TEDxIndianapolis Talk: Why Diversity is Upside Down

by Andrés T. Tapia –

Why is diversity upside-down and how do we with what that means for our lives and our companies? Check out my recent TEDx Talk in Indianapolis, IN. I explore just how much our world’s hyper-diversity has affected practically every aspect of our lives – in our personal relationships, in our communities, and in our companies.

 

 

Globalization’s Good News for the U.S. Workforce

by Andrés T. Tapia —

Mixed group of nations behind the American flag.

There’s good news on the globalization front for America’s diverse talent. Increasing numbers of corporations are bringing jobs back to U.S. shores as Asian and European companies open up more plants here. Taking advantage of this good news represents challenges and opportunities for diversity and inclusion professionals. Are our workers and students of color ready for these jobs? Can CDOs step to the forefront of tying diversity to bringing jobs back home?  Read more in the November/December 2013 issue of Diversity Executive Magazine.

 

 

Surviving and Thriving in a Season of Great Uncertainty and Great Opportunity

by Andrés T. Tapia – Business people standing on stairs

As I have been travelling around the U.S. and the world and engaging with many of you over dinners, conference interactions, consulting engagements, or wind downs over coffee, martinis, or pisco sours, it’s clear that we are all in a moment of great anticipation as well as angst in the diversity and inclusion field.

Many of our conversations have focused on how, for the last few years, in a celebrated way, the field has been undergoing transformative changes. A generation of pioneering leaders is retiring and moving on. A new generation with new voices is rising. What diversity and inclusion means is morphing real time. More and more companies, not-for-profits, and governmental agencies are pursuing diversity and inclusion as never before.

It’s indeed a time of great vitality and verve for the D&I field. But with these changes, diversity is encountering a paradoxical dynamic that can be best summed up in this royal way: “Diversity is dead. Long live diversity!”

Here’s how this is playing out. As more and more companies are declaring how important it is to address diversity, at the same time, like in other parts of business, diversity budgets aren’t growing or are being cut. This puts diversity and inclusion in a conundrum of having greater visibility, greater expectations, greater accountability—and fewer resources. As a result, diversity leaders are betwixt and between. There’s pride, and at times even euphoria, about the fact that the message is getting across that diversity is vital to the business. But that sugar high irrevocably preordains the sudden emotional crash that follows of “how are we going to get the work done?” How can we create a sustainable path?

Unprecedented complexity reigns in today’s diversity work. Thanks to our success in making the case that it’s not all just about race and gender but so many other diversity dimensions, we’re now headed down the path of diversity of one. We have, in addition, made the sale that it’s about a marketplace that is vastly diverse and global, clamoring for new types of products, services and ways of marketing and supporting them and that D&I has answers to those challenges and opportunities. And now we are even engaging in deeper work about how the success of operational strategies such as mergers and acquisitions, offshoring, regionalization, and globalization are also highly dependent on the internalization and application of D&I strategies and crosscultural dexterity and competence.

Our increasing success in making the case has taken us to a more complex field of uncertainty, in some ways of our own doing, about how to deliver the best strategies and solutions. In this our own competence gets tested because we now have been given the responsibility of handling the very things we had clamored for but really haven’t had to do before. It’s too late to heed the warning of be careful what you ask for. It’s now in our hands and we can’t give it back.

So, what’s the way forward? Here are six things you can do right now:

1. Collectively acknowledge the pain and uncertainty and then imagine the possibilities. One of the advantages of Diversity Best Practices’ conferences and networking opportunities is the chance to talk about this—about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. It’s therapeutic to lean on the community to share how you’re feeling and why. And then dream together.

2. Learn how to develop the key competencies of Next Generation Diversity. At DBP, we’ve been trumpeting the eight competencies that we believe are more important than ever for diversity practitioners to be able to lead in this new era. In particular, I encourage you to pay attention to the competency of influence. As quickly as you can, learn the skills and behaviors you need to develop to be influential.

