implement D&I Education in Your Organization

As Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) thrust to the forefront this past 6 months, Learning and Development (L & D) action steps top most organization’s agenda for demonstrating support to employees on this critical topic. As note in previous posts, I have facilitated over 250 diversity sessions in the past 20 years, either by myself or with a co-facilitator.  Excellent formats and content abound. 

So why surface this topic again? Because so many mistakes have and continue to be made in this critical part of a robust D & I strategy. Every organization desires to optimize its results and Return on Investment (ROI) in all areas. D & I education falls into the “miss” category far more than “hit” results. And, usually, it is not the fault of the content or the instructors. The root cause of this dilemma starts with the strategy and those in charge of executing a D & I approach. Please allow me to share an experience that is reflective of over 20+ years of observation, experience, and analysis.

Focus on the development of the leadership team, as part of the initial phase of the strategic approach.

When I re-engaged into D & I full time three years ago, I was asked to co-facilitate several targeted classes within a large Midwest based financial services company. The format and content were top notch, and I was well prepared by my support group. We conducted 9 half day presentations over a week. Our strong sense of success was bolstered by the anonymous evaluations completed on both of us. So, why was I so concerned at the end of the week?

This company completed over 200 sessions during the course of their fiscal year. Initially, I thought that step demonstrated a huge commitment to the overall D & I strategic journey of the receiving company. As you might gather, the extent of the client’s D & I spend was very significant to the D & I company hired to guide them through this process. Surely, a win/win.

Unfortunately, it was not for the receiving company and eventually the main reason the delivering company was fired 5 months later. Usually, we are inundated by participants after the end of the presentation wanting to talk, further. This week was no exception, and we garnered critical concerns from this input. Here is what I discovered:

     1- The targeted groups for this training was mid-level managers and entry level employees.

     2- There was no flow to who received the training first; it was hit and miss.

     3– Leadership did not go through the training and had very little understanding of content.

     4– While we provided a post class “action plan” process, there was no follow up conversation with anyone, including their boss.  Said differently, there was no accountability. 

     5- Other than the instructor evaluations, there was no measurement that determined session effectiveness.

These observations are indicative of most of the organizations that we worked with.  What is the moral of this example? This company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars just on the training and was a $2 million account for the company that I worked with. The training flow and targeted audience is the obvious miss in this example, but the bigger miss was the lack of a systematized and integrated strategic plan for the organization that started with the development of the leadership team. Obviously, a huge financial gap for the client; also a loss for the vendor, as they lost the business 5 months later when the CFO became the new CEO.

This story is far too typical in the D & I business. Companies who identify that they do not have the correct internal resources to have the strategic impact desired, often put a good person with limited experience in charge of the “project.”  With everyone talking about the need for more education to move the D & I needle, companies often accept this business while not impacting leadership, as they should. Or, the more recent trend, hiring a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to lead the way. As not to digress, I encourage you to read my previous articles if you are thinking about going in this direction. 

The key point of this post is the need to focus on the development of the leadership team, as part of the initial phase of the strategic approach. The best approach for this critical step is the IDI ( Intercultural Development Inventory) tool that allows for an individualize and confidential review of current D & I strengths and the steps needed to continue an effective and results based journey that optimizes and supports the overall, strategic plan in the D & I arena. As a certified coach of this process, I can vouch for the effectiveness of this approach early on the journey, when the tool is utilized properly over a minimum of a year.

I have mentioned this tool in several other articles over the past few months, so I wanted to provide a more in-depth understanding of this dynamic tool.  I am attaching a very effective overview here, so that you can really dig into this assessment. 

The tool allows you to see where you stand on a five-point continuum while providing you real and honest insights to the initial result.  A certified coach guides you through the interpretation of your individualized and confidential results, while helping you establish an IDP (individual development plan) for the next year. Many organizations have some form of an IDP as part of their Performance Development Process, and this plan integrates and compliments the current IDP process. 

Many times, I find executives who believe these types of processes are fine for their team members but are not robust enough for them. If you feel this way, I will remind leaders that this area is generally an area where little or no development has occurred as part of your career path.  At the risk of sounding redundant, the IDI tool is individualized and confidential, and if you have the right coach, this process can become one of the most impactful tools in your toolbox.  And, it is a necessity in today’s world to optimize your leadership skills.  As always, I am available to discuss and support this concept which will be worth your time.

Reflections

It would be disingenuous not to recognize how difficult 2020 has been for so many people, but I would be remiss if I did not take the time to step back and reflect on my blessings this Thanksgiving. Before I do so, I am sending my deepest sympathy to those who have lost friends and family to Covid-19. While my immediate family has been spared, several of their friends are currently struggling with the disease.

