02/27/2013 09:13 am ET Updated Apr 29, 2013

Promoting Minority Advancement: The Top-Down Approach and Leadership Training for Inclusivity

Following up on my last entry on promoting minority advancement, two of the four focus areas I highlighted were: 1) Having a 'top down approach' and 2) Training for leaders to be inclusive.

On first glance, it may be difficult to differentiate these two focus areas. After all, they sound very similar and truth be told, they are related. In order to have a top down approach where a company's executive leadership is committed to and supports diversity and inclusion, leaders must think inclusively. In rare occasions you can find an executive who comes in with the appropriate mindset to embrace diversity and inclusion but most of the time leaders need to be trained this skill. Another way to look at the relationship between these two focus areas is that the top down approach is often a RESULT of leadership training.

Additionally, the top down approach is a function of management at the highest level of the company. Training for leaders to be inclusive is a developed trait and learned soft skill. Although there is some overlap because of their interrelated nature, both of these areas also have distinct measures for success. What are they?

Top Down Approach:
  • The company has a Diversity Taskforce
  • There is accountability at the top-level
  • Leadership is actively involved externally in diversity issues
  • Diversity is an integral part of the organization's 3-5 year strategic plan
  • The company has allocated funds towards diversity in the operating budget
Train Leadership to be More Inclusive:
  • There is authentic cultural awareness within the organization
  • Robust diversity training is in place throughout the company
  • The company Board of Directors and staff is diverse
  • The assignment selection committee is diverse
  • Leadership is involved in the company's diversity programs

Understanding how these focus areas interact with each other and lay the foundation for an effective diversity and inclusion strategy to be built positions employees to influence company policies and practices. But, what exactly does this influence look and sound like? How can I be sure my concerns, needs and suggestions to promote diversity in my company are getting to the right individuals?

The series will next explore the ways employees can influence their company's focus on diversity and inclusion and ensure the opportunities for minority advancement are maximized at all levels of leadership.