Today is Valentine’s Day and I find myself still reflecting on 2017’s wild ride. Especially, how the year affected women and people of color. Frankly, if not a transformation, I think we are witnessing an inflection point in our views on difference. I’m wondering, did the events of last year change the way you think about differences in your organization related to women, race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation? I hope so, and here’s why: A recent McKinsey article “reaffirmed the global relevance of the link between diversity—defined as a greater proportion of women and a more mixed ethnic and cultural composition in the leadership of large companies—and company financial outperformance.”1 The report makes crystal clear that leadership teams lacking diversity pay a penalty in financial performance.2 So, the key question becomes, what are you doing differently to promote Principled Inclusion Practices (PIP) in your organization? What is Principled Practice? I argue that it goes beyond the legal requirements of training, recruitment, and compliance. PIP focuses on developing organizational qualities that enable an inclusive culture. Of course, the idea of inclusion isn’t new but the times are, so what will be different in our efforts as a result of lessons learned?

It remains true that Human Resource professionals are considered responsible for managing the challenges related to a diverse workforce. However, current expectations for HR are limited; worse, they place the function in a reactive mode. I believe there is an urgent need for HR to take a more pro-active role in promoting the value found in difference. It’s not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes good business sense!

Here are two actions for consideration: first, promoting practices of Principled Inclusion; and, second, developing a Difference Quotient (DQ). The labels are not as important as the ideas they represent. Principled Practices are those that encourage the introduction of diverse perspectives in key decision making and problem solving. It requires the organization to:

  1. Understand what type of decisions or problem solving benefit from diverse perspectives and,
  2. Leverage practices to allow these perspectives to be integrated into the process.

The Difference Quotient is simply a measure of how well an organization applies Principled Practices. It is an organization’s awareness of the value of diverse perspectives and “the business impact caused by a lack of diverse perspectives in key processes.” It requires an organization to:

  1. Identify targeted feedback loops that ensure the application of principled practices and,
  2. Understand impact by evaluating outcomes where PIP was applied (after-action review).

Biased or not, most of us have expectations that Human Resources will play the lead role in diversity matters. I argue that, whatever the current role, HR becomes more proactive and valuable by stepping beyond a simple compliance orientation and moving toward a focus on culture shaping. How? By speaking up at the leadership table to promote a strong commitment to inclusion and difference. With a focus on Principled Practices organizations will better leverage the diverse talent available to them and will seek difference where and when it matters. If HR can master these two principles, you will think differently about difference.


[1] McKinsey “delivering through Diversity” 2018 Report
[2] companies in the fourth quartile on both gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to underperform their industry peers on profitability: 29 percent in our 2017 data set. McKinsey “delivering through Diversity” 2018 Report
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