In his keynote at the 23rd annual Business & Leadership Conference, TED Talk veteran Ivan Joseph will make a business case for integration companies to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their company cultures.
NSCA’s Ignite 2.0 Committee is committed to expanding the industry talent pool and creating a professional environment that allows individuals and companies to reach their full potential. There is a very clear prerequisite for that: We need to foster a corporate culture that embraces and nurtures diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Not only is it (very obviously) the right thing to do, but also, from a business standpoint, companies can’t afford not to nurture DEI culture. At the 23rd annual Business & Leadership Conference (BLC), author and TED Talk veteran Dr. Ivan Joseph will make that business case to the integration industry.
It’s well-documented that the integration industry has diversity challenges. For myriad business reasons, that trend needs to change, according to the Ignite 2.0 Committee. NSCA specifically chose Joseph to have an honest, open conversation with NSCA members about why this is so important.
Leading up to BLC, NSCA interviewed Joseph about the DEI message he’ll deliver during his keynote, “Business Benefits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Q: Will your session provide attendees with actionable advice to improve their business and DEI?
A: You have to recognize the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I know everybody would like to say, “It’s because it’s the right thing to do,” but [not every] individual is at that space and at that time. You have to recognize that, in the spectrum of diversity, equity, and inclusion, everybody is on a certain journey and path. Some people are really proactive and they’re at that stage where it’s the right thing to do.
You also have folks who are early into their path and they want to know, “What’s in it for me?” I don’t mean that to sound selfish. In the life of motivation, when we try to get people to adopt new behaviors, it’s typically because there’s something in it for them. There’s some value. Research is out there that says: the more diverse the team, the more innovative the team. The more diverse the perspectives, the more likely they are to see alternative ways of thinking.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Embracing it leads to increased revenues, increased profits, increased opportunities to see things differently. It also means increased conflict. And it does mean sometimes increased challenges. That conflict needs to happen, because that’s the way diverse opinions need to be brought to the table. Just because things are easy doesn’t mean they’re better. I don’t want people to interpret that word “conflict” as a negative when looking at the challenges of diversity.
Q: Integrators are facing a tough market in 2021. Many are struggling to keep their doors open. Why is now the right time to focus on DEI?
A: It’s a great point, and I’ll say this. If you look at where young people are today, where a lot of your consumers are, there’s been a groundswell of social justice and a movement for people to feel like they matter and belong.
The millennial generation — significant consumers and people you want to be engaging with now and in the future — are paying attention to Corporate America and Corporate Canada, saying, “Who’s doing right by us? Who’s really engaging in diversity in terms of their stakeholder engagement? Who’s being a global citizen, using sustainable practices, and aware of climate change?”
They’re using their dollars to be activists. They’re looking you up. They’re doing their research. We have educated buyers and consumers more than we’ve ever had. The internet has made that possible; everybody is their own data analyst.
You need to think about who your stakeholders are. Are they the type of people who are going to care about these sorts of things? Diversity at the corporate level, across your organization, and in your partners matters to consumers. Their dollars will do the telling.
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Q: The integration industry has a reputation for rather one-dimensional demographics. Does the nature of the audience impact the messaging you’ll deliver?
A: I don’t think so. I’m a farmer. I spent 15 years in rural Midwest Iowa, and I believe those are good, salt-of-the-earth people. My values are the same as theirs: strong work ethic, commitment to doing right by right people, speaking the truth, and being really direct.
The approach I take isn’t that of an angry black man standing on the stage and waving my finger. My approach is, “Let me just tell you what unconscious bias looks like.” We all have it, and I’m no different. The color of my skin doesn’t mean I don’t come with my own preconceived conceptions of who people are based on they live and their drawls and accents. If we can recognize how those unconscious biases limit our ability to do business, engage in meaningful connections, and build relationships to get the best out of our employees, then they’re more willing to say, “What role do I play? Maybe this is true. Perhaps I do need to look at something a little differently.”
Then it’s about meeting them where they’re at. Recognize that there are shades of gray and that we all are, I think, good people. If we start the conversation from there and recognize what’s in it for all groups, we get to where we need to be, which is a higher-performing culture that benefits everyone. When the organization wins, the consumer wins. When the consumer gets the product they want, your organization thrives.
Q: What else should BLC attendees know about your keynote?
A: I would say just this: Come prepared with an open mind to have this conversation. There’s no wrong or dumb question. I’m not coming to speak at people. I’m coming to speak with them. Ask the questions you want to ask. I will provide a safe environment to do so.