Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06, former software engineer, is a coach working with professionals to increase well-being, energy, and meaning in their work lives (Theano Coaching LLC). She is also a writing coach, facilitator of writing workshops, and teacher of positive workplace concepts at the University of Maryland. Her own books include Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits and Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Full bio. Kathryn's articles are here.
March 2: Day 3 of the Psychologically Healthy Workplace ConferenceThis the final of a three-part conference series. Part I and Part II covered the earlier days. For this part, Morteza Farajian is again my co-author and Clara Cheung took all the pictures.
On this day, we were all torn between concern about the heavy snow fall, which threatened to close the airports, and staying to hear the final presentations on inclusive diversity and establishing health practices in the work place.
Eric Peterson, Diversity & Inclusion Manager Society for Human Resource Management, categorically stated that a diverse and inclusive workforce outperforms a homogeneous one. He described the history of inclusive diversity — behaviors and laws which have evolved from those motivated by enforced compliance to those based on values, to those based on a clear business case. He explained the importance of attracting talent in the current economic downturn, to a reverse Mt. Everest climb. Climbers tend to celebrate when they reach the top, forgetting that 80% of the accidents happen on the way back down. Similarly, long-term economic survival will depend on how companies manage the upturn, not just how well they survive the downturn. “If you don’t want talent, your competitors will take it off your hands gladly.”
The Business Case: Why Diversity and Inclusion are Good for Business
Diversity is a very broad issue that goes way beyond gender, nationality, and ethnicity. Older managers who argue, “I’m not going to give people awards for showing up,” have big problems when they are dealing with Generation Y employees who grew up on soccer teams where everyone got an award.
He presented 5 ways that inclusive diversity helps the bottom line:
- Greater adaptability and flexibility in a rapidly changing marketplace.
- Attracting and retaining the best talent. McKinsey shows this to be the most important management challenge facing executives over the next 5 years.
- Reducing costs associated with turnover, absenteeism, and low productivity. Each year over 2 million people voluntarily leave organizations because of perceived unfairness or a sense they can’t succeed there.
- Return on investment, in terms of greater sales, profits, and market share — especially when customer acquisition and improved service may be the most compelling and least leveraged business case of them all. “Your customer set will look like your sales force.”
- To Minimize and mitigate legal risks.
Volvo and Pepsico are are examples of companies that generated a solid profit by taking advantage of diversity. Volvo established a team of women engineers to design a car that would appeal to women. Several of their design elements became competitive advantages in later Volvo models. PepsiCo had a contest for groups to design new products tied to their backgrounds. A Latin American group created guacamole chips that have brought in more than $20 million.
Healthy Employees, Profitable Bottom LinesRebecca Kelly demonstrated that employer health programs can enhance business objectives. She illustrated successful programs based on her experience engaging more than 80% of the University of Alabama employees in Wellbama programs. These programs take many forms, from getting rid of cafeteria trays (which reduces portion sizes) to working with health coaches and instituting well body awards. She presented the following mnemonic for success factors:
- E for Employees care about a program when you care about them.
- N for Night shift employees work too
- G for Get to know your employees. A high visibility program is more likely to work.
- A for Ambassadors/team leaders are essential. They bring stories of success and high touch.
- G for Group participation is effective. For example, in one weight loss program, they weigh the whole team rather than individuals. Where an individual has a 30% probability of continuing a healthy practice, a group of three has a 70% probability.
- E for Enjoy. This is a wonderful opportunity to have fun. She was so vivacious that it was easy to picture having fun around her.
They’ve started the Strive for Five program – Eat, Drink, Think, Move, Lose – which helps people remember the daily need to consume 5 glasses of water, eat five vegetables or fruits, think about 5 positive messages, exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes, and maintain current healthy weight or lose 5 Ibs every two months.
She described establishment of wellness programs as taking money that is already being spent on health insurance premiums and absenteeism and spending it better.