We used to equate power and authority with the size of our budget and whether our teams were growing. Now, power comes through the ability to influence others to do what they would not have otherwise done were it not for our ability to see what’s in it for them in supporting D&I. This kind of influence increases the challenge of protecting your budget from crazy cuts as well as to more creatively to tap into other departments’ budgets to remain strong and healthy.

3. Develop an alliance mentality inside your organization. This is a specific way to be more influential. Determine how you can be of value to other departments, such as HR, research and development, and marketing. And I don’t mean just telling them what they need to do. Look at what they’ve already committed to doing and identify how diversity and inclusion can help them achieve these goals. By doing this, you can get the kind of executive support from the lines of business and support functions that will allow you to partner with them to tap into their resources to do the work that is beneficial to them.

4. Hone your position as a thought leader. In this really dynamic field of diversity and inclusion, where the best practices are getting calcified and there’s an urgent push to shape the next practices, new thinking is what is getting noticed in a corporate world that is rushing at a break-neck, Mach-speed pace. And this new thinking doesn’t necessarily have to be complex and deep. People clamor for clarity. They are looking for insight and wisdom that will lead to high-impact, simple, and actionable solutions. You need to provide this.

5. Sharpen your story-telling ability. Even as measurable accountabilities rise, don’t get so bogged down by the detailed PowerPoint that you miss the human aspect of this work. Float above it and discover the compelling story. In fact, data-grounded stories are the most powerful. Scan those rows and columns of numbers and see what storyline floats up connecting seemingly unrelated findings. Tell the story of what your organization can be if you really invest in diversity.

6. Become a Diversity Best Practices member and make the most of your membership. Our member conferences have become true, interdisciplinary learning communities of knowledge sharing and knowledge creation. Hold discussion groups around our thought-provoking white papers. Turn tough questions asked of you by executives and leaders into research topics our team can look into for you as part of your 30 hours of research.

DBP’s membership is geared toward helping you survive and thrive in these turbulent times. Membership is also not just for you, but also for a range of people across your organization. Forward-thinking member companies are already doing this and extending their impact within their organizations. It’s a simple and compelling value proposition: someone else is designing, developing, and delivering high-impact, world-class events and publications for you. You just need to show up and/or send those you want to influence.

The challenges we’re currently facing are not insurmountable. In fact, they present unprecedented opportunities. Together, as a community of diversity practitioners, we can learn and grow along the six ways outlined here—and as we do take our organizations into next generation diversity and inclusion.

The Obama Era Continues: Reflections on the Diversity Implications of Barack Obama’s Re-Election

by Andrés T. Tapia – Mixed group of nations behind the American flag.

Regardless of one’s political preferences, from a historical perspective, the first time Barack Obama was elected president was momentous. The second time marks actual culture change. If in 2008 the point was tipping, in 2012 the point has tipped.

A few years ago, as the U.S.’s first Black president began his maiden term, I published my book, The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity. As a student and practitioner of culture change, the work was inspired by a sense that we were at a tipping point of massive culture change. The election of Barack Obama was a defining moment that captured the zeitgeist of the times. The moment came to be known as the Obama Era, a period in history that was as much about the demographic changes in society that made possible the election of the country’s first Black president as it was about the man and leader himself, whose own diverse biography would come to further define the early 21st Century.

That first election was certainly historic. It was a massive break through the color line. But it was too soon to tell if it would be anything beyond a flash-in-the-pan stroke of luck due to an imploding economy so out of control that many millions were willing to take the riskier, what-the-hell bet of voting for a non-White person. While the insurgency of the 2008 Obama election brought us to the cusp of the tipping point of a new way of understanding a contemporary and diverse society, as the governing road got tougher and steeper, plenty of evidence mounted that Obama’s historic election could end up being an outlier episode rather than a transformative era.

As there always is when societies are at a tipping point, powerful countervailing forces emerged to keep the tip from happening. True to form, we saw this societal dynamic emerge through the fierce Tea Party phenomenon, which led to major setbacks to the president’s agenda in the midterm elections. Confidence abounded among opposition leaders. And pundits confirmed that the countervailing forces would make even further gains by denying the president a second term and leading the Senate majority to change from blue to red.

