One agenda topic in executive and board meetings lately is how to move the needle with diversity and inclusion. What needs to be done to go beyond just lip service and effectively initiate a transformation to a company culture where true diversity and inclusion exist, both internally and externally? 

Social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter are unquestionably contributing to making diversity and inclusion a hot-button issue in the workplace. But after speaking with a number of people in leadership roles, it's echoed that employee engagement, employee retention, company culture, and share price are suffering because of the imbalance of diversity and inclusion as you move up the ranks of seniority. 

According to research firm Gartner, in 2019, only 36 percent of diversity and inclusion leaders reported that their organization has been effective at building a diverse workforce. 

After three decades of deep engagement with executives and senior business leaders in more than 115 distinct cultures, my team and I developed a powerful methodology to work with clients who are committed to realizing a future that leads with diversity and inclusion. Here's the high-level breakdown of how we partner with our clients to address this key issue:     

The current state of affairs.

You can't get to where you want to go if you don't know where you are. Some companies are way ahead of the curve and others have a long way to go in regard to diversity and inclusion. Wherever your company lands on this spectrum, honesty and transparency about where things stand make a huge difference.

Where to start: Invite key people with ranging seniority levels within your company to a dedicated diversity and inclusion discussion. Know that my team and I typically reserve 40 hours to move through these discussions so you have a benchmark regarding investment of time. 

Openly discuss your company's current reality with respect to diversity and inclusion. What's the good, bad, and ugly? What does diversity and inclusion mean to you and within your company? What efforts have been done in the past, if any, to address this issue? Sometimes having a masterful consultant mediate the conversation can help to diffuse any tension or difficult discussions.

As you probably know, no two people see and experience diversity and inclusion in the exact same way because they have their own unique interpretations of life. This discussion as a starting point will be a healthy dose of reality and a powerful way to start the transformation. 

Articulating the commitment and vision for diversity and inclusion.

Now that you and the team know where you stand with diversity and inclusion, the next step is to articulate individual and organizational commitments that people would like to see materialize. This will require some collective soul-searching. And you need to include more than just the people at the top to make them effective. 

Promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion means extending this to everyone, from maintenance staff to chairman. According to Gartner, only 27 percent of employees feel that their organization informs them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their day-to-day work. 

Don't wait for executives to figure it all out. Consider being a catalyst and leader in your organization to forward diversity and inclusion, irrespective of your rank. Think about what an inclusive culture would look like. How would you know diversity and inclusion are present? Whether that's scheduling one-on-one interviews with employees, starting an anonymous thread to get honest feedback, or hosting a town-hall setup, you may need to think outside the box for this one. 

Aligning on a created future by design.

Envisioning a diverse and inclusive future is one thing, but aligning the team is something else, which is fundamental. If you and your team want to make this transformation a reality, it just won't be possible if everyone isn't on board. 

So how can you align your team around a collective future you are out to realize?

Ask your team: "Who is not aligned with the future or vision that has been articulated?" Listen to your team's concerns and collectively address them. This part takes time and if you skip over things, alignment won't be present. Go through this process until all the buts, what ifs, and how abouts have been addressed. Then ask again until you get 100 percent alignment and all concerns are fulfilled.

Remember, great things don't happen overnight. You collectively may stumble. What matters is that you get back on track and keep your commitments front and center.

There is a monumental shift happening. You have the chance to be on the right side of history. By approaching your company's diversity and inclusion transformation with the same dedication you approach, say, your sales strategy, you'll set your workplace up for long-term success.