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HR Perspectives in Diversity Panel

By James Cox

March 8, 2022

James Baldwin photo and quote "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

Last week the Wisconsin School of Business’ Strategic HR Center held a diversity panel focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. The discussion was led by WSB alum Nancy Carreño (’93), Talent Acquisition Partner at ADP (Always Designing for People), who introduced our three presenters: Drew Lewis, VP, Global Diversity and Talent at ADP; Nancy Geenen, CEO, Flexability, LLC; and Leah Smiley, President of The Society for Diversity & Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC). The dialogue was engaging, thoughtful, and highlighted a number of important aspects pertaining to DEI’s relevance in the workplace.

James Cox
James Cox

Arguably the most attention-grabbing statistics provided by the panel supported the idea that DEI can be a source of competitive advantage: Teams with gender or disability diversity reported a 25% increase in performance while teams with racial and/or ethnic diversity reported a 36% performance improvement. Overall, “diverse teams” were found to be 87% better decision-makers than “non-diverse teams.” Quantitative measurements such as these are powerful tools for not only illustrating the power of diversity but for supporting investments in DEI on a grand scale.

Another memorable idea can be encapsulated in the following quote: “If you want someone to remember, tell them a story.” We often state facts with the assumption that that will suffice, and while sometimes it does, it does not have the long-lasting impact we desire. The story of one’s brand can leave a lasting impression, greatly influencing our audience’s experience while maintaining our relevance and connecting to individual preferences, expectations, attitudes, and needs. As such, we need to approach DEI as a novel, continuous journey that we consistently invest in just as we would technology.

As we continue to navigate business resource groups towards a focus on business outcomes, we need to remember the DEI story – that a diverse organizational workforce has the potential to be a significant competitive advantage. Corporate leaders who understand this create inclusive environments that drive success and retention through the power of connection and engagement. Our panel – Nancy Carreño, Drew Lewis, Nancy Geenen, and Leah Smiley – are fantastic examples of this; we are fortunate and thankful to have had this opportunity to learn from their experiences and engage in dialogue with them. Together Forward!