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Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace Culture: Q&A with Andrea Hendricks

Published on 2/25/2019

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

For many organizations, developing a culture that supports and embraces employees across races, cultures, ages, genders, disabilities, sexual orientations and more can be a challenge. Despite the hurdles, research shows that committing to a diverse and inclusive workplace contributes to attracting top talent, maintaining employee satisfaction and even increasing financial returns. 

A study by Glassdoor reveals that 67 percent of job seekers look for a diverse workforce when considering job offers. Eighty-three percent of millennials report being more actively engaged at companies with inclusive cultures, according to research by Deloitte University. Furthermore, when it comes to the bottom line, the latest research from McKinsey & Company finds that companies with executive teams that rank in the top 25 percent for racial and ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely to reap profits above the national median for their industry.

Andrea Hendricks, Cerner’s senior executive director of diversity and inclusion strategy, recently joined the Perspectives on Health and Tech podcast to discuss how the health care and health IT industries can cultivate more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Read her insights below and listen to the full podcast episode here: 

Defining diversity and inclusion

How do you define diversity and inclusion as it relates to the workplace? Why is the distinction between these two terms important, and how do they intersect?

Although people often combine diversity and inclusion together as one lump sum, they are different. The primary dimension of diversity is related to things such as race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities and veteran status. The secondary dimension of diversity goes deeper with a focus on personality, perspective, culture, ideas and thoughts. Inclusion is when you have a seat at the table and have a chance to participate in the workplace.

I like to use this analogy: when you get an invitation to a dance, that is diversity. Inclusion is getting asked to dance at that party. Organizations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful today. Diversity and inclusion promote employee engagement, satisfaction, retention and greater productivity.

Advancing diversity and inclusion in health care and tech workplaces

From your perspective, what are the health care and health IT industries doing well when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and what areas need the most improvement?

Leaders in health care and health IT are out of the gate in viewing diversity and inclusion as a critical imperative now and a key benchmark for future success.

Both industries can improve on seamlessly embedding diversity and inclusion across their organizations. You often see varying levels of development in this space—some programs are out of the gate, but haven’t been able to build capacity, some are still at the basic level and others are starting to integrate within the organizational structure.

A second challenge that leaders often struggle with is how to make a solid commitment to the resources and level of expertise needed to build and elevate their diversity and inclusion strategy.

I would also encourage health care and health IT leaders to make sure that diversity is represented at all levels of the organization, especially at the manager, executive and board levels.

What advice do you have for leaders who want to start creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce culture or increase the efforts they already have in place?

The good news is there are years’ worth of great examples, so organizations looking to launch diversity and inclusion initiatives don’t have to look far for inspiration. Businesses that already have five, ten or 20 years of experience, and want to advance or retool their efforts, should start with sharing best practices with others in the industry. I recommend leveraging the programs, practices and templates that are already out there. Spend some time talking with great diversity leaders.

The topic of diversity and inclusion is complex, and it covers many different bandwidths. It’s important for organizations to identify an individual or multiple people who will devote 100 percent of their time and energy to driving diversity and inclusion within the organization. They must study and grow consistently to understand all the nuances of this topic.

The diversity and inclusion maturity matrix is a great tool to identify where you are in your diversity efforts and what you need to do to get to the next level. Once you do a pulse check, you can determine the next best step in your efforts.

One great way to promote diversity and inclusion is to develop a business case around it that links to return on investment. This strategic approach speaks across divisions, departments and units and leaders can get behind it. Adding diversity and inclusion as a core competency or behavior for all employees is another genuine way to make it part of the workplace culture. There must be intentional leadership development processes, pipelines and programs available to move the needle forward. Lastly, finding a meaningful way to measure the success of the strategic efforts should be a priority.

Leaders must ensure that the environment is safe and productive for all employees, clients, customers and communities. When you make intentional efforts for solid practices, programs and initiatives that advance all who come into the organization’s backyard, you show that everyone is valued and respected. It’s crucial to remember that diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a journey, not a sprint. You must take the first step to begin, and then build capacity along the way.

Next steps for workplace diversity and inclusion

Looking to the future, where do you see the issues of diversity and inclusion heading within the health care and health IT industries over the next five years?

We’re going to continue to see diversity and inclusion as a standard practice, and the investment will increase. People will be more mindful of the employment gaps that are prevalent and persistent and there will be a call-to-action for more intentional practices around hiring, onboarding and retaining women, ethnic minorities and veterans. There will be a focus on cultural intelligence and the impact that cultural differences have on teamwork and doing business across state and country borders. There will also be continued interest in how conscious and unconscious bias impacts the workplace.

The leaders who take accountability and ownership for diversity and inclusion will be more profitable and have greater retention, satisfaction and engagement in the workplace.

To promote genuine diversity and inclusion at Cerner, we strive to provide resources, initiatives and programs to meet the needs of a wider variety of associates. Learn more here.