As changing demographics and new biographies of those leading and influencing policy brought different perspectives and solutions to major issues such as healthcare coverage, immigration status, gay rights, diversity efforts within the federal government, the 2012 election truly became a high-stakes contest about which way the point was going to tip.

This is why Obama’s second election—and the various state referendums on gay marriage and the legalization of pot, as well as the election of the first out lesbian senator, and the sending of the greatest number ever of women to Congress—ended up being a thunder clap announcing true culture change.

While many will disagree, even vehemently, with the merits or values behind these culture changes, for better or for worse, the point has fully tipped. It’s an announcement that the diverse demographic tsunami and all its implications to the economy, education, energy, immigration, relationships, individual freedoms, and collective responsibilities are irreversible.

This, of course, does not mean that the actual solutions to the various challenges within each of these major arenas are obvious or that they won’t require debate about how best to address. But when Blacks, Latinos, Asians, LGBT, youth, and single women decide the election for president for a second time, the agenda has been set for what needs to be addressed for the United States to remain economically competitive in a world where change is happening at warp speed.

Here’s how one of the poster children of the new economy, CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria, sees it as narrated on his show “GPS”:

“Growing up in India in the 1960s and 1970s, I always thought of America as the future. It was the place where the newest technology, the best gadgets, and the latest fads seemed to originate. Seemingly exotic political causes—women’s liberation, gay rights, the fight against ageism—always seemed to get their start on the streets or in the legislatures and courts of the United States. Indians couldn’t imagine embracing all American trends—in fact, some were rejected outright—because they were too edgy for a country like India. But we had a sneaking suspicion that today’s weird California fad would become tomorrow’s conventional practice. For me, Tuesday’s elections brought back that sense of America as the land of the future.

The Obama Era carries with it profound cultural implications, both in the United States and globally, that will affect not only personal, group, and institutional relationships, but also how we go about doing our work strategically and day-to-day. Among the populations most significantly impacted will be the emerging workforce that is becoming the New Mainstream. An increasingly multicultural workforce requires a deeper cultural understanding from many different angles—not only of what cultures are in the mix, but what individuals believe, how they act, and why.

In my book, I explored the impact of the Obama phenomenon from a cultural, rather than political, perspective. Sure, there were myriad political observations to be made—from an analysis of blue state/red state shifts to legitimate policy debates—but regardless of how such matters were hashed out politically, there was an undeniable, transformative story that seemed to be unfolding that included all of us globally. Regardless of one’s political preferences or passions, we all were willing or unwitting players in this culture-change drama.

This meant that for the past four years, as the Obama drama of his first term unfolded, I had the chance to test out some theories and observations from the position of Chief Diversity Officer at Hewitt Associates and then as the president of Diversity Best Practices. In both positions, I have had the opportunity to also serve as an executive diversity and inclusion consultant to the C-suite of dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

It’s through experiences with companies such as John Deere, Marriott, McKesson, Baxter, United Airlines, Discover Financial, and many other corporations as well as law enforcement agencies, not-for-profits, government institutions, and schools that I was able to test the eight cultural implications that I believed would be hallmarks of the Obama Era. In light of Obama’s re-election I believe these are still true:

  • Inclusion is a transformative force.
  • Whatever we do has global impact.
  • Diversity and inclusion require intentionality.
  • We’ll experience a renaissance of values-driven decision making.
  • We must have a heightened focus on results.
  • The bottom up is as important as the top down.
  • Both/and trumps either/or.
  • True diversity and inclusion require calling out our differences, not minimizing them.

Read more about each of these points.

Zakaria summarizes the change this way: “What the world saw this week was a picture of America at its best: edgy, experimental, open-minded—and brilliantly diverse.” And here’s how the architect of the Obama Era sees it as stated in his re-election acceptance speech in Chicago on election night:

“I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Black or White or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

My diversity leader colleagues, our work has never been more important or relevant. Many see it, but many still don’t. And like the U.S. president is doing, we must continue to be agents and leaders of change with confidence, facts, and compassion.

