Changing Your Business Game Through Diversity: The Latest Trends
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Episode 87 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, Episode 87: Changing Your Business Game Through Diversity: The Latest Trends. This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and right across from me, as always, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. And as always, it’s such a pleasure to join you for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. If this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves − and their companies − to the next level of growth and success. So Pam, what are we looking at today?
Pam Harper: The latest trends in diversity, and how thinking differently about this issue and making new decisions can result in game-changing success.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: For example, the 2016 Emmy Awards featured a very high level of diversity in winners. And going along with this, we’ve seen that Netflix has been making a very public effort to recruit diverse staff that they say is more reflective of their diverse audience. Of course, the trends of diversity are not limited to the entertainment industry. Leaders in every company and in every industry can benefit from taking a fresh look at issues of diversity from a game-changing perspective.
Scott Harper: Yes; really challenging what diversity even is, for instance.
Pam Harper: Exactly. That’s why we’re so happy to bring back Jane S. Howze, Managing Director of the Alexander Group, a leader in top-level executive search. For those of you who are listening for the first time, Jane has more than 30 years experience in executive search, and has recruited top executives worldwide in a variety of industries. You can see Jane’s complete bio by going to growthignitersradio.com, selecting episode 87 and scrolling down to resources. Jane, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio.
Jane Howze: Well, Pam and Scott, it’s wonderful to be back here with you.
Pam Harper: Now, you’ve been a lawyer and a business woman, and owner of a business for 40 years. Can you give us your perspective on how diversity has evolved in business and the latest trends that you’re seeing?
Jane Howze: Yes. You know, it’s interesting. We hear so much talk about, “Well, there’s not enough diversity. We need more diversity,” and absolutely, that’s true. But I think it’s really helpful to take a look back on where we’ve come from. I’m trying to avoid sounding like, “when I was your age, I walked to school in the snow with no shoes on − however….”
Scott Harper: Yes, uphill both ways, yes.
Jane Howze: Uphill. Uphill both ways, but you know, when I got out of college, I was chosen for a management-training program at a bank. I was 3 women out of 50 people, and got promoted to be a loan officer and actually had a man say, “you know, I just will not ask a woman to borrow money.” This was 40 years ago. That’s an example of how things have changed so much. I mean, law school graduates 40 years ago − 9% women. Today, it’s even a majority. Yes, before you can say what we do need to do and what the trends are today, I think if you’re a business owner, it’s really helpful to say, “well, let’s look back. Let’s see where we have come from. Let’s take the foundation of where we have come.” It’s like you’re building a house. You may need an extra room. You may need this addition now, but there’s some good foundation of excellent changes that have occurred. I think it’s really important to acknowledge where we have come before we look at where do we need to go.
Pam Harper: Sure, we’re framing the issue in a new way.
Scott Harper: Right. You’ve given the historical perspective, so where are we right now?
Jane Howze: Let’s look at that 1980. That was 35 years ago. There was not 1 woman or minority CEO of the Fortune 500 or any large company, the S&P. There were really no CEOs. Now, I think it’s something like 23%. That’s not 50%, but that’s a really big change in 30 years.
Pam Harper: Yes.
Jane Howze: Let’s look at some of the corporate boards. There are very few Fortune 500 companies that do not have minority or diversity representation, and so, are we in a great place? Are we in an ideal place? I’m encouraged because I see the trends going in the right way. I see people thinking about diversity in a different way.
One of the trends I think we’re seeing is I think we’re getting away from quotas. An apple computer shareholder filed a motion to force the board to quotas of a certain number of African-Americans, a certain number of diverse candidates. It was defeated like 95% to 5%. It was roundly defeated because I think corporations, I think this sensitivity to diversity that perhaps we didn’t have. I know we didn’t have it 15 years ago, and I think that’s a really important thing, to take the seed of looking at it differently, and making it part of our consciousness and growing it and nurturing that. I think that’s what we’re seeing and what we should be aiming for now and in the future.
