In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, corporate America has professed fresh interest in the subject of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). I’m heartened by that, and especially so to see former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns lending her considerable voice in this regard https://fortune.com/2020/09/29/ursula-burns-black-women-corporate-boards-bdaa-diversity-inclusion-xerox-ceo/ . Among other things, DEI emphasis has driven renewed calls by Fortune and others for the use of tangible yardsticks to measure the sincerity and effectiveness of corporate initiatives in this vein.
That’s a good step too, as not unlike a golf scorecard, such measures, when evaluated across time and circumstances, can provide some scorekeeping relative to progress and proficiency. But as with the golf card, the score simply indicates a number, a grade, a narrow slice of data, presented at one moment in time. It offers little to no context, and is short on insight. A player with birdies on three of four par 5’s might be inclined to exhort their accomplishment. Yet, realization that all three holes were played with a 30 mph tailwind and dry, wide fairways might temper the celebration a bit. DEI is no different.
Exhorting people to improve their score, their performance relative to par or quota, be it in golf or levels of inclusion isn’t particularly helpful. The score is the finish line for a given hole or round. What they could use some help with, some coaching on, is in figuring out where to start! Is it the short game (in golf), the recruitment process or perhaps better incentives (in DEI)? Where? What? How? Until context and direction are provided, the results are likely to continue to disappoint.
While we’re on the subject, where board members and other senior leaders can really help is thru the use of their time, their influence, their networks, and most of all, their example! Don’t just exhort management to get better at this. Show them how. Start with the board itself. Open some new doors for management to the talent pipeline. Take part in candidate interviews. Participate in the key talent review and development process. Word of that will get around quickly. In other words, if this means something to you, prove it. Get in the game! You’ll be glad you did.
Speaking of example, please wear your mask.