Additionally, racial tension is at an all time high in the world triggered by the deaths of several African Americans here in the US and other issues throughout the world. While the inclination for many is to focus on the negatives of urban events in many of our major cities this summer, I remain hopeful that these events fuel a renewed awareness and conviction to do better moving forward. 

Progress toward any goal is NEVER a straight line.

So I don’t create a misperception, violence of any form should not be tolerated.  Conversely, lawful protests are a critical part of our country’s history and success, as they often generate awareness and dialogue carrying the potential to provide beneficial self-reflection and improved discourse for all. I am hopeful that my generation will not take a back seat to this needed conversation. We have an obligation to share our experiences and wisdom with other generations. We need to demonstrate how honest and respectful debate produces lasting change that most will embrace. The rise of “cancel culture” and “muted voices” will eventually take a permanent toll and push us further away from an even better society. 

Please allow me the latitude of a comparison with my former employer, McDonald’s Corporation, and on the state of our country. McDonald’s has been very successful over the years because it has always had the ability to look inward and right the ship. Like our country, it unfortunately takes longer than it should. Let me share an example. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there was growing pressure, internally and externally, on the company to improve opportunities for women and people of color. Despite the company’s past success, these concerns were valid. It would have been easy for them to ignore the concerns. Instead, leadership grabbed the reigns and took decisive action that laid a foundation for real progress.

Now, I am not suggesting that it was a perfect path forward. It was not, but significant progress was made. It is important to recognize progress toward any goal is NEVER a straight line.  In fact, regression at times is a given. This perspective manifested itself, recently, during the CEO Easterbrook era. While he pushed the company forward in areas of needed change, he did so at the expense of one of McDonald’s clear competitive advantages, the depth of its diverse employee and franchisee base that found its roots 25 years prior. 

Is there a silver lining in this story? I hope so. I have been impressed with the current leadership and their approach to recapture the values that helped make the company so successful. They have been honest and transparent about their failings over the past several years. They have handled the pandemic reasonably well, and they appear to be taking significant steps in the D & I arena. With that said, it was extremely difficult to watch the back slide over the past few years. And, they still have significant issues with their Black franchisees and employees, as demonstrated by recent lawsuits from both groups.

So Dave, you ask, how does this example parallel with the path of our country?  Until two years ago, I was pretty isolated from big business for about a decade. When I jumped back into the fray two years ago, I fully expected to benefit from the continued progress in the D & I area, right?  Boy, was I wrong. The “Me Too” movement exploded onto the scene and police brutality resurfaced as a grave concern. Surely, big business was still on a positive trend, correct? Well, in most cases, it had not.

So, what happened?  I am a real fan of TQM which teaches you to peel away the onion through continuously asking probing questions to obtain the root cause of the problem.  As I apply this technique to the issue I have raised, the root issue revolves around the BOD’s of these institutions, even as they have become more diverse. The pressure placed on CEO’s today to deliver short term financial results is immense and is the worst in my lifetime. Coupled with the fact that most CEO’s today are “Specialists” with very little exposure to other disciplines other than their area of expertise, most of this generation of CEO’s have adopted the approach of hiring the best and getting out their way. 

Makes sense, right? Surround yourself with talent and let them do their thing and great results will follow! Today, there is very little effort expended on blending the talent into a high performing team. How many times have you witnessed sports teams that spend wildly on talent with the purpose of dominating their league only to experience disappointing results every year? Can you say the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys? 

Today, our country is a microcosm of these dynamics. The structure of checks and balances along with mechanisms to provide the flexibility for change put in place as an emerging country are as sound as the day they were adopted in 1776. So, why does this structure seem so dysfunctional, today? The “root” of the problem is “us,” not the structure. Our growing inability to talk and disagree, civilly, while searching for a common ground is rapidly dying. Our ability to “self” correct, as in my McDonald’s example, is quickly fading away. 

Perhaps a D & I example can be found in the BLM movement. Is it possible to understand that the statement, BLM, is a powerful message of reawakening for white America who hoped and thought issues of inequality had been largely resolved?  Further, is it possible to understand and agree with this dynamic while not supporting other aspects of the BLM platform? For me, it is rare that I agree with 100% of any topic or platform. Does it preclude the need for on-going, honest, and productive conversation without fear of reprisal, name calling, or the worst, canceling someone?  I hope not. It is incumbent on my generation to provide some perspective, not because we have all the answers, but we do have valuable experience to share, not only on this topic, but many others. But, I digress.

