While many organizations are addressing diversity at the most senior corporate levels, the degree of commitment has been primarily limited to narrow definitions and benchmarks. A truly effective program can and should represent a broader mandate that encompasses values, vision, strategies and priorities.
Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) have come under greater corporate leadership focus because of recent events and a consensus that change is necessary. But fragmentation and dilution of DEIB efforts have resulted from preliminary attempts, as the original intent of these programs is filtered through the lenses of various industry organizations. It's essential to maintain a broad perspective on what we should be trying to accomplish.
Like other social priorities, a commitment to DEIB can be merely a time-bound trend with limited adoption if changes aren't supported and maintained by a value-based approach, measurable return on investment, and an understanding of the broader impact and value of a deeply integrated program. These are primary areas of focus for our team as we help organizations assess their current landscape and implement actionable change throughout their B2B ecosystems.
We created a framework based on what we call the "Diversity Longtail" — the smaller, targeted but widespread DEIB actions that in aggregate will ultimately have a larger impact and drive more value to an organization than the high-level appointments of diversity officers, training and corporate communications on the topic. We believe that a purposeful approach to DEIB, coupled with that Diversity Longtail framework, can produce transformational effects on an organization’s growth, culture and the communities they touch. The framework is an important consideration for leaders as they weigh the value of their current and future DEIB investment. And for those who haven't yet invested at all in DEIB, the Diversity Longtail is a call to action.
A Diversity Longtail approach should include the following components. Note that these items represent a broad overview; the list isn't intended to be a comprehensive explanation of the framework.
- Talent: A comprehensive DEIB talent strategy allows the organization to become a destination for talent — and not just diverse talent. Professionals of all backgrounds are seeking a workplace where they belong, where they see genuine equity and inclusion, and where their values and identity are not only respected but also woven into the fabric of the organization.
- B2B Supplier Ecosystem: A thoughtful approach to DEIB across the supplier base can deliver savings and more effective partnerships. We should avoid deciding which categories to target (and which to dismiss) for diverse supplier revenue in favor of a more holistic, integrated approach. Significant opportunities exist in areas that previously have been overlooked.
- Values: People and companies like to work with and buy from companies and people who share their values. A value proposition and go-to-market strategy with DEIB as a core tenet will result in growth and loyalty, across both B2B and B2C customer segments.
- Innovation: Greater innovation results when organizations become more open to new employees with different backgrounds, new partners who are more nimble and in tune with new technology and trends, and with entrepreneurs seeking to build new products and solutions.
- Culture: A comprehensive adoption of DEIB programs will result in meaningful, genuine and productive teamwork, a true alignment to the corporate mission and values, and a broader meaning of inclusivity. An expanded view of DEIB addresses the all-too-common, unspoken perception that an organization "accepts me but doesn't accept my ideas."
- Compliance and Risk Management: Authentic DEIB programs can enable more robust compliance and risk management. A safe environment that values diverse thought and perspectives will encourage transparency, as well as the willingness of team members to identify challenges, bad behavior and general noncompliance. In a time when “alignment" and "buy-in” are buzzwords of corporate culture, diversity of people and diversity of thought should be primary objectives.
- Goals, Targets and Scorecards: Objectives at the corporate level often are not "micro-sized" for business-unit leaders, individual disciplines and categories across the organization. This can lead to a lack of ownership and buy-in throughout the organization. A full rollout of goals and objectives — down to the individual-performer level — is necessary.
- Governance: Sophisticated governance with respect to DEIB will ensure oversight, support, and ultimate accountability on meaningful change and DEIB-driven business results. Boards and stakeholders need to have the knowledge and tools to identify and support real and meaningful DEIB change. Diversity is a discipline that requires commitment and oversight.
As people move through their personal DEIB journeys, organizations must chart a similar path of self-discovery and subsequent action. Advocates and leaders of the travel and meetings & events industries should integrate DEIB into their business practices as well as their company culture and values. Diversity is a discipline that can become a competitive advantage for organizations that incorporate the Diversity Longtail approach to create real engagement and long-term value.
Issa Jouaneh is the CEO of AZTQ Corp. and the founder of Elevadas Inc. Prior to that, Jouaneh held a number of senior positions at American Express and American Express Global Business Travel. Jouaneh is passionate about meaningful diversity in the B2B ecosystem, and has implemented Diversity Longtail as the core framework for Elevadas while continuing to build out its diversity platform.