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Creating Opportunity Has to be Done on Purpose

I was recently approached by a business leader who needed help. As he described it, “We have tried to adapt our approaches through social sensitivity but have had no success.”

My first two questions seemed to surprise him. I started with, “Well, what is it that you are actually doing?” and then moved to “What is it that you are actually trying to accomplish?”

These two simple questions began to frame a robust discussion about the company’s actual goals and intent, helped to begin defining what they felt they needed to get done, and began to develop priorities that were measurable and actionable. He knew they needed to do something, but the what and the how were quite simply reactive and unorganized—basically a solution looking for a problem to solve.

What we at Intelligent Partnerships are encountering over and over again is the good intentions of leadership wanting and trying to do the right thing without a real planned approach. Inclusion design, like any other business priority, needs to be a fully baked strategy that has clear priorities wherein KPI’s and accountabilities which can be tracked, adjusted, and measured every step of the way. As an aside, it’s perfectly fine (I actually prefer) that inclusion be viewed as a revenue-generating responsibility, because you can do well by doing good!

What to do when you don’t know where to start?

First, call IP. But I digress.

Take the lay of the land: evaluate what you are actually doing now, what is happening as a course of your normal operations, and what—if anything—has been instituted for the specific purpose of driving employee and client inclusion. If the answer is nothing, that’s ok. You are starting with a blank slate and that will drive the subsequent questions.

Why? Why are you thinking about equity, what does it mean to you as an organization? Are you trying to solve complaints, address public concerns before they get to your doorstep, responding to internal leadership concerns, trying to position to capture the growing market share represented in diverse dollars? All of the above? Something different?

Identifying the reason to move into a diversity strategy is critical to helping your team(s) formulate the way they create opportunities.

Second, now that you have a clear understanding of what you are currently doing and why you want to develop a strategy to magnify these efforts, you can begin to set priorities. For example, let’s say you have a diversity hiring policy, but your workforce is pretty uniform (pick a color, any color, or gender, or, you get the idea—everyone is cut from the same template), and your clients are asking for diversity in your teams based on their policies. Or, you are working in communities that are not reflected in your organization and are seeing bottom line impacts on sales because of it.

So, you very quickly decide that these will be your initial priorities and ask teams to prioritize hiring initiatives and come back with great results. To which you get … the sound of crickets. Why?

Well, you already have a diverse hire policy and, quite frankly, that talent pool doesn’t exist – of course, the talent is out there. Your folks are simply not aware of where to look, how to attract, and what silent barriers are keeping those diverse hires from joining your amazing company.

Your team will need to:

  1. Evaluate the existing barriers to entry – why does an entry level sales role need an MBA? And similar questions can help inform this evaluation. This DOES NOT mean lower your bar on quality of the hires; it means evaluate the level of experience actually needed to perform a function and place emphasis on the capacity to learn and adapt rather than relying on an arbitrary measurement (that is lazy, by the way).

  2. Evaluate outreach strategy – if you are looking for an entry level data analyst, do they really need to come from Harvard or Stanford, or can an ambitious high achiever at the state or community college fit the bill? Does that existing 6-year team leader on your promotions team who understands your clients, products, and company culture but doesn’t have an MBA represent an opportunity to grow in the client-facing role you need to fill?

  3. Generate a Priority Hire strategy – Purposeful strategic planning to reach the desired community of talent is critical. If the company seeks veterans, women, disadvantaged, or a specific racial balance, it must have a planned approach to the effort.

Finally, identify the markers that will allow you to either pivot or celebrate your success. Ensuring that measurement is part of the journey puts accountability front and center and lets team members know this is a genuine priority and also allows you to make changes as needed. If things are not working the way you expected along the way, you get to capture those critical story points that can be shared about the impact your organization is having on the communities that it prioritizes.

When you create opportunities, they must be genuine paths for onramps into your system. These can be channels that allow you to expand your supplier diversity, or career on-ramps that create opportunities that are meaningful and produce bottom line returns for you in the process. (That doesn’t remove the value of creating meaningful moments as well.) This past week we saw a real demonstration of seeking talent in unorthodox places when the Golden State Warriors created a unique experience opportunity for a new member of the community, you can read more about it and see the video here.

Planning is a critical part of inclusion design, take the extra steps to align your values to your mission and provide meaningful opportunities that generate impact in your organization as well as outside of it. As always, we are here to help you with that journey and if you want additional resources just log-in to

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