We must get to the point where diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are considered norms and not novelties. That will require much more than featuring diverse people and photos in corporate and customer marketing.

It is human nature to seek out companies or organizations which seem to reflect or understand our personal experience. Marketers know that and work hard to ensure that an organization’s forward-facing image appears to offer a sense of shared experience.

Putting a good face forward is not enough. Branding strategy demands that the experience ‘match the promise’ in order for people to embrace, support and, hopefully, recommend the brand to others. Similarly, DEI policies are something which we must practice as well as preach. We cannot claim to have a diverse membership or leadership if we do not. We cannot claim to be equitable in providing employee or customer experiences if we are not. We cannot claim to have an inclusive culture which welcomes diverse input and backgrounds if we do not. Our customers and our employees want their experiences to match the promises that we make to them through our policies, our marketing, our community outreach, our program offerings and the quality (experience) of our service.

I recently conducted an assessment of an organization which realizes that the composition, experiences and expertise that its volunteers bring to their work directly impacts customer experience and will be a primary factor in creating sustainable success for the organization. The assessment was the first step in a process which will hopefully produce a culture where diversity, equity and inclusion are the norm and not a novelty. The process will also ideally produce:

    • A sustainable environment where everyone feels seen, heard and valued;
    • Enhanced creativity and innovation resulting from a broader diversity of input and experience;
    • Increased collaboration and teaming, which will turbocharge productivity and service;
    • An environment where employees are exposed to different experiences and cultures and learn from each other, thereby moving the entire organization forward;
    • The ability to attract and retain a high quality, diverse talent pool which, in turn, will attract and better serve a more diverse customer base;
    • A sustainable leadership pool; and
    • An inclusive culture which facilities retention and decreases turnover among all of its members, who now have a stronger bond with both their peers and the organization.

DEI policies and progress must begin at the top. It is only through leadership that such initiatives will be viewed as important, relevant and needed by the rest of the organization. Without the vocal and visible support of leadership, even the most well-thought-out DEI action plan will become just another checkmark in the organization’s perceived ‘must have’ category. Checkmarks don’t create better cultures and they don’t move anything forward. They don’t attract quality workers or volunteers and they don’t keep employees, members or customers on board.

Lori Martinek