Posted on February 23, 2009

5 Ways Diversity Can Save Your Job

Barbara Frankel, DiversityInc Magazine, February 20, 2009

{snip} This is about how diversity (which means including and realizing the potential of everyone) can save your job by making you more valuable to your organization. If you are a white man, this applies to you as well. As a manager or as an employee, your willingness to appreciate innovation and talent, and your ability to relate to customers, will make you the one who survives these tough times.


Here’s [the advice of 17 chief diversity officers] on making sure your commitment to diversity makes you indispensable to your company:

No. 1: Don’t be negative. Emphasize how downturns can be critical times to recruit talent.

Just like recessions can offer other bargains, the ability to snap up great people, especially those in demand, is an opportunity you should push at your company.


Even if your company is laying people off, some new positions will need to be filled. Keep your “eye on the ball to attract the best talent–and they are diverse,” advises Subha Barry, managing director, head of global diversity and inclusion at Merrill Lynch & Co. {snip}

And Rohini Anand, senior vice president and global chief diversity officer at Sodexo {snip} urges people to get their companies branded as diversity leaders by partnering with grassroots organizations and gaining DiversityInc Top 50 recognition because that’s an essential way to find and reach talent.

No. 2: Don’t let your panic over the economy get in the way of being truly innovative and creative.

At times like this, diverse perspectives–and solutions–are all the more valued. “We’re looking for innovators. The key is that you’ve got to have those diverse perspectives to drive the innovation,” says Robert Crumpton, director of diversity at Monsanto Co. {snip}

No. 3: If you are in a management position, make sure your best and brightest aren’t the ones leaving and that they know the diversity commitment is long-term.

“When we want to hold on to our very best talent, this is the very time at which they are being pushed by the competition and are likely to make life decisions about whether the stress is worth staying on in the industry or not,” says Barry, whose industry certainly hasn’t been a stable one. “The ability for us to create the right environment, especially for our diverse talent, easily spills over to the broader population. This is an indication that efforts in the diversity space have a much broader ripple effect within the organization.”

If you work for a progressive company with a long history as a diversity leader, make sure your key people understand that no matter what happens, diversity remains a core value and business driver.


No. 4: Use diversity to make new connections to your customers.

The demographics of this country are changing dramatically, with white people projected to be the minority by 2042. Even beyond that, people–especially younger people–want a work force that is inclusive of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, orientation or disability. By relating to the evolving marketplace and devising new customer strategies, you can make yourself invaluable.


“Customization has never been greater, so our customers do not want one-size-fits-all approaches. Diversity becomes increasingly important to understand a whole different set of norms, lifestyles and needs,” [says Magda Yrizarry, vice president of workplace culture, diversity and compliance in corporate human resources at Verizon Communications, No. 1 in the DiversityInc Top 50.]

This goes for business-to-business companies as well. “Increasingly, clients are talking and asking for both supplier diversity and work-force diversity, and not about what your policies are and what you’re doing, but about diverse teams–but it’s not just that they want a diverse team, they want the best teams at the end of the day, and the best teams are diverse, especially in a global environment,” says Allan Mark, America’s director, diversity strategy and involvement at Ernst & Young {snip}.

No. 5: Join–and lead–an employee-resource group.


The Coca-Cola Co., No. 2 in the DiversityInc Top 50, now asks its employee-resource groups to put together an annual business plan, which the group members present personally to the president of North American operations every year. Steve Bucherati, chief diversity officer at Coca-Cola, tells us how the Latino employee-resource group helped launch an energy drink aimed primarily at Latinos by asking them to help position the product.


1. Verizon Communications

2. The Coca-Cola Co.

3. Bank of America

4. PricewaterhouseCoopers

5. Procter & Gamble

6. Cox Communications

7. Merrill Lynch & Co.

8. Johnson & Johnson

9. IBM

10. American Express