Leveraging Diversity: From Awareness to Collaborative Action


Diversity is more than the inherent traits we’re born with: sexual orientation, gender, and ethnicity. Diversity also includes experiences that shape the way we view the world: the neighborhood we grew up in, a foreign assignment, work in another industry, or several months traveling or doing volunteer work.

A 2012 study by the Center of Talent Innovation published in HBR reported that companies who consciously manage diversity and build diverse leadership teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets opportunities.

But most companies aren’t leveraging the diversity asset. Why not?

The Diversity Conversation – A Brief History

Conversations about diversity and inclusion are not new. In the 1980's and 90’s, as workplace demographics shifted – and as discrimination lawsuits became prevalent – many organizations responded with training designed to help leaders increase awareness around the impact of unconscious bias.

New policies were instituted. Obvious bias in hiring, for example, was reduced because of better recruiting and interviewing protocols.

Fast-forward almost twenty years. What happened?  For one, the focus on D&I took a backseat to other business priorities: responding to increased global competition, two major economic downturns, and the unprecedented pace of technological change. In the race to be more agile, responsive, and innovative, many companies dropped out of the race to leverage diversity.

From Awareness to Collaborative Action

With the economic recovery and rebounding employment, D&I training is once again front and center on the business agenda. 

But if we want different results this time, we have to go beyond simply helping leaders and individual contributors understand their unconscious biases and blind spots. We have to galvanize their good intentions with practical strategies, skills, and collaborative actions. 

Here’s what we want people to be willing and able to do:

  • Demonstrate Self-Awareness & Culture Appreciation. Be able to recognize one’s own biases in thought and action. Be able to demonstrate authentic appreciation for diversity and nurture trust with people different than us.
  • Facilitate Meaningful Dialogue and Agreement-Building. Be able to design and guide conversations about bias and leveraging diversity. Be able to build the capability of a cadre a diversity leaders and champions.
  • Take Concerted Action and Measure Progress. Be able to sponsor practical and integrated diversity initiatives linked to business strategy. Be able to integrate D&I into balanced scorecard or other key results area measurement.

To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, aim to link diversity awareness with the power of collaborative action. Let's not just repeat the past. Let's create a future that brings out the best in everyone, and reflects our highest aspirations for our workplace and society.

About Deborah Rocco

Deborah has over 20 years of experience helping individuals and organizations realize their full potential. As a senior HR leader in the telecommunications, biopharmaceutical, and healthcare industries, she has a depth of knowledge and experience in organizational effectiveness, team collaboration, and change management. Over the past 15+ years, Deborah has led large teams of learning professionals and technical experts responsible for the design and delivery of leadership development, OD, culture, and training initiatives at MediaOne Group, AT&T Broadband, Comcast, Amylin Pharmaceutical, and Scripps Health. Deborah holds an M.Ed in Human Resource Management, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, and is a trained Integral Coach. She is certified in a number of assessment instruments including the MBTI, Birkman and PDI 360 instruments.