Today I am thankful for our imperfect union which continues to evolve and self-correct, while remaining hopeful for a recalibration of our ability to collaborate more effectively. I am hopeful that the new definition of the role of the CEO generated in August’2019 by the Business Roundtable will be adopted by BOD’s across the country while trickling down to small business, as well.  I am bullish on our ability to move forward with improved “Civil Discourse” in 2021 and beyond. I promise to try and do better. 

Will you join me?

Are You Making This Employee Selection Mistake?

Selection of new employees has morphed more than any other business practice over the past few decades. While many elements exist to this process, the most important shift revolves around the use of assessment (tests) to help determine the best candidate.  However, most organizations confuse the “best” with “the best fit.”

During my tenure at McDonald’s, every person of color in the corporate HR function detested the use of “tests” in the selection process due to perceived and/or real bias. This observation was prevalent in most large organizations. Today, every “assessment” company touts its validation process, not only from a candidate perspective, but also from a bias free element. Concerns with longer term HR leaders remain, while I sense a major shift toward acceptance of the company’s claims with younger HR professionals, including people of color.  So, let us take a trip down memory lane to provide some texture to this debate.

How many great external candidates are you losing from an ineffective approach to hiring?

Assessments are NOT inclusive when used for selection.

Most of us have participated in the Myers-Briggs process, probably multiple times. I have consistently been identified as an INTJ but did shift to ENTJ on one occasion. Created as a key counseling tool for couples seeking an improved relationship, the assessment made its way into corporate America with the purpose of improving team dynamics while valuing the uniqueness of each team member. From my perspective, it was an effective use of company resources and was way ahead of its time in valuing team diversity. My support of this approach was buoyed by the rigorous training needed to become a certified MB coach. The company guarded this requirement for decades, and certification was highly coveted. 

For a long time, there was resistance to using the tool in the selection process. However, under the intense scrutiny of the assessment industry as part of selection, M-B shifted its opinion and became part of the hoard following this latest leadership fad.  According to CPI which is the test’s publisher, a majority of Fortune 100 companies use the MBTI “as part” of their hiring process. “As part” is the key phrase. Myers-Briggs spawned countless other companies in this space espousing a better mouse trap. Today, most CEO’s support the injection of a “test” into the selection process due primarily to their own experience and/or an influential HR professional somewhere along their career path. These same CEO’s are often fiercely loyal to their preferred brand, despite limited exposure and/or knowledge of the process. 

So, am I an anti-assessment advocate? The answer is a bit complicated. I have participated in and administered many different assessments throughout my career. I am clearly not a fan of personality-based assessments at any level of the organization, as part of the selection process, specifically. Unfortunately, this type of “test” is by far the most prevalent approach used. By now, you may have noticed my use of assessment vs test.  When the word “test” gets used, it is a clear indicator to me that there is not an understanding of the tool and its intended use.

Why so negative? Personality based assessments are the antithesis of inclusion when used as a selection element. Corporate “cultural fit” often drives the use of personality based “tests.” As Jolene Risch, a Dallas-based owner of a successful staffing company, highlights in a recent post that companies using assessments as part of the selection protocol need to be extremely careful, as unintended consequences of bias may surface with their use.

To this point, please allow me to share some extremely concerning realities of the use of assessments, especially personality-based ones. Any assessment company worth their salt has some level of certification before allowing implementation of the tool. Here is the problem. Like so many Learning and Development (L & D) processes today, training has been rushed and watered down due to time and costs. If this is not bad enough, time becomes the biggest enemy of the tool. As “knowledge” gets handed down to those designated as company expert(s), effective transfer of knowledge is often compromised leading to increasing misuse of the tool.

But, here is the biggest dilemma. When “tests” are utilized as part of the selection process, the candidate’s results are compared to a “profile” for the position desired.  Seems harmless, right? To establish an effective profile, this step needs to include a team of experts to help create the profile. Once completed, the assessment should be administered to a sample group of top performers in the appropriate job function being evaluated. How often do you think this approach is used, and how frequently?

Hopefully, you are starting to understand my concerns. The answer to the question raised above is pretty obvious. Unfortunately, organizations often continue down this path with little regard to assessing the execution level of this step (and others along the way). More importantly, I almost always find that one or maybe two employees participate in establishing the profile. And, rarely is it verified against a test group of the best employees with this targeted assessment. Pretty scary by not unusual.

