Diversity cannot thrive without inclusion. Or, as Miriam Harris Lewis’s grade school teacher put it, “If it says ‘and,’ you have to do both.”
Lewis, chief inclusion officer at Principal Financial Group, discussed how diversity and inclusion improve customer relationships and drive business growth during a recent webinar from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
“I believe one of the reasons why we as corporations haven’t made the desired progress over the last 50 years in this space is because we took it to mean diversity or inclusion,” she said. “In order to have success in this space, you have to do both.”
Inclusion, “is this very deep sense of belonging,” Lewis said.
“It’s a sense of feeling at home. Do I feel like I’m at home when I’m at work or do I feel like I’m a guest? And when you’re a guest anywhere, there are certain things you may or may not do. We want to make sure our employees feel at home because we understand that when employees feel at home, they can do their very best work.”
When diversity and inclusion are brought together, she said, the result is “valuing everyone’s perspective and winning together. It comes to all of us putting on the same team jersey, understanding that we’re one time, we are one company, and understanding what we need to do to be competitive in the marketplace.”
Deloitte devised a D&I maturity model, which Lewis said shows the different levels in an organization’s D&I journey. Those four stages are:
Level 1. Compliance. Compliance with equal opportunity and affirmative action goals.
Level 2. Programmatic. Increasing the representation of specific demographic groups.
Level 3. Leader-led. Leveling the playing field for all employees by systemic cultural barriers.
Level 4. Integrated. Leveraging difference to create business value.
Moving from Level 2 to Level 3 is what Lewis called “the transition point.”
“That’s where we really see momentum and movement in this space,” she said. “It’s where D&I begins to seep into the DNA of the organization.”
In making the business case for inclusion, Lewis noted that inclusive cultures are
- Two times more likely to meet or exceed their financial targets.
- Three times more likely to be high performing.
- Six times more likely to be innovative and agile.
- Eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.
Lewis discussed three trends she is seeing in the D&I space.
- Customers expect companies to walk the walk.
- Inclusion is essential for the changing workforce.
- D&I is about more than gender.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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