Scott Harper: Building on that, Jane, it strikes me that historically, when people spoke about “diversity,” they thought, “well, okay. Gender, race.” But it’s really so much more than that. The more we look at diversity in how we get richness of different perspectives, however they come, I think that’s what really gives more power and it takes it out of looking at fulfilling quotas, which is, as you say, no longer really the best way to look at it and into “what can we do to increase the richness of our business, the quality of our decisions, and reach out to our customer-base in ways that are relevant to them.”
Jane Howze: Absolutely, Scott. You know, I think the statistic that everybody has bandied about is looking at boards of Fortune 500 companies that have diversity. They’re more profitable, because you have a diversity of opinion, experience, judgment. I think that’s really important. Just to give you an example, I just am finishing a board search, and rather than say, “we have to have a woman; we have to have this; we have to have that.” They want someone who represents their customer, and their customer is young. The board members, there’s probably not a board member under 50. We’re looking for people who represent their customer, who are probably in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Is that going to be a woman? Is it going to be … We don’t know yet, but we know that that’s the diversity piece that we’re looking for. I think, so that’s a different way of thinking about diversity rather than, “okay, we need a African-American female to fit here, or whatever − Native-American; whatever.” It’s thinking about it a little bit broader than just race, just sex. It’s harder to measure, frankly. I think that’s one of the challenges.
Pam Harper: That’s something that we’ll talk more about in the second segment and the third segment. Just getting a feeling for the why of it, I believe, is a huge issue. If people can begin to start saying there are good sound business reasons, strategic reasons that we need to frame our decisions in new ways, look at things in different ways, especially as it relates to the word “diversity.” Sometimes, I think people just go into a habitual response to this. There’s much more of an opportunity there. What do you think diversity in business is becoming, as we look into the future?
Jane Howze: I think it’s going to be inculcated as part of our DNA. It’s not going to be a fast shift. I’ll give you another example. 15 years ago, I did a search for a company in Atlanta. They said, “we have a very large gay employee population. We would love for you to do the search and make sure that there are gay executives included in that.” We did, and the search was a successful search. Nowadays, I doubt you would have that be a requirement because things have changed so much. It’s a given that your executive ranks may or may not have gay and lesbian or transgender employees. I mean we’ve changed that much to where …
Scott Harper: …Social norms have changed.
Jane Howze: Yes. I can’t imagine a client asking for that now because it’s just a given that it’s part of the DNA of most corporations. It really has changed in subtle ways, and in ways possibly that we don’t really acknowledge. I feel like acknowledging the progress that we have made, there’s some power in that, and there’s some power to leverage off that. If you’re going to climb a mountain, you need to acknowledge when you get to the first resting place, you know?
Pam Harper: I would agree with that.
Jane Howze: But not rest; but acknowledge it.
Pam Harper: Well, that’s true, and the more that we can see what actually is changing and what has been changing, it gives us something to work off of to say, “well, what’s next?”
Jane Howze: Exactly.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of the Alexander Group, about emerging trends in business diversity. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game-changing results. We’re on the web at businessadvance.com
Pam Harper: Does this topic resonate with you? We have more. Check out related episodes to expand your perspectives and take away even more immediately actionable ideas. Just go to growthignitersradio.com, episode 87, and scroll down to resources.
Scott Harper: While you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes, so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper. That’s me, and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are speaking with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of the Alexander Group about the business implications of evolving trends in diversity. Jane, how can people find out more about you and the Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Our website is www.thealexandergroup.com, and there, you can find our weekly blogs on leadership, the executive search industry, what trends we’re seeing. We publish that every Monday, so you can keep up with us through that and through social media.
Pam Harper: A very timely resource. You can also access this by visiting growthignitersradio.com, episode 87, where you’ll find a link over to Jane’s website. In the first segment, we discussed the importance of thinking differently about the “why” of diversity, and how we define it in order to find new opportunities. Now, let’s switch gears a bit, and discuss thinking differently about building a diverse organization. Jane, thinking about this, who should own the diversity initiative? Would it be the board or the CEO?