Globalization Boomerang: Making the U.S. a Destination for Offshored Jobs – and What It Could Mean for Diversity

by Andrés T. Tapia –

Stock-photo_16500222XSmall.divwkrsmfg

Sending American jobs overseas has lost its cachet. Not only for sociopolitical reasons but also for economic ones.

The case for offshoring and outsourcing jobs overseas has weakened as an increasing number of U.S. manufacturers are choosing to look stateside for labor, a move that creates jobs and helps boosts the U.S. economy. So says Time in “The Economy’s New Rules: Go Glocal” (August 20, 2012). In fact, the Boston Consulting Group estimates that within five years, as many as 3 million high-skilled, high-demand manufacturing jobs could come back to the United States.

But the ability of American government and business to tend to the diverse talent pipeline – particularly of Latinos and Blacks – will be critical in the U.S. economy being able to seize the full benefits of the convergence of forces that could bring more jobs back to the USA. But before taking up this gauntlet, a look at what’s driving American companies to bring jobs back home:

  • Labor costs rising in China, India, Mexico, and other countries. The Chinese to U.S. wage ratio, for example, is projected to jump from 3 percent in 2000 to 17 percent by 2015. This is due both to accelerating wage increases in the emerging markets and slowing wage raises in the U.S. Also higher rates of corruption in the emerging markets compared to the U.S. drive up costs and risks. According to Transparency International, the BRIC countries are two to three times more corrupt in the business world.
  • Increasing number of manufacturing and construction jobs require a higher level of education. High tech manufacturing is requiring higher education from workers to run the robots on the assembly line. Even welders must now have in-house training or a community-college certification, not just a high school education to meet job requirements. By 2018, 63 percent of U.S. jobs will require post secondary training. U.S. workers in some blue-collar sectors have a technological edge that companies are rediscovering.
  • Rising energy costs means distance for shipping goods to the largest market, the United States, matters. Do the math. How many barrels of oil (not to mention carbon footprint units) does it take to ship that car from the Far East to the North American continent? GE has punched in the numbers and the result has led to GE shifting production of appliances from Mexico and China to Louisville, Ky. Many other companies of all sizes are reviewing the cost of transportation. Along with GE, firms like Seesmart (a small manufacturer of lighting products), Master Lock, and Caterpillar are finding the balance sheet weighing more heavily towards domestic production.
  • Automation means factories with fewer people – which then lowers the labor cost equation that has been leading companies to offshore. “Labor is a relatively small component” of costs, said GE’s Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, in a recent Reuters.com article. “That’s different today than it was 10 years ago.” GE just opened a new plant in Schenectady, N.Y. because of labor’s decreasing share of manufacturers’ costs. This, of course, cuts both ways in that it reduces the total number of jobs overall, but it nevertheless slows down the number that get shipped overseas because it’s more cost effective to simply keep them in the United States.
  • Companies want to bring jobs and operations closer to where their customers are. That emerging “locally grown” movement that has found its way to supermarket carts and restaurant tabletops is seeping into manufacturing. Mitch Free, who runs MFG.com, one of the world’s largest online marketplaces for the manufacturing industry, said in the previously mentioned Time article, “It’s all about regionalization and localization rather than globalization.” He noted that consumers are now demanding that things be newer, faster, and better so shortening the life cycle helps accomplish this. Citizens’ desire to slow down global warming also plays a part.

These trends are not just influencing American companies to bring jobs back home; they also are cajoling European and Asian companies to open up more plants in the United States. Airbus, the airplane manufacturer that is a symbol of European manufacturing pride, is opening up a plant in Montgomery, Ala. In making the announcement, its CEO, Fabric Brégier, cited “a more competitive labor and growth climate in the U.S.” Companies like Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen have been pumping up the local economies of cities around the nation by opening or expanding plants.

