At the end of February, the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) had its annual Business and Leadership Conference.
If you haven’t been to one before, whether in person or virtually (like this year), then you should prioritize it next year. There were a lot of great keynotes, talks, and breakout sessions spanning sales, marketing, design thinking and agile practices. However, one talk really caught me by surprise, and that was Dr. Ivan Joseph’s talk on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).I know there are a lot of initiatives in our industry about promoting diversity. I think that they are doing some good and very important work. However, I really felt an affinity to the approach Dr. Joseph took in his talk and the way that he presented facts, figures and studies in a way that seemed to unite everyone in a common pursuit of excellence that can only be achieved through a diverse industry.
I will say that many times, talks on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion can seem remedial and may potentially divide more than they unite. Dr. Joseph’s was NOT that kind of talk.
Dr. Joseph was able to use his personal experiences in Canadian sports and business to give us some amazing insights into how we can expand diversity in our industry, creating both equity and inclusion and enhanced performance.
There were a couple main points that really stuck out to me.
First, if we really want to achieve diversity, we have to drop our narrow definitions of what qualifications and job experience we are looking for. If there is a lack of diversity in the industry on the whole, narrow qualifications unintentionally exclude any diverse candidates you may have. Start widening the qualifications to look at similar skillsets, parallel industries or other indicators of potential success to assure that your net is wide enough.
Second, having an initiative for diversity and hiring diverse candidates, only to leave them to find success on their own once hired, often fails. You have to build a support system, provide mentorship, and help people navigate the organization. It also helps to hire diverse candidates in clusters, as they create a support system and community for each other within the organization. Dr. Joseph relayed that 1 diversified hire can often fail, 2 diversified hires typically end up competing with each other, while 3 diversified hires will form a bond and create a support system that results in an increased chance of success.
The last point that Dr. Joseph made that really stuck out to me was that mandatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for employees has a net NEGATIVE effect. However, making DEI training optional makes it several times more effective and creates a positive result. The most encouraging thing about this fact is that when people are asked to consider Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, they WANT to be better and that desire is what unlocks the success.
I can’t do justice to Dr. Joseph’s charisma and delivery in a short blog, nor can I recap all the amazing data he presented, but I encourage you to visit his site linked above and watch his Ted talk. If you were a BLC attendee and somehow missed Dr. Joseph’s talk, I highly encourage you to go watch the video while its available as well.
Thanks to the NSCA and to Dr. Ivan Joseph for making us all feel like part of the solution and not the cause of the problem. I believe that Dr. Joseph’s approach creates the understanding and alliances that will yield long-term fruit in this important issue.