Jane Howze: Well, I think you have to start with diversity as a goal − wanting it to be part of your company’s DNA. Let’s talk about the board a minute. If you have a board that is all 65-year-old white males, that’s probably not a good way to move into that diverse culture. I think tacitly, the board is involved in diversity without even saying anything, by who is on the board. Aside from that, the CEO, I think, really plays such a major role because the CEO sets the tone. The CEO and Executive teams set the culture. They set an environment where diversity − again, and when I say diversity, I’m talking about all types of diversity − is welcome, encouraged, recruited for. I really look at it as a CEO role.
Now, if you don’t have a CEO who acknowledges and recognizes diversity, HR is somewhat hamstrung in that almost everything comes from the CEO. The CEO sets the tone, sets the strategy. If you don’t have a CEO who embraces diversity or is willing to allocate resources to it, it makes the HR role quite a bit more difficult to accomplish that and to partner with it, and to move it along. I think you’ve really got to have it from the top. Then, I think, the managers need to train their managers to think about diversity. I think it’s something that should be talked about. I think it’s something that should be looked at. I think it’s something that you could do creatively. “What are we doing? Are we doing everything we can to make sure we have a diverse workforce?”
Pam Harper: I like what you’re saying, Jane, because when we talk with executives, and they’re talking strategically, “where are we going to go?” Naturally, it comes to how do we get more diverse viewpoints about what’s happening out there? How can we really make innovation happen? There’s nothing like diversity to increase innovation.
Scott Harper: That’s right. Time and time and time again, we find, and you’ve said it yourself, the more diversity you have, the better business outcomes you have, so it’s a strategic imperative.
Jane Howze: Absolutely, Scott. If I were a new CEO, I know some of your listeners are new CEOs. If I was a new CEO coming into the role, I would ask questions. “How do you feel about us, as a diverse organization? How do you feel about the composition of our workforce? How do you feel about the opportunities that we are offering diverse candidates? Are we doing everything we can from a recruiting standpoint to nurture that so it becomes part of our DNA?” I think even if you’ve been a CEO for 20 years, I think once a year, once a quarter, at some point, the discussion needs to be an ongoing discussion of “what are we doing?”
I think, also, it’s a good thing to assess, “are we losing people who represent diverse viewpoints or diversity candidates?” I know years ago, we did work, and a new CEO came in. He asked us to do a survey to talk to some of the women in the organization. They felt like they weren’t getting some of the plum consulting assignments because a lot of the guys went hunting on the weekend. A lot of them hung out and went and had beers after work, or running after work. They missed them. It was such an easy fix to do a different way of announcing projects and communicating projects. They didn’t have to change their hiring so much because they had a diverse workforce. They had to see how are they treating everyone, and are the opportunities equal within our diverse workforce? I think this is all part of making diversity as part of your DNA.
Scott Harper: What you’re really saying is that we have to think differently about our workforce, so we can think differently about the challenges in recruiting and retaining and making the most of diverse top talent. Would you say that’s correct?
Jane Howze: Exactly, exactly. One, it’s recruiting diversity candidates, and also, maintaining and keeping it and building that flame where it becomes a variety of viewpoints. I’m saying it a lot of different ways, but I think it’s really key to be looking at “who do we have? How are we keeping them? Are there opportunities where…”
You know. I know many years ago, we did a search for a company in Birmingham, Alabama, my hometown. They really didn’t have that much of a diverse workforce. Birmingham, as everyone knows, had been strained by race relations in the 60s and 70s, and this company really wanted to make a difference. They had to come up with a plan. “How do we do it? It’s not going to be just hiring 1 African-American executive. It’s got to start at the top. We need to offer scholarships to African-American Universities. We need to send our HR team to interview engineers. We need to attack this on all fronts, because one hire does not make a diverse workforce.”
Pam Harper: So, the more that we create an environment where we’re creating opportunities for people to be attracted to our work place because we’re offering these benefits, as you were mentioning, we’re leading and managing in a way where people feel like they matter.
Scott Harper: They make a difference − a huge motivator in retention.
