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Can Inclusion Strategies Push Innovation?

Can Inclusion Strategies Push Innovation?

Feb. 24, 2022
"Innovation happens at the intersection of differences," explains Renae Murphy.

Renae Murphy has seen a lot in the 20 years she has been working in the field of DE&I.

She has held positions at Lockheed Martin, Cox Automotive and other companies helping them devise effective DE&I strategies. In her current role as senior vice president of Employee Experience of Xplor Technologies she recently created a program called Inclusion Ignites Innovation.

IndustryWeek spoke with Murphy recently to understand the progress of this discipline and the future through her eyes.

IW: What’s changed in the field over the years?

RM: The biggest difference I see is around understanding the business case for DE&I. At first, this topic was discussed at large companies but now given how the demographics of the workforce have changed DE&I strategy has expanded across all companies. Other reasons for the heightened level of interest include a more global economy as well as social media which makes everyone feel more connected.

More companies now understand that there needs to be more accountability in this area, and they need to have someone solely dedicated to DE&I. The job of this person is not just internal, they also need to manage relationships with communities, customers and clients.

This is not just a nice-to-do strategy, as it was fifteen years ago, now it’s a business imperative.

IW: Have DE&I strategies risen to the top levels of the company?

RM: Yes, in the last couple of years companies can no longer get away from being performative where DEI programs look good but don’t really have an impact. Programs need to change the system. People are asking for transparency and that includes both employees, clients, business partners and future employees. People want tangible metrics with specific results from these initiatives.

IW: You talk about a strong business case for DE&I, can you talk about your program Inclusion Ignites Innovation?

RM: When I first joined this company, we had a global town hall meeting and one of the discussion points was that innovation was critical both for us currently and in the future. And one way to elevate DE&I is to tie it directly to a business strategy. Diversity is an excellent way to understand that we are all gifted with a unique set of talents and perspectives and that a sinlge group does not h ave all of the answers.

Companies need to create a culture which has a safe space for everyone so they can be who they are. We also need to equip leaders with the skills to manage diverse teams. I have seen that initially, non-diverse teams are more efficient but once you get to a place of inclusion and the manager knows how to develop everyone’s skills then these teams become very efficient. I call this the “forming, storming and norming phase.”

We are interdependent on each other and when we can create an environment where each of us can contribute our own skills sets, we have a much higher level of innovation. Innovation happens at the intersection of differences.

 IW: Will meaningful DE&I policies attract the future workforce?

RM:  Yes. One of things that I say to all companies is our society is so much more dynamic, connected, and diverse than it has ever been and what it took to be successful in the past will not be the case in the future. The game has completely changed. I like to explain it by using basketball as the example. Basketball in the time of Michael Jordan has changed. So, you can’t win in today’s basketball using the old playbook.

The same is true in business. In the past an employee would interact 20% of time with someone who was from a different culture, spoke a different language or was a different gender. Now, that percentage is closer to 75%. As the landscape changes so too must the business playbook.

So, this new playbook must reflect all of the changes that are going on the workforce. As these young generations look for work that reflects their values and purpose and given the transparency that is available to them through sites such as Glassdoor, companies will need to be open about their culture.

If everyone comes together to solve a problem and brings their own perspective, this is where magic happens.

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