Back to the U.S.-based companies. There also seems to be an awakening on the part of some CEOs about how they are, in effect, eating their own young by having aggressively moved so many jobs overseas. When American businesses shift millions of jobs from home to outside, the domestic consumer market gets decimated. The result? Stifled business growth that causes economic blowback for these very companies.

Diversity and Inclusion’s Role

Now is the time to include American workers in any globalization strategies and efforts. In the past five years, we had moved from a U.S.-and-“rest of the world” paradigm to an emerging-“rest of the world”-and-declining-U.S. paradigm. Now it’s time to reframe it all to a “the world”-where-the-U.S.-is-a-region paradigm.

I engage this topic fully aware that as diversity and inclusion practitioners we are also tasked with ensuring a truly global approach to the work where we are caring for the inclusion and engagement of traditionally marginalized groups wherever our companies operate in the world. Zeus knows, we are still in diapers when it comes to truly being global in our mindset and knowledge about current social, cultural, economic, and political dynamics across the world’s timezones.

Nevertheless, in using this global mindset where the United States is not the center but one of various global regions, one of the marginalization issues we must address in the U.S. region is persistent high unemployment and the income disparities it deepens. In addition, the global economy’s vitality that is raising millions out of poverty still requires a vibrant U.S. economy with a positive outlook.

Now to respond to the gauntlet. As the offshoring tide begins to turn, diversity and inclusion must play a key role in capitalizing on ensuring these jobs fully come back.

On the diversity front, one dizzying risk is the uncertainty that there will be enough skilled workers for these positions. If we are not graduating half of our demographically booming Latino and Black kids from high school then it could kill the re-shoring of many of these jobs.

Business must urgently collaborate with government and not-for-profits to do everything possible much earlier in the education pipeline so that our students are getting and completing the education they need for contemporary jobs that are in demand.

We face a wrenching irony that at the moment of getting a shifting tide of jobs back that the skilled talent needed will not be there in a moment of still high unemployment.

On the inclusion front, what an opportunity to capitalize on a key competitive differentiator of American culture – creativity and innovation. Not only is this a hallmark of the American character, it’s the very thing we diversity and inclusion practitioners insist is the most compelling argument for inclusion – and this is that greater diversity leads to greater variety and richness of perspectives, that when energized and unleashed through an inclusive culture, leads to even greater creativity and innovation.

Diversity and inclusion practitioners have an important role to play in getting this word out – and in bringing U.S. jobs back in.

The Not-So-Empty Nest

by Andrés T. Tapia – Portrait of senior couple with adult son

It’s the subject of much Boomer handwringing and comedy routines: the boomerang adult. That’s the kid who on finishing post-high school schooling (or after a brief foray on their own) returns home to live with Mom and Dad.

Boomer parents are not imaging things. Their sons really are coming home to roost. And yes, it’s primarily a guy thing. That’s according to the U.S. Census, which found that from 2005 to 2011 the percentage of men age 25 to 34 living with their parents rose from 14% to 19%, but only increased from 8% to 10% for women of the same age.

If it’s any consolation to American parents, this trend is global. Young people in Europe, Japan, Canada, and other areas are taking longer to transition to adulthood. In Italy, 37% of men 30-years old and up have never left home. There are men in Japan pushing 40 still living at home. And reports from the UK show 25% of young adult males are still at home, compared to 13% of women the same age.

In a Salon.com piece that looks at this phenomenon, author, sociologist and a Johns Hopkins University dean Katherine Newman talks about her interviews with people in six countries in southern Europe, the Nordic states, Japan and the U.S. She explains some of the reasons behind this global trend.

Globalization and the recession are making it harder for new workers to enter the labor force, and the cost of housing is climbing. But other social and psychological factors are at play too. The result is a sometimes rocky, sometimes serendipitous experience for these families as they struggle to redefine adulthood and familial roles in the face of overwhelming global economic forces.