Pam Harper: Let’s talk a little more about this. It’s very traditional to evaluate diversity initiatives through statistics on search and retention. What would be a more strategic way to evaluate the impact of a diversity initiative?
Jane Howze: You know, I don’t think we throw out the baby with the bath water on statistics; I think they’re really important. I think a lot of companies, at one time, we were looking at, “okay, what does our workforce look like? Is it diverse,” without looking at “are the diversity candidates that have come to work with us staying with us?” If you’re going to look at a statistic, I would be looking at the statistic, not only of “what does our workforce look like,” but I would be looking at “is this a welcoming place for diverse executives and managers, and are they staying?”
If they aren’t, I would survey those that have left, and say, “why did it not work? Did you just get a better job?” The statistic I would be looking for is one − retention, but an additional strategic way I would be thinking about this is I would have a conversation that goes on either by a committee, by a working group where we talk about “what are we seeing? What are we experiencing? What are we doing?” It’s an ongoing nurturing and conversation. I think that’s strategic; talking through. “What is our experience? What do we see other companies doing? Is there something that we might do and do it better than other companies are doing?” It needs to be something you’re very, very current with.
Pam Harper: Okay, so we’re going to take another quick break. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of the Alexander Group about immediately actionable things you can do to use business diversity as a strategic advantage. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: Thanks for joining us on Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: Can you do us a favor? If you’re enjoying and gaining useful insights from Growth Igniters Radio, can you let us know by writing a short review on iTunes? Now only does this let us know what you value, your review is one of the most important ways we can reach others who will benefit as well. Now, we have a special limited time offer. The first 10 people who submit reviews between September 14th and October 14th, 2016 will receive a complimentary autographed copy of my book: Preventing Strategic Gridlock. Reviewers have said this book is a timeless resource and a great book for overcoming stalls that derail strategic progress, regardless of the economy. To look inside, visit the Preventing Strategic Gridlock page on Amazon.com.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last 2 segments, Scott and I have been talking with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of the Alexander Group, about the business implications of evolving trends in diversity. Jane, how can people find out more about you and the Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Pam, our website is www.thealexandergroup.com. We are very active on social media at the Alexander Group on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Pam Harper: Okay, and you can find links and other information also by going to growthignitersradio.com, episode 87, and scroll down under “Resources.” Now, we are at the part of our episode where we talk about the three immediately useful ideas for leaders to change their business game through diversity. It’s actually even more than three, sometimes. Let’s start out talking about an immediately useful idea with regard to strategy for diversity.
Jane Howze: Well, I think, Pam, a lot of what you can do depends on the size of your company. I think, probably in the last 2 years, we’ve done searches for 4 or 5 Director of diversity and inclusion for larger companies. But say you’re a smaller company, what I would do is first, put in the proverbial clutch, and look at “where are you?” I mean, maybe you just have this wonderfully diverse workforce, and you don’t really need to do much. But you need to do something, so what I would do, regardless of the size of your company, is have some type of team or committee or group that talks about it and assess “what do we need to do? Where are we weak? Where can we beef up? Does it happen at the college level? What do we need to do?”
Pam Harper: That’s excellent. In fact, one of the things that I was also thinking about is how often times, we mean different things by “diversity.” If somebody’s sitting on a plane right now and they finish listening to this episode, just jot down what do you mean by “diversity.” Then, like you’re saying, if you share that with the team, would that be something that could also help?
Jane Howze: I think communication about diversity would be really great. You know, if you ask 10 people what they mean by “diversity,” you may get 11 different answers.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: Exactly.
Jane Howze: I think that’s a good thing because you can talk about “what do we mean when we talk about diversity? What do you mean when you talk about it? What do we do to ensure that we continue on the path that we are on?”
Pam Harper: It’s a worthwhile conversation.
Scott Harper: Yes, and make it an expansive conversation, and make sure that you have an alignment so then, when you start doing things, everybody’s on the same page.
Jane Howze: Exactly.
Scott Harper: That’s great. Let’s talk about another thing. You spoke about search. How can somebody do something very practical and actionable to increase the success of diversity in search?
