By Megan Campbell
Marketing and communications director
Greenville Chamber of Commerce
The second annual Greenville Chamber Diversity & Inclusion Summit, held Oct. 16 at the Greenville Convention Center, brought more than 600 people together to discuss best practices in the field.
The event catered to business leaders, diversity and inclusion practitioners, and those just getting started in their journeys to building inclusive environments. The full-day summit included three keynote sessions and 11 workshops. Topics covered included:
- Building inclusive environments for people with disabilities.
- Women’s leadership.
- Global fluency.
- Building better relationships.
- Diversity in leadership styles.
The three keynotes included Steve L. Robbins, “Your Brain is Good at Inclusion Except When it’s Not”; Joe Gerstandt, “The Value of Difference”; and Kelley Cornish for a conversation with David Lominack on TD Bank’s national diversity and inclusion strategy.
Throughout the summit, presenters narrowed in on the true meaning of diversity. So often, diversity is associated with race or gender. We broadened that scope to encompass anything that makes us different from one another. Elements of diversity within the workplace range from department to educational background and age and abilities. When approaching diversity with that lens, we begin to understand the full impact of creating teams that celebrate difference.
The top takeaways from these diversity and inclusion experts included the following:
The brain is hardwired to belong
“For no other reason, that’s why you should address inclusion,” Robbins said. The cognitive neuroscientist says it goes back to the tribal days — belonging to the tribe meant a better chance of survival. When we feel cared for and valued, our brain performance is optimized. According to Robbins, the area of the brain activated when we feel as though we do not belong is the same area that reacts to physical pain. In the work environment, this huge distraction results in decreased focus and productivity.
Build inclusive containers
Gerstandt helps teams across the nation build inclusive “containers.” He said, “Diversity is the ingredients, inclusion is the container. You need the right inclusion.”
“I value diversity and inclusion, but I am an inclusion guy first,” he said. “If you don’t build an inclusive environment first, the diverse others will feel physical pain.”
For Gerstandt, an inclusive container looks like an environment that values difference in opinion. He says those teams that excel in this area set clear expectations for meetings and include open-mindedness to disagreement.
When Kelley Cornish arrived at TD Bank as the head of U.S. diversity and inclusion, diversity and inclusion was “nothing new”; however, she said her team has helped the organization grow from tactical to strategic.
“It’s the first conversation they are having with great data,” she said.
One initiative was setting clear goals and giving executives scorecards. The scorecards provide a snapshot of performance, help them thread diversity and inclusion practices throughout the entire organization, and add a level of accountability.Cornish said the scorecards often take common human resources metrics and layer a diversity lens on them. One example: turnover plus turnover amongst women. For Cornish, it’s not a focus on the numbers for numbers’ sake, but an emphasis on changes in behavior.
“My hope is we will see gaps close. … Hopefully, if our behaviors change, our numbers will change,” she said.
Gerstandt also advised that “the more clarity you have on the final product or outcome, the easier it is. The more language you can capture, the easier to get there and figure out what to measure.”
Give yourself a chance
According to Robbins, we are often told that in our encounters with difference we need to give others a chance. While that’s true, he added, “In our encounters with difference, we need to give ourselves a chance.”
Gerstandt recommended “biting off smaller chunks of work” and simply displaying “a spirit of inquiry.” He said we won’t get it perfect every time, but we can commit to giving ourselves a chance to be diversity and inclusiveness champions within each of our organizations.
The field of diversity and inclusion isn’t going anywhere. In fact, Cornish said that eventually “it will be the key role in organizations.”
“Conversations have to be had,” she said.
Save the date
The third annual Greenville Chamber Diversity & Inclusion Summit is Oct. 8, 2019.