I’m glad that Newman realized that it’s more than economics keeping young people at home. There’s something else going on here and some of it’s cultural. Typically, young people in North American, Japan, UK, and the Nordic countries moved toward independence sooner than in other countries, like Spain or Italy. Newman talks of the cultural differences between countries. How a particular society describes this trend reflects cultural and social attitudes as well as political and governmental policies.

More than just an interesting demographic trend, this development is also an expression of multi-faceted cultural divisions – among countries, among generations, and between genders.

What Boomers believe is the normal transition to adulthood will soon be upended by the experiences of Millennials and Generations X and Y. Depending on where they live, parents from differing regions and countries will welcome, decry, or simply accept the return of their “adultsters.”

2012 is the Year of New Thinking

by Andrés T. Tapia —  

diversitywords

With more than a month into the New Year, now is a good time to check how we’re doing with our 2012 resolutions. Earlier, Diversity Best Practices offered some practical suggestions of things you could do to increase your impact this year.

This is also  a good moment to re-examine common topics, challenges, and opportunities in a fresh way. At Diversity Best Practices, we’re committed to disseminating details about best practices, but we also strive to be at the forefront of new thinking.

What’s the new thinking in 2012 that has implications for diversity? Three things come to mind.

It’s a Multidimensional World

In today’s global, multiracial, multigenerational workforce some of the classic ways of thinking about diversity feel too limiting. With affinity groups, mentoring programs, and career fairs organized in unidimensional ways (women or Latino or Black or Asian or Gay) how do we effectively address the growing reality that people can be all of the above?

We need to challenge ourselves to think about diversity in multidimensional ways. If you missed last year’s insight paper published on this very topic make sure to check it out. The take aways included that in the past decade the number of multiracial people in United States has tripled and the Millennial generation has grown up in an era of greater tolerance, which means there is going to be an acceleration of multicultural relationships. What’s more, globalization is bringing together people from different cultures and nations, which is leading to new types of bonds that transcend traditional diversity dimensions.

The conversations around race, for example, sound and feel very different among white Baby Boomers (who tend to have grown up in more homogeneous environments and didn’t encounter diversity until they went to college) than among Millennial whites (who grew up in multicultural communities and in a growing number of cases were in the minority).

It’s imperative we have a better handle on the implications of the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability to just mention a few. Is there a place for the gay African American or the Latino with a disability or the Asian who is a military veteran? This creates seemingly vexing new challenges in the workplace, particularly for employee resource groups. How do you accommodate this growing multidimensional reality? Many ERGs are not equipped to address this. Now is a great time to look at your team and discuss strategies.

Global is the New Local

We also need to shift how we think about global work. Instead of viewing it as an expansion of one’s domestic efforts, today’s global business culture necessitates that companies start globally to be successful. How do you do this? Instead of treating your global work as an add on, a global mindset needs to be in place when you develop your initial strategy. In effect, your entire approach becomes global, with your U.S. headquarters becoming one of your many global regions. 

This has implications for developing strategy, action plans, staffing, stakeholder analysis, and communications strategy. Even for those who are only U.S.-based, globalization is already affecting your support functions, competitive landscape, and future expansion plans. This is about the place where you stand, your punto de partida, your starting point. How much are you thinking of global as your punto de partida?

It’s Not Just About People

More and more Fortune 1000 companies are seeing that diversity is not just a talent issue. It’s actually a huge marketplace issue. The multicultural population represents a $3 trillion market. And it’s a market that is growing, as these populations enter the job market, go to school, have their first home, insurance policies, self-paid vacations. These groups will be driving consumption. In my work as president of Diversity Best Practices and in consulting, the opportunity here is bastante grande, very big. This is where executives get highly engaged when we can help them see the direct line of sight from diversity to revenue and growth.

One example of a company capitalizing on this trend: At a Walgreens in Highland Park—a Chicago community comprised of Jewish, Anglo, and Latino residents—the ice cream freezer is not stocked with Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, or Breyers, but rather La Michoacana, a Mexican ice cream provider. The brand is not well known in the United States at all, but it’s definitely recognizable to those who grew up in Mexico. The decision to feature that brand of ice cream at the impulse buying check out area is a money-making nod to the fast-growing Latino demographic in the neighborhood.

