Diversity and Inclusion: The Key to Success

In the early 1900’s Edgar Helms inspired Goodwill® to “…serve, irrespective of race or creed or nationality, the needy, in a practical way.” Could it be that Mr. Helms, the founder of Goodwill Industries, was pioneering what we call today diversity and inclusion?
Current studies on diversity and inclusion all indicate that it is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do for your business. Diversity and inclusion lead to more innovation, stronger business practices, increased opportunities for all, and better access to talent.
Does your organization cultivate an inclusive environment where people of diverse backgrounds feel welcomed and appreciated? Are the people served or employed in your organization a true representation of its community? Is Goodwill ready to advance diversity and inclusion at a national level?
Where do you begin?
At Goodwill, a group of Goodwill CEOs engaged in dynamic conversations about the importance of diversity and inclusion as a Goodwill organizational value. Here is what we learned:
Diversity and Inclusion begins at the top: Goodwill CEOs agree that diversity and inclusion needs to be modeled at the top of the organization. The tone set at the top then trickles down to senior management and so forth. Leadership needs to walk the talk.
A reflection of the population served: Goodwill leaders and board composition should be a reflection of the populations serve. Intentional outreach is needed to have voices from different backgrounds. Leaders can’t make decisions for something they do not live.
Diversity and inclusion needs to be intentional and genuine: It should be behavioral and not aspirational. However, it should not feel imposed but a process that all stakeholders need to come to understand.
Team focused: If possible, leaders should build inclusive teams or workgroups that reflect the population in the organization. Take into consideration types of diversity including but not limiting to, race, sexual orientation and gender.
Listen and Learn: Be aware of and understand diversity in your Goodwill. Diversity goes beyond cultural and gender. Understand what is going on in your community. Be receptive to issues that are brought forward, learn to hear and respond.
Track results: Set goals and measure progress.
Transparency is imperative to diversity and inclusion: Diversity and inclusion needs to be talked about, it needs to be honest, genuine, and meaningful. Trust is the foundation of inclusion. Be transparent on how decisions are made especially around hiring and promotions. People want to feel safe.
Diversity and inclusion is an important element of a social enterprise: If done correctly, diversity and inclusion will create opportunities for everyone; it helps meet the needs of the workforce, including Goodwill staff, program participants, and community partners. It is the right thing to do, it aligns with the mission and it is good business.