Jane Howze: Scott, that is a really great question. I think if you retain a search firm, I think anytime you do a search, you’ll prod your search firm, “we want to see a diverse slate of candidates.” What does that look like? Diverse, as we’ve talked about in the other segment, could mean many things. I think you hold their feet to the fire, and say, “we’re going to have the best person, but we want a diverse candidate slate.” Don’t be willing to settle on that. We do a number of searches, and we’re told, “it’s not going to work if you bring us 5 guys, same age. We want a diverse group of candidates.” I think you do that.
The other thing, I think, say you don’t use a search firm. I think one of the things that you can do is look at various minority groups. There’s a plethora of different groups. There’s Hispanic business groups. There are Asian groups. That takes diversity to just the most simple thing, but I think if you have an HR department that is doing your own search, there are resources they should be using to say, “you know, let’s make sure everybody knows about this position.” That’s one thing we can do. Maybe we post it at certain colleges. Try and be a little bit more creative than just putting a position on the internet. Reach out and try and identify sources of candidates that might not just be where you want it.
Pam Harper: That’s right. You know, it also reminds me. You and I both do a lot of speaking. One of the things, when I was in corporate that I used to do when I was with smaller companies, was to go to organizations and speak. Not just recruiting, but actually speaking in a variety of different organizations. That generated new conversations. You must find that, of course.
Jane Howze: Exactly. I think the more you talk − and the other thing, if you have diverse executives with the company, pull them in, and say, “where do we look? Help us look.” Reach out for help. I think that’s a good thing to do because when I worked in a corporation, and companies would say, “well, we want to hire another female. We want to hire another female lawyer,” even though it was a non-legal job. I think that’s a great way. You have a lot of talent in your ranks; empower them to help you, for instance, through employee referral programs. They’re very effective, and this is one of the ways they are effective.
Pam Harper: Speaking about effectiveness then, what about evaluating the whole success of diversity, and how you’re doing your outreach?
Jane Howze: I think you have to have some type of scorecard. I think statistics are fine, but they are not the last place you need to look. Of course, you need to look at statistics. I think you need to look at, “are you having higher turnover with minority groups,” however you define that than other groups. Then, that’s a different conversation. I think you’ve got to have some type of scorecard.
Obviously, if you’re working at a board, it’s easy to go, “well, we’ve got 8 board members, and 3 are diversity candidates.” It’s easier that way. You just look and say yes or no. If you’re looking at your whole rank of employee population, however − yes, the statistics are a starting place. Again, I think it’s a communication, using your statistics as a communication device. “Where do we go from here? How do these figures look to a year ago? Is the culture of the company better? Different?” Diversity is not just checking off boxes. It goes hand in hand with “how is the culture of our company? How is it evolving?” I think diversity and culture are two inseparable items and tools, if you will.
Pam Harper: Absolutely, and of course, it also contributes to what’s getting done. If you think back to the beginning of our episode, and we were talking about how Netflix embraces diversity because it is good business for them. They’re using metrics, like you’re talking about. They’re using metrics also to ask, “are we reaching the audience that we intended?” That, of course, is the name of the game. We’re in business to do good things in a variety of ways.
Scott Harper: Then, reach our results.
Pam Harper: Right. Jane, this has been fabulous. Any final thoughts on this topic?
Jane Howze: The final thought I’d leave you all with is that whenever we’re talking about diversity today, the conversation is to be continued because diversity is evolving and will look different. We’ll talk about it differently next year than what we’re talking about today.
Pam Harper: That’s true. We’ll have to have you come back with your crystal ball, and tell us what’s next.
Jane Howze: I will be back.
Pam Harper: Well, thank you, Jane, for a great episode.
Jane Howze: Okay; thank you all.
Scott Harper: Jane, thanks again. Thanks to all of you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, go to growthignitersradio.com, and select episode 87.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to consider with your team:
Scott Harper: What are 3 steps we can take immediately to take advantage of the power of diversity in our company?