When you see something like that it means things are starting to go mainstream. How much is your diversity strategy riding that wave? How much are you lending your voice and perspective to harness the power of diversity to really win in the marketplace?

The War Is On

The talent war is going to heat up. Be on the look out. It cooled down during the recession, but the diversity of that highly desirable talent hasn’t decreased. With the economy gradually improving, competition for that diverse talent is increasing. Great talent will be available because people are ready to look for new opportunities. Just recently I was talking with the CDO at one of our financial member companies and he commented about all the great talent he has come across recently and, in contrast to last year, this wasn’t very good talent who happened to have been laid off, but very good talent currently employed at very good companies looking to make a move to enhance their careers.

To be at the forefront of doing vital work, keeping and reviewing these new ways of thinking as beacons of thinking will be essential for a successful, prosperous, and breakthrough year.

 

Where are D&I Advocates in the Social Media Movement?

by Andrés T. Tapia —

social-media2

I was about two months in as president of Diversity Best Practices and talking with several colleagues about expanding the company’s reach and its social media presence: the page on Facebook and the new Twitter strategy.  

That’s when it hit me.

The most powerful technology ever that can enable inclusion is in the palm of our hands, yet too many of us who understand the power of inclusion–particularly D&I practitioners–are MIA in its use.

Social media has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life. Last year, 3 of 10 Internet sessions included a visit to Facebook, according to ComScore. What’s more, visitors to Twitter increased 89% in 2010—and that’s not including those who accessed the site through third-party mobile apps. LinkedIn is blossoming as well, experiencing a 30% boost in visitors between December 2009 and December 2010.

Given the myriad means of accessing social media, it is indeed the most inclusive technology in history. The implications of this are huge. As a child growing up under an oppressive dictatorship in Peru, I lived in a country where the government controlled the flow of information. Those in power determined what messages were disseminated and who had the right to do so. Today, social media provides anyone—regardless of race, gender, religion, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation or socio-economic status—with a virtually uncensored forum to reach the masses.

Recent world events have illustrated the global impact of this all-access technology. Following the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan, people were able to find out the status of loved ones through updates on sites like Facebook and YouTube. Fundraising efforts launched almost immediately, allowing people around the globe to donate money for relief aid. Messages posted on social media outlets prompted young adults in Egypt to gather in protest—a monumental effort that culminated in President Hosni Mubarak abdicating power after a 30-year reign. And, in the United States, we may not have had our first African-American president if it weren’t for the grassroots campaigns that germinated online. 

Carlos Dominquez, a self-described nowist and a Senior Vice President in Cisco System’s Office of the Chairman of the Board and CEO, has described the rise of social media as “one of the greatest transformations in the history of mankind.” He contends that companies that leverage these tools will gain a significant competitive advantage, while those that don’t will not be long for the business world.

A good number of companies have recognized this and are harnessing the power that lies within social media. In 2010, 60% of Fortune 500 companies had a corporate Twitter account—a jump from just 35% the previous year, according to a study by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts. Of these companies, 56% were on Facebook and 23% had a public-facing corporate blog. 

So far, companies seem to be focused on social media as a means of supporting their marketing and customer service efforts. Diversity practitioners have yet to join the revolution and are missing out on a true inclusion opportunity.

 From widening a company’s diversity recruiting net to tapping into trends in globalization to spreading the word about a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, opportunities abound for diversity professionals to engage an inclusive medium that reaches people from all walks of life inside and outside the organization. The growth and impact of this technology show no signs of stopping. In fact, it is going to continue to accelerate exponentially.

 Like the companies for which they work, diversity professionals who don’t friend social media now will find themselves wondering what happened. So link up and link in, book some face time, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, Flickr or whatever is just over the horizon. We can’t afford to be missing in action in social media.

