I’ve supported dozens of chief diversity officers in developing or executing their strategic diversity and inclusion plans. While each plan is different based on the business, some diversity executives have done a much better job of marketing and positioning their diversity strategies than others.
Effective marketing and positioning is critical because your diversity strategy is competing against other initiatives for limited resources. These resources include executive commitment, budget dollars and employee attention. The more of these three resources you can secure, the better the probability of success for your diversity strategy. Here are seven marketing tips that help you be more selfish when it comes to these resources.
Align with executive pay: Linking diversity results with executive pay helps to maintain leadership accountability for results. By creating accountability for failure and benefits for success, you help motivate executives to embrace your diversity strategy. Without any accountability, executives have no incentive to pay attention to your “nice” diversity initiatives, let alone demonstrate their commitment.
Engage the CEO: Organizations look to their CEOs to gain clues about what is really important. That is why you need to have your CEO actively engaged in not only verbally supporting your diversity strategy, but clearly demonstrating his or her commitment via actions and behaviors. When other top leaders see the CEO is truly engaged in making your diversity strategy successful, they will be too.
Provide compelling evidence: Be diligent in developing a scorecard that concentrates on a few vital measurements that executives covet and understand. When you do this successfully, your diversity strategy not only gains acceptance, it will provide you, the diversity executive, with credibility so even critics have to believe what you say, and not just based on your reputation.
Turn diversity into a competency: Diversity is not an attitude or a stance, but rather a competency that can be developed. Work with the learning function to build diversity and inclusion competency in employees. This ensures they gain a deep understanding of what diversity means to them. More importantly, it prepares them to make the necessary adjustments to their actions and behaviors when it comes to successfully navigating and managing a workforce with a diverse identity. Every diversity strategy I’ve seen requires people to change their ways of thinking and acting in some manner.
Create a visual diversity identity: It makes it easier to communicate and understand a strategic plan if you put it into a framework that visually conveys the plan’s main aspects. Doing so helps establish a brand for your diversity strategy. Plus a brand or visual identity makes it easier for diversity executives to publicize achievements. Such publicity helps your diversity brand remain viable, healthy and top of mind.
Establish a long-range plan with phases: Strategic diversity and inclusion at the global level does not happen quickly. Create an initial plan, but frame it as part of a long-term diversity strategy. Then divide the plan into segments — phases — with a key theme for each such as alignment or integration. This helps others see the big picture and allows diversity executives to tell a compelling story demonstrating progress.
Gain business unit credibility and support: Don’t just link the diversity strategy to the overall corporate business plan; specifically spell out how the strategy helps each business unit achieve its goals or dominate a market or consumer segment. This is what will resonate with peers and build credibility with business unit executives.
Not every diversity executive puts the same amount of rigor and sophistication into conveying the diversity strategy as he or she does in creating the strategy itself. As a result, some fail to overcome resistance, communicate a confusing message, are not able to define the benefits of the strategy to the organization and ultimately don’t get executives fired up and engaged.
Robert Rodriguez is president of DRR Advisors LLC, a management and diversity consulting firm, and author of Latino Talent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.