What about “tests” that assess technical skills? Doesn’t this step help me weed out candidates that do not meet the basic skill requirements? Again, my answer is mixed.  Clearly, there are jobs that should benefit from this type of screening. However, the “test’ is only as good as its preparation. Many external hiring resources i.e. Zip Recruiter and Indeed provide this type of service. Do the pre-screen tests truly fit your need?  Do you need to customize? Often, the answer is yes. With this point in mind, allow me to share a personal example.

From time to time I will apply for positions at my current level and beyond. Why?  I like to stay abreast of current trends and approaches utilized by major companies. Often, these concepts work their way to smaller organizations. Again, the news is not good. In one situation, I was directed to a link to take a technical “test” (yes, they used this word). The test revolved around unit profitability skills. Now, my experience and knowledge in this area are very strong. Each question used was timed and leveraged the organization’s lingo (yes, there are many variations). In this case, you needed to know their lingo to be able to quickly move through each question. It was almost impossible with most questions. How many great external candidates are they losing due to this ineffective approach?

Most interesting, this test was used for internal candidates, as well, that were asked to go online and complete the application process including the assessment. It made me wonder if they really wanted to attract external candidates. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, their own process produced unintended consequences. This company is on the Fortune 100 list with thousands of units internationally. There are numerous examples like this one that I experienced and far more that people have shared with me over the years. 

The desire to leverage technology is a noble one. ATS systems have improved immensely from the user’s point of view, but there is still no substantial evidence that better and more efficient decisions are being made. Further, companies have spent millions (billions?) of dollars on these systems, and most larger companies have significant Talent Acquisition (TA) teams employed. While CHRO’s and TA leads can produce impressive reports and statistics with a robust ATS, there is little tangible proof that the new approach, technology, and extensive dollars being spent on all of this stuff is providing a better hire while striving for improved engagement. When I add the assessment dynamic to this analysis, the ROI picture is bleak, not to mention the employer’s reputation, as a good place to work. By the way, the numerous “Best Places to Work” awards are a PR stunt with little value.

To sum up, in theory, the right assessment used properly, should be a real asset.  Unfortunately, I have little faith that his happens, short or long term. There are way too many moving parts to get it right, consistently. If, at this point I have not convinced you to avoid assessments, other than some technical ones for entry level hires, please allow me to leave you with this parting thought. Assessments are designed to be ONE of several elements of the selection process. Many companies use them as an early “Kick Out?”  Today’s use as a “kick out” is not only illegal, but it is also very questionable on the true impact on producing better hires or finding them more cost effectively. 

I encourage my CEO colleagues to take a hard look at their own companies and really dig into this topic. I am always available to help you frame the review process and questions that will get you to the truth. Wishing you great success in 2021.

How to Support D&I on a Budget

Large, well-known companies are running hard to punctuate their support for Diversity and Inclusion. These organizations want to send a significant message to their employees and the general public. While contributions to various causes have skyrocketed, the addition of Chief Diversity Officer positions has become prevalent. The positive of these gestures revolves around transforming the role of the CEO, as presented by the very well-regarded Business Round Table CEO group in August 2019.

While these actions are well intended, large companies have available resources while small business and non-profits struggle to stay afloat. Many have the strong desire to mirror their large counterparts, but they have the opportunity to forge a very different path. The CEO’s of these organizations should focus primarily on tangible actions that will make a real difference within the company. There is a cost-effective approach that will help build a strong and strategic foundation and provide tangible results for years to come, if they choose the right path fulfilling the new vision of the role of CEO much quicker. 

Valuable support to smaller organizations and non-profits is readily available.

How can the small business/Non-Profit CEO make this happen without breaking the bank?  One of the many positives from the “Boomer” group is a willingness to share their extensive backgrounds with today’s CEO’s. Groups such as Vistage and others have formed over the past decade, and they are providing valuable support to smaller organizations including non-profits whose resources have been stretched to the limit. 

This group of talented former executives bring an understanding of how to bring an initiative like Diversity and Inclusion from concept to reality in a strategic manner that will last and produce real results. My previous series of articles lay out a results based strategic approach for small to mid-sized businesses and Non-Profits. So many larger organizations are throwing money at this critical issue while taking a very tactical approach.  

To prove my point, you need look no further than the flurry of racial sensitivity training sessions being implemented across the country.  As I have mentioned previously, there are some outstanding learning sessions available.  However, these classes are almost always directed to the middle of the organization with little awareness, knowledge, or support on the part of leadership. At best, they may be presented with a watered-down version of the “class,” but even this step rarely happens. I am a true fan of a strategic, just- in-time approach with Learning and Development, but this discipline is in such flux today, due to misdirected use of Distance Learning and the focus on Compliance training vs. a real transfer of knowledge delivered at the optimum time. 

