Amazon UnBoxed Conference: Achieving an Inclusive Workforce Through ‘Diversity By Design’

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

Hiring a diverse workforce “just makes good business sense,” said JT Saunders, Chief Diversity Officer at leadership development firm Korn Ferry, speaking at a panel discussion on inclusive hiring practices at Amazon’s unBoxed conference this week.

“Diverse and inclusive organizations outperform their competitors,” he added, offering up several compelling internal research stats, like the following: 70 percent of brands that are thoughtful about inclusion tend to capture new and different markets every day; 35 percent see greater profitability, particularly when their executive leadership teams are diverse; and 83 percent see more innovation driven by employees.

But incorporating—and, more importantly—activating on diversity within organizations is another story. “It’s not enough to have diversity anymore. It’s really about how you are activating that diversity, how you’re including them in the process, how you’re helping them to make smarter, better decisions for your customers, for your organizations, for your brands,” he said. “The expectation from today’s consumers is that they want to support and engage with companies or brands or products that speak to them, that speak to their values.”

To create inclusive and diverse workplaces, Saunders recommends embracing this concept of “diversity by design.” Inclusion at Korn Ferry is discussed in two different ways: behaviorally and structurally. Regarding the former, “it’s about the decision making, the actions we take our mindset around and our behaviors that really help us to either create a stronger culture of inclusion or prevent us from having a culture of inclusion,” he said.

The second part is addressing “structural inclusion,” or the process that’s taken to instill best practices and ensure not only that diversity is in the room, but that the right level of diversity is present. Employees are adding value, contributing, providing feedback and helping the organization penetrate new and different markets. “All that experience and background that the different perspectives can bring to the conversation can make a truly enriched product,” he said.

Korn Ferry is nurturing talent internally and externally in a few innovative ways. Internally, it has created the Mosaic Emerging Talent program, which gives the company’s highest performers access to monthly leadership development and executive coaching. “We’re seeing that that’s helping us create not only our future leadership pipeline who represent multiple dimensions of diversity, [but also] it’s helping us to create innovation.” Tools that employees have developed through the experience include a new board advisory tool used in the healthcare vertical and a new sales enablement tool that’s now used internally.

The other aspect of it involves a societal impact component, through a program called Leadership U for Humanity, which entails sharing those resources—the coaching, leadership development and networking—with nonprofit partners for free who are serving underrepresented leaders across the country. “Because it’s not only about Korn Ferry, it’s also about the impact that we can have as a brand who’s driving success and leadership for the future of tomorrow.”

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