Companies have known for years that supporting community efforts can reflect positively on the organization. Our Trailblazers deemed this relationship critical to the success of diversity and inclusion within their businesses, as this involvement drives results in several ways.
Being involved with the community leads to having a better representation of employees that reflect the community. When employees see that their organizations care about the communities in which they live, they are in turn more committed to the organization and more likely to be ambassadors for the company as they interact with their friends, family, and colleagues.
Some businesses have very specific community goals, while others support community projects as they surface because they generally see it as the “right thing to do.” Trailblazers help their organizations develop and clarify community involvement goals, and then guide their leaders as they support the community agencies and projects that are in alignment with the company’s mission and values. Instead of using the scattered, “here today, gone tomorrow” approach, leaders help their organizations focus their efforts and resources—which creates the ability to measure outcomes and make adjustments where needed. The more an organization can concentrate on its community involvement, the better its results will be.
Dr. Tiffany Franks, president of Averett University explained it this way. “Whether it’s conducting research, providing service to nonprofits, working to help those in need and/or serving an internship, it is our community engagement that makes Averett successful in its mission of developing graduates who become catalysts for positive change.”
Dell contributes in the communities where their employees live and work by developing community programs that promote digital inclusion and close the gap on the digital divide. Having built a global business on improving the effectiveness of written communication, Pitney Bowes has a vital interest in literacy and education. Their leadership believes that, by supporting literacy and education programs, the company can improve countless lives and strengthen the fabric of communities everywhere they are involved.
Note that nowhere in these focus statements is there a mention of diversity and inclusion. There is no need, because these are overall business statements where diversity and inclusion is implicit.
The Community Model illustrates the critical components of an effective community involvement process. First, the organization must become clear about their brand and their marketplace. This then allows collaboration among business group leaders, and corporate community relations in the goal-setting process. Once goals are set, communication, recognition, and rewards for involvement can be disseminated throughout the organization.
When an organization has clear diversity and inclusion goals related to community involvement, its leaders’ and employees’ actions as community volunteers are more likely to elicit tangible results. When people know why they are serving their community—beyond it simply being the “right thing to do”—they’re able to increase their awareness of how they might address community challenges. Several of our Trailblazer companies require senior executives to serve the community, and this accountability is reflected in their salaries and bonuses. This deeper understanding of all of the people who comprise the community allows executives to make more informed decisions regarding how their business impacts the community.
Progressive leaders see the payoff that comes with supporting the external community and are clear about the diversity connection. Former American Airlines’ CDO Mike Collins declared, “Because we serve people all over the world, it is imperative that we not only understand differences but also ensure our constituents know that [we’re aware of] their needs. Kirsten Robinson, VP of Human Resources of Ford Motor Company, explained, “Our corporate reputation has been enhanced as a long-time supporter of diversity and the role we play—not only in the communities where we operate, but also the broader global community. It reaffirms Ford’s strong commitment to a better world.”
When business, education and not-for-profit service organizations work together everyone wins. Make it easy for your staff to become involved with the community, not just during holiday season, but year round.
|Lenora Billings-Harris is a recognized authority. She has been included as one of 100 Global Thought Leaders on Diversity and Inclusion by The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), and was named by Diversity Woman Magazine as one of the twenty top influential diversity leaders in the US.