Your Diversity and Inclusion initiative needs to start with the Leadership Team that strategically integrates targeted action steps in a well thought out, progressive process that includes a Learning and Development approach for leadership in a way that is individualized and confidential. This can be achieved with the Intercultural Development Inventory administered by a certified coach who can make this assessment and individual development process come alive for every member of your leadership team. Then, and only then, should you consider infusing D & I training for the rest of the organization.   

Finally, I encourage you to find someone who can become a confidant and really knows how to integrate and cascade Diversity and Inclusion in smaller organizations. This person should be someone you trust who is willing and able to help you transform to the new definition of a CEO, and does so while providing you with a tremendous return on Investment. We are out there. You just need to reach out and ask for the help. As always, thanks for listening. 

The DDC Systematic Approach Summary

The Dave Daniels Consulting (DDC) Approach to Diversity and Inclusion implementation has been focused on broadening the Chief Executive Officer’s foundation and depth in this critical strategic area. While any CEO can benefit from this series of articles, my clear intent is to focus on small to mid-sized businesses and non-profits. Why? 

Having been privileged to work with many CEO’s and their leadership teams, I have found the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) members eager to support D & I in their organizations. They want to do the Right Thing. Having walked in their shoes in my career path, building trust with the ELT is paramount for success. By establishing this relationship, I can draw out honest and candid input on the current state of D & I in their organization. Most articulate a common theme:  their knowledge and experience are minimal when it comes to D & I training, exposure, and experience on this topic. Often, there is a strong desire to include D & I strategy in their annual plan. Costs and lack of confidence in proceeding forward are often cited as the main barriers to implementation. 

Every organization is different but the approach to D&I should always begin with the CEO and ELT.

Often, there is a strong desire to include D & I strategy in the annual plan but costs and lack of confidence in proceeding forward are often cited as the main barrier to getting it done.

My intention with this series of articles is to provide a viable path forward that overcomes the two major obstacles noted above. Hopefully, the content of the series provides the ELT members with specific ideas on how to go about selecting the company’s D & I leader by providing a blue print on how to strategically approach D & I in the organization. Every organization is different requiring the DDC template to be tailored to each company. But, the approach should always start with the CEO and her ELT. No exceptions. 

Understanding that Business Continuity is paramount for every CEO, accentuated by the pandemic of 2020, the DDC Approach offers a strategic and results based avenue for D & I to thrive in smaller businesses who often lack expertise and resources to optimize their efforts.  It starts by achieving ELT alignment on a strategic approach that integrates D & I into every aspect of the business, including every Business Unit (BU). Most companies take a very tactical approach centered around training the employees on various D & I related topics.  While many efforts are well done and well-intended, it is the wrong place to start.  Development should initially focus on the ELT utilizing the Individual Development Inventory (IDI).   

Once completed, the organization should focus on several other key components of the strategy establishing and/or revisiting their Succession Planning (SP) process. When done through a D & I lens, the ELT can identify gaps while establishing a diverse group of high potentials of future leaders. This step lays a very strong foundation for establishing a robust Diversity Council (DC) that will play several key functions that support and expand on the ELT’s strategic plans. Additionally, this group should serve as a key sounding board for the CEO while laying a foundation for possible Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) and “Listening” sessions in each business unit. 

Finally, establishing effective measurement, endorsed, and supported by the ELT, will provide the focus and accountability required of any strategy.  A key outcome of the ELT alignment phase is ensuring that outcomes are clearly defined while not forgetting to identify key impact measurement. There are some significant dynamics around measurement, so I suggest keeping my article on measurement close by, as I dig into these challenges.   

The largest barrier to implementing D & I in smaller to mid-sized organizations often are resources. Cost is real, especially in today’s Covid-19 world. The irony is that these businesses often have a much easier road to D & I success than larger companies. The DDC Approach provides real solutions to this very real concern. 

For more information on my philosophy, approach, and costs, feel free to reach out to my cell: 1.972.269.3400 or email dave@davedanielsconsulting.com. I look forward to guiding you and your team down this very beneficial journey. 

The DDC Systematic Approach Part 6

Diversity Councils and ERG’s

Once the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) has established a Vision of Success (VOS), are aligned on corporate and Business Unit (BU) strategies, established effective measurement, and implemented the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) process for the ELT, It’s time to explore additional next steps. I have already explored Succession Planning and Mentor/Sponsor approaches in recent articles, so the next most logical steps for many companies are the concepts of Diversity Councils (DC) and Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s).

