Business, People

Diversity Is A Key To Detroit’s Future Success

This is a guest post by Dana Davis, a human resources professional in the Detroit Metro area. You can find her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/danainthed.

On Wednesday, July 21st, more than  200 business professionals from around Michigan convened at the MGM Grand Hotel, Detroit for a full-day’s worth of presentations and conversations on the topic of “Leveraging Diversity for Business Success: Defining Diversity in the 21st Century.”

In the conference’s 7th year, the Detroit Regional Chamber partnered with other local organizations, including the Human Resources Association of Greater Detroit (HRAGD), the Michigan Diversity Council (MIDC), and the Greater Detroit Chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR) to orchestrate the inspiring event.  Sponsoring the day were notable companies such as Hewitt Associates, DTE, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Federal Mogul, Daimler Financial Services, and the law firms of Pepper Hamilton and Plunkett & Cooney.  Talk about diversity!

And the planning committee, now friends, comprised of representatives from each of the partnering organizations, worked together beautifully and reflected a cross-section of industries, job levels and generations.  Among this stellar group, I found myself to be the only committee member tweeting from the event (and was subsequently asked to explain the significance of the hash tag over cheese, crackers and cocktails at day’s end). Without further adieu, here’s a synopsis of what we learned about workplace diversity.

Diversity makes sense.

We started with Andres Tapia (@AndresTTapia on Twitter), Chief Diversity Officer and Emerging Workforce Solutions Leader of Hewitt Associates, and his theories on “Diversity 2.0” surrounding global diversity.  As our demographics and the world economy changes, we must do the same or be left out of new opportunities for revenue growth.

Dr. Shirley Davis, Chief Diversity Officer of the Society of Human Resources Management (@SHRM), reminded us that the corporate world focuses on diversity and inclusion practices for 3 main reasons: 1) For law – compliance with policies and legislation, 2) For people – because it feels “good” and is the “right” thing to do, and 3) For business – to offer quality service, ensure client satisfaction and increase market share and revenue.

Using the original “Star Trek” television show as an example of diversity working at its best, Dr. Steve Robbins, speaker, professor, author and consultant to Fortune 500 organizations, and inspired by his Los Angeles’ roots, encouraged us all to be “homeys” – to trust and care for each other in a deep, genuine way.  But, this takes work, and bio-psychology tells us that our brains want to operate in the most efficient manner possible in an effort to conserve energy.  To no one’s surprise, in essence we learned that people are lazy.  Despite the fact that there is empirical evidence proving that problem-solving, innovation and creativity are maximized by diversity in thought, we choose to associate with those who share our own views because it’s easy.  This natural tendency breeds unintentional intolerance, which Dr. Robbins called, “nice people making mistakes.”  It’s time for us to work harder.

Diversity works.  As interested business leaders, it is our role to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront of corporate strategy conversations at a time when, due to changes in the economy, decreasing or eliminating these efforts are often a cost-cutting measure.  Yet this is the time to delve deeper into the diversity and inclusion conversation so that when the economy turns, and our business models and talent look a bit different, we are poised to maximize new revenue opportunities and our human capital.  Diversity works, and we were reminded this week that we must be continuously working at it.

I ask you, for the average amateur investor, what is more profitable: choosing a single stock, or diversified funds?  To our ears, what’s more pleasing: a choir singing a single note in unison, or the melodic tune of sopranos, altos and tenors harmonizing in precise chords? Economically, what would have been better for Southeast Michigan: relying solely on the automotive industry, or insisting on a more diversified job market?

Photo credits: Twitter.com and Aaron Cruz, used with permission.

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