03/13/2013 04:10 pm ET Updated May 13, 2013

Promoting Minority Advancement: Influencing Decision Makers and Company Leadership

Continuing my series on Promoting Minority Advancement, I want to share how employees can influence decision makers and company leadership to promote diversity practices. Regardless of where you fall in the organizational hierarchy, you have the ability to demonstrate leadership within your company.

  1. Understand the political climate and organization culture of your company -- Who sits on the firm's Diversity Taskforce? How many degrees of separation exist between you and these individuals? Is the timing appropriate for a discussion on the firm's current practices? Knowing who to speak with, when to approach the individual and how to address the subject of minority advancement will make a huge difference in the response you receive.
  2. Participate in the Diversity and Inclusion practices that already exist in your workplace -- You need to be more than just knowledgeable about existing programs; by participating directly, you can assess the program and identify what works and what does not. For example, if your firm has a mentorship or sponsorship program but no Latino leaders are participating, you can highlight the limitations of the existing program from your perspective and experience as a Latino employee. By citing your personal experiences (both positive and negative) with the company's existing programs you will add to the impact and credibility of your perspective.
  3. Work towards improving your company's ROI on Diversity and Inclusion practices -- Demonstrating a return on investment is one of the four focus areas present in effective workplace environments supportive of promoting minorities. Companies routinely measure whether their diversity efforts are increasing revenue and the bottom line. If you work in a role that brings in revenue for your company, participate in the firm's diversity programs and are great at your job, you are an example that the company's investment in these programs is well served.
  4. Be prepared to present your ideas -- If you are successful in getting a meeting with one of the company's Diversity and Inclusion decision makers, there is going to be an expectation that you are coming to the table with ideas and recommendations. Your ideas should be scalable, well thought out and executable. If an investment is required, you should have a plan for where the resources will come from or demonstrate how the company can see a return on their investment.
  5. Get involved in external diversity organizations -- Direct involvement in organizations like ALPFA, NABA and Ascend will broaden your understanding and knowledge of diversity and inclusion issues. Getting involved in external organizations offers you an opportunity to hone your leadership abilities in a different setting and expand your professional skills. It also gives you access to a network of professionals, executives and speakers that could help your efforts to influence your company's leadership. You can serve as a liaison and perhaps relationship manager between your firm and the partner organization.
In the final installment of the series, we are going to look at what Diversity and Inclusion looks like in minority-owned companies. On first glance, it can appear that these companies would not need to invest or develop diversity programs, policies or practices. But, the reality is that diversity and inclusion are not limited to companies looking to recruit, hire and retain minority employees. Diversity and inclusion also impacts business development and supplier diversity practices. These areas are of particular interest to any company looking to remain competitive in today's global market.