Diversity Councils are most powerful when they are linked to other key initiatives.

Diversity Councils should include diverse group of current and potential leaders, as identified through Succession Planning.

One of the many benefits of the DDC Approach to Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) revolves around a process that starts with leadership and aligns every step of the journey.  Often, well intentioned tactics surface inside the organization, but they operate outside of the ELT’s knowledge and/or understanding of content and objectives. There are many examples that I could site but allow me to focus on the intent of this article, DC’s and ERG’s.  Often, these concepts bubble up internally and become very tempting for the ELT to support, as they do not want to discourage employee initiative. 

The problem with taking this approach is the lack of informed support with little understanding where the initiative fits into the overall D & I strategy. I often find that these well-intentioned efforts have poor focus and little to no tie into the vision, mission, values, and overall strategic direction of the company. Leadership of these efforts are often not driven and led by the best of the best, as defined by a robust and unbiased Succession Planning process. I rarely find a “charter” for these groups, and they have not identified a “Sponsor” for the group, at least one that has the expertise to optimize their efforts. 

When created within the strategy that links to other key initiatives i.e. Succession Planning, both concepts can be very powerful. They must be established by someone who truly understands how to leverage a win/win scenario, and they must become a critical cog in the success of the organization. These are easy words to speak, but there are far more misses than successes out there. Again, proper linkage, implementation, and execution are key.

For example, the DC should be comprised of a diverse group of current and potential leaders, as identified through Succession Planning. The “Sponsor” of the group needs to understand how to lead the group to a win/win scenario. What does proper linkage look like for ERG’s?  The DC should set parameters for all ERG’s along with equitable resources which are supported by the ELT. It is worth repeating that any D & I initiative needs to be created to support the VOS, company Mission, and Values while integrating with current strategic plans. The ERG’s should be accountable to the DC which has the support and provides regular feedback to the ELT.

These two significant D & I action steps must be shepherded with wisdom and efficacy by your Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). Hopefully, this series of articles provides you with additional knowledge as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) allowing you to better frame the selection process of the organization’s CDO. You do not need to be the expert in this area, but you need to arm yourself with enough knowledge to select the right person for this critical job. Honestly, I find that the CEO wants to make the correct decision on this person, but they have very little knowledge as a framework for selection. Due to his lack of confidence, they often delegate the selection process to their CHRO or lead Human Resources (HR) person. The problem with this approach is the CHRO often has limited knowledge and exposure to D & I other than tactical areas i.e. learning sessions such as Unconscious Bias. These observations are not made in malice; they are based on numerous real-life experiences working with organizations. My final article in this series brings all these components of the DDC approach together. 

The DDC Systematic Approach Part 5

Mentor and Sponsor Programs

Do Mentor programs really work? How do they differ from Sponsor programs? How do you select candidates? And, how does an organization introduce these programs? These critical questions need to be answered proactively and thoughtfully before embarking on this part of the Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) strategy.  Like any good business decision, there needs to be a predetermined Return on Investment (ROI = measurable results).

A Sponsorship program should be reserved for the best of the best high potential employees.

Unwavering commitment, communications, and accountability is a must to optimize success.

First, let us dive into the first question posed, because if your answer is “NO,” then usually you won’t pursue it. Here is my challenge to you, the CEO. How many times in your career have you witnessed a really good idea die on the vine due to several possible reasons? If you are like me, you file these ideas away to be utilized at another time when you can directly impact the outcome of initiative.  Examples of those failures could hearken back to poor leadership, inadequate planning and/or funding, conflicting communications, or lack of commitment, to name a few reasons. 

Allow me to explore the difference briefly and simply between Mentor and Sponsor programs.  A standard Mentor/Mentee approach effectively establishes roles with the Mentee driving the process within well-defined parameters. A Sponsorship program should be reserved for the best of the best high potential employees, as identified by the organization’s Succession Planning process. This process is designed to be far more formal and structured with key check points along the way. Unwavering commitment, communications, and accountability is a must to optimize success. While the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) member is key, I strongly recommend a central point of contact that both parties can draw on when needed.

These two powerful concepts can drive real change in your organization, if you commit to the following steps:

     1- Have the right person leading these processes.  Competency and respect are paramount.

     2- Use Succession Planning to identify the right high potentials pared with the right ELT.

     3- Clearly define each program and the desired outcomes.

     4- CEO commitment, follow-up, and regular involvement are a must.

     5- Strive for continuous improvement with both processes.  Learn from the past.

