by Rob Danna | January 23, 2017

Are diversity and inclusion on your radar for 2017? Better yet, are they among your strategic priorities in the year ahead? If not, they should be. They're among the hottest topics for organizational leaders, and not just because they drive performance (according to Deloitte Australia, inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80 percent in team-based assessments). 

No, it's more than just performance numbers. Diversity and inclusion enormously influence factors that impact the culture of your organization, specifically recruitment and retention of the unmatched, often hard-to-come-by talent that drives those results. But before I speak to how you can attract and retain through diversity and inclusion, let me first deliver some context.  

How Diversity Drives Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion have come a long way. They're no longer the compliance-based, meet-the-minimum-requirements-set-forth-by-law prerequisites they once were. Now, they're more progressive, aiming to get the best possible return for the investment (the investment being diversity itself). 

Because diversity represents all the ways we differ, inclusion harnesses those elements productively. Beliefs, backgrounds, talents, capabilities, and ways of life -- inclusion aims to leverage them to facilitate an environment of involvement, respect, and connection, and ultimately, create business value. 

Deborah James, secretary of the U.S. Air Force, explains why diversity is so powerful within military culture as it relates to the overall mission, and how it comes down to aligning and motivating any organization's most valuable asset: its people.

"Diversity is important because we have to be top-notch in innovation. We are a high-tech force... facing enormous challenges around the world. We need people that can handle ambiguity and work on their feet. People that can make split-second decisions with life-or-death consequences..."

James continues: "These young people grow and become leaders, not by [someone] just telling them what to do, but by getting them to all march in the same direction and take on a mission. All of which comes back to diversity of thought, innovation, and problem-solving."  


Making Inclusion Strategic 


As organizational leaders and proponents of motivating people, our goal is to create emotional connections to the mission; to get our people to march in the same direction. 

Strategic inclusion allows us to do just that. It takes the concept of inclusion one step further by fundamentally focusing on solving problems and realizing opportunities with people rather than against people. 

What's more, it offers a viable framework for sustainable business success and can serve as a value proposition for your organization by:

* Driving a meaningful and measurable advantage for attracting and retaining talent
* Providing meaningful and measurable value to the customer
* Contributing a meaningful and measurable increase in shareholder value


Strategic Inclusion's Spot in Your Big-Picture Plan

Now that you know the "why" of strategic inclusion, we'll help you with the "how." 

Throughout the year, we'll spotlight actionable best practices that will allow you to foster strategic inclusion through events, incentives, and recognition -- best practices relating to:

* Holistic design to integrate complementary engagement initiatives
* Employer branding to attract, retain, and nurture diverse talent 
* Leadership visibility that models inclusive behavior
* Voice of the employee to capture diverse ideas and perspectives
* Collaborative ideation to stimulate inclusive innovation
* Success measurement and analytics focused on continuous improvement
* Recognizing and rewarding inclusive behavior and results

Sound good? Get ready to learn how you can further embrace diversity with strategic inclusion and benefit from the remarkable business results in the months ahead. 

Rob Danna is senior vice president of sales and marketing at engagement solutions provider ITA Group, an industry leader in events, incentives and recognition programs. With 25 years of experience, Danna has helped hundreds of large companies strategize and implement strategic performance improvement solutions. ITA Group can be reached at drivenbyloyalty@itagroup.com