Tap the Power of Global Diversity to Reinvent Yourselves, Economy — Urgent Message to Graduating Students

by Andrés T. Tapia —

I recently joined diversity executives from IBM, PepsiCo and Wal-Mart on a panel at Wake Forest University’s Schools of Business. The message to students at the 2010 Marketing Summit was clear: As globalization advances, the old rules in business don’t apply. Your biggest challenge is going to be pushing yourself to see things anew–again and again and again. And that means knowing how to see and capitalize on diversity.

“Diversity goes beyond race and gender,” said PepsiCo’s Chief Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ronald C. Parker. “It’s about innovation, collaboration and agility. In our careers we need to press the reset button regularly. Reinvent ourselves every 3 years.” Ronald C. Glover, IBM’s vice president of diversity and workforce programs for IBM took the metaphor even further, telling students to “hit the reset button every 18 months. Maybe every day.”

Esther Silver-Parker, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart, urged students not to make the mistake of staying in a “mirror image” mindset, assuming they can get the job done by gravitating toward those who look like they look and think like they think. Glover agreed: “The talent the world needs is everywhere now,” he said. “The world is less forgiving of those of you who can’t keep up.”

Perhaps one of the most provocative insights business students heard was Ron Parker’s idea that recessions are the economy’s reset buttons–pushed when a stagnant “system mired in excesses, inefficiencies and misaligned priorities” needs to be purged. Visionary business leaders who see and think diversely–who are willing to press their own reset buttons–are needed to help restart the economy and keep it fresh.

The panel was moderated by Wake Forest’s Dean of Business Steve Reinemund, the only former Fortune 100 CEO who currently heads a top business school. During his six years as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Reinemund implemented a broad range of business strategies that analysts credit for much of the company’s financial success — as exemplified by a 50% increase in Pepsico’s share price during his six-year tenure. But Reinemund, who made diversity and inclusion a key business imperative at Pepsico while CEO,  believes that economic success did not just come from the financial and product strategies he implemented. In his final press conference as he retired from Pepsico he answered the question of what he felt would be his greatest legacy for the company: creating a culture of inclusion he answered without skipping a beat. Now he is bringing both his keen business mind and passion for diversity to attract a more diverse body of business students.

Reinemund’s success, as well as the panelists’ insights, underscores the message of The Inclusion Paradox that I shared with students: The world is not flat; it’s upside down. Celebrating and understanding differences is no longer enough. You have to know how to leverage those differences.And in upside down world, where the old rules don’t work anymore, what new solutions can you offer that will hit the reset button in how we do business and engage our talent?

Will Corporations Tap Millennials’ Unique Strengths?

Unless business schools start diversifying their approaches to education, they may fail to tap Generation Y’s strengths–which would mean huge losses for the corporations they’re being trained to lead. So argues Matt Symonds “Business Schools Beware: Gen Y is at the Door.” in the January 21, 2010 issue of  BusinessWeek. How is this age group different? According to Symonds,

“They differ in one crucial respect. They don’t just use the new technology that has revolutionized business over the past decade—they eat, sleep and breathe it. That means the lessons they will want to learn and the way they will expect those lessons to be delivered could be radically different.”

Technology, he goes on to argue, has bred a generation whose style of thinking and working is intensively interactive. This difference could be put to great advantage in corporations dealing with the realities of globalization:

“Managing and directing international teams means the traditional “face-to-face” model of leadership is no longer possible and, for younger employees in particular, not even relevant. In this context, leaders need to be collaborative, consensual, and inclusive.”

The stakes of whether business schools will rise to the challenge of responding to new differences in the workforce could be high. Symonds believes that the new emphasis on real-time interactivity could “eradicate much of the herd mentality and stifled thinking that have led us into so many economic crises, from the South Sea Bubble to subprime mortgages. The question is: Who is going to have the vision and the courage to implement it?” The article goes on to offer fascinating glimpses of what some of the most forward-thinking business schools in the United States and Europe are doing.

Finally, corporations must confront the exact same question. As I wrote in The Inclusion Paradox, the Millennial Generation is going to challenge the workplace like no other.  Businesses are no more ready for them than business schools are.

inclusionparadox.com