Determining the correct level of transparency will be critical to success. I work closely with CEO’s to determine what’s right for their culture. You guard current proprietary info closely.  I believe that the Succession Planning process should follow this template. As a key part of this process, Mentor and Sponsor programs should follow this line of thinking.

Should you decide to implement and/or enhance Succession Planning in your company, I am available to guide you through the nuances. Next up:  Diversity Councils and Resource Groups.

The DDC Systematic Approach Part 4

Succession Planning

All organizations can benefit from a robust Succession Planning process.  Larger organizations often use sophisticated software solutions to administer the process which are often way too much for smaller businesses. Think Sales Force, which I have found in several smaller organizations as their CRM and not used due to their complexity. Like CRM’s, there are technology solutions for Succession Planning that fit the size of your company and have a much higher engagement level of use. While the administrative part of Succession Planning is important, identifying the desired “outcomes and impact” on the organization with Succession Planning needs to be clearly established along with a high commitment level from the ELT (Executive Leadership Team). Taking this step is the critical part of the equation.

Succession planning needs to be clearly established along with a high commitment level from the ELT.

Building a diverse pipeline of talent will enhance future success of the organization.

Let us look at an example of a desired “outcome” of this process. An effective Succession Planning process should identify current and future gaps in organizational staffing and depth.  Please remember from my previous articles, the D & I (Diversity and Inclusion) strategic approach is to bring an effective D & I lens to every aspect of the organization. Unfortunately, I often witness Succession Planning processes where desired outcomes and impact are not clearly defined and absolutely zero discussion on the demographic make-up of each business unit’s staffing levels. At best, company-wide demographic statistics may be available at the entire company level, but there is little to no understanding on how each business unit is doing.  It becomes very easy to say: “We’ve improved representation of some under-represented groups“ and leave the session feeling progress (the Outcome) has been made.

As mentioned, a proactive and robust discussion on desired “Outcomes and Impact” will set the tone for ELT (Executive Leadership Team) preparation, expectations, and execution of the Succession Planning process. Often, it takes time for the ELT to get this critical process right, but a strong partnership of your HR and D & I leads should help you optimized this process. I recommend that your HR lead drive the Succession Planning approach with your CDO (Chief Diversity Officer) bringing the D & I lens to the process. 

Now that we’ve examined one example of a desired outcome of the organization’s Succession Planning process, what’s the potential “impact.” Once gaps are established by business units and by position, the ELT member and their HR support have a much clearer understanding of the tactical step(s) to take to remedy the issue(s). Effective and focused action plans can be established i.e. targeted recruiting approaches (External) along with an improved focus on Mentorship and Sponsorship programs (Internal).

My next article will explore the difference between Mentors and Sponsors and how they can become a strategic differentiator for the company. But for now, building a diverse pipeline of talent will enhance future success of the organization. However, leadership, commitment and execution by the ELT will provide the ultimate impact by creating a diverse and inclusive organization. Optimized results will follow.

The DDC Systematic Approach Part 3

Measurement of business goals can be elusive. There are several measurement tools available, and my current favorite is an updated version of SMART, called FAST.  FAST is much better suited to today’s Agile companies. But, this article is not meant to discuss the merits of either approach. When it comes to measurement of D & I goals and action steps, I often find quite a bit of resistance. For example, I often hear that setting specific demographic targets for staffing levels and/or promotability will lead to hiring and promoting individuals who are not qualified.

Every business unit in the organization needs to honestly and openly assess where a lack of diversity exists.

Focus should always be on expanding the pool of qualified candidates from under-represented groups.

My response is always the same. Every goal that is set in any given organization has the potential for loss of integrity. I have seen people manipulate financials to make themselves look better. I have seen bosses give people they like (friends) slack in their performance appraisals. The list goes on & on. When it come to D & I measurement, I often hear from ELT members that they are concerned the company will start to hire and promote undeserving individuals. This perception may or may not be true, but I always find it interesting that utilizing this reasoning to avoid D & I measurement is more freely shared vs. the examples cited above.

When it comes to staffing and promotions, it is in the organization’s best interest to widen the pool of qualified candidates. No D & I expert worth their salt would ever suggest hiring and/or promoting a person who is not the most qualified person for the position. The focus should always be on expanding the pool of candidates from under-represented groups. Why?  Because it produces diversity of thought and experience that clearly helps optimize the company’s results. Most importantly, it enhances the probability that the best available person gets the job. 

This approach applies to all parts of the organization and to all groups of people. Clearly, many organizations will benefit from targeting under-representative groups of women and people of color. This focus will improve the organization and open new business streams and improved productivity. So, does this same thought process involve all demographic groups?  The answer is yes. There will be situations where one or more groups are under-represented.  “Reverse discrimination” is a phrase that implies that white men have been adversely impacted. I would suggest that this term does not describe this dynamic effectively. Under-representation can happen with any group, and it takes honest conversation and approaches to overcome this disparity.

Every business unit in the organization needs to honestly and openly assess where a lack of diversity exists. It is not good enough to look at overall business unit numbers; each position should be scrutinized. Why? Each department runs the risk of missing valuable diverse perspectives. This growing complex dynamic can be overcome. The right measurement approach that is driven by the organization’s values and is applied to all levels of the organization will go a long way to overcoming unintended consequences that occur over time. 

Effective measurement should consider two levels:  Outcomes and Impact.  Unfortunately, most organizations do not spend enough time in assessing the effectiveness of their measurement process which has led many organizations to avoid accountability. Allow me to share an example of the difference:

 Outcomes: Short term & mostly intermediate changes that occur in organizations.

 Example: Your organization increases their gender representation of its ELT.

 Impact: Significant changes that occur within the broader organization.

 Example:  Due to the outcome noted above, your organization has gained access to new markets comprised of primarily women. Additionally, you have become an Employer of Choice for women, resulting in improved engagement scores that lead to measurable revenue growth. 

As part of the DDC approach, I work closely with every ELT member and their teams to establish both Outcomes and longer-term Impact measurement. We start with assessing how workflow and decisions are made. A simple change such as discussing the make-up of cross functional teams can have a dramatic impact. And, if your organization does not have a robust Succession Planning process, the ELT may be missing a critical opportunity to ensure that the best rise to the top.  More on this topic in my next article.

The DDC Systematic Approach Part 2

As mentioned in my first article, I am not against formal classroom training for Diversity and Inclusion (D & I).  As the CEO, you need to construct a strong foundation within your Executive Leadership Team (ELT), first. My last article introduced the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), as the focus for ELT development. In my opinion, this assessment tool is the best at creating awareness and action-oriented development steps, when administered by a Certified IDI Coach.

As a Certified Coach with IDI, I strongly recommend that your internal Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) becomes familiar with the tool and should eventually become an IDI Administrator.  Immersing your ELT to this development tool and process will be one of the best investments that you make as a CEO. There are companies/individuals that charge up to a $1000 per person for completing the assessment while providing a single feedback session. A Fractional CDO, certified in the IDI methodology, can bring this critical strategical action step to life in your organization. Once certified, it should become a critical component of the CDO’s role, as we work to identify a mid to long term solution for D & I continuity, once my “Sunset” work has been completed. The Fractional CDO should provide this service as part of their monthly stipend, except for a small Administrative Charge that IDI imposes on each assessment.

Leverage your CDO to optimize honest and constructive feedback.

Intercultural Development Inventory along with Listening Sessions will establish your commitment as the CEO.
Intercultural Development Inventory along with Listening Sessions will establish your commitment as the CEO.

Establishing the ELT IDI foundation should take no longer than 60 days.  Once the ELT journey has begun in earnest, then the CDO should work with you and your team to establish a series of ongoing “Listening Sessions.” It starts with the CEO & CDO facilitating a company wide session followed by each ELT member replicating a similar session within their own business units.  Leveraging your CDO in preparation, delivery, and follow-up should be your best approach optimizing honest and constructive feedback. This format should occur on a regular basis for the first year, minimally.

These two steps, IDI and Listening Sessions, will go a long way in establishing your commitment as the CEO. Your team will sense your sincerity, especially if you reinforce your message by becoming a member of the “CEO Action” group, now counting over 1000 USA based CEO’s from businesses of all sizes. There is no cost to join and membership provides your ELT a litany of fantastic DEI resource. Your CPO should be able to help you get signed up with this group. When you couple these three (3) steps with a strong Diversity Council and integration of a strong D &I lens in every aspect of your business, your company’s DEI approach will truly start to enhance positive outcomes and impact improving engagement that drives financial results.

My next article will continue Part 3 of the DDC Systemic Approach by diving deeper into measurement and expanding D & I advocates. Please remember, a Fractional CDO approach can balance results and costs, quickly and effectively. The DDC approach is meant to be a “Sunset” position that ensures sustainable value and impact for years to come. At the end of the engagement, together, we will identify the proper advocates whether a Full Time CDO or a sharing of the responsibilities by all members of the ELT.