Today, the nation is celebrating National Diversity Day. But as more organizations expand into emerging markets- and as today's "minority" slowly but surely become the "majority" - the traditional meaning of diversity may require a rebranding of this day and its meaning.  

What counts in today’s workforce is including everyone – hearing their voices, seeking their voices. Capturing the input of every element of your organization to drive bottom line results. From a business perspective, diversity PLUS inclusion are more than the “right” thing to do; they’re a must do for businesses that wish to compete in today’s global marketplace.

Decades ago, many businesses established departments or assigned senior staff who focused on diversity who often inherited the branding of Chief Diversity Officer. In the past few years, org charts of many Fortune 100 companies reveal a clear – and appropriate – shift away from the focus on diversity alone, to a focus on inclusion.

•        Johnson & Johnson has a VP of Global Diversity and Inclusion

•        WellPoint Inc. has a Staff VP, Diversity and Inclusion

•        PepsiCo Inc. has a Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer

•        Microsoft Corp has a General Manager of Global Diversity and Inclusion

•        Google Inc. has a Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion

•        Dell Inc. has an Executive Director, Global Diversity and Inclusion

The shift toward inclusion as a business strategy is also reflected in how companies communicate with their external audiences. On its website Allstate says that they “aim to attract professionals who collectively embrace an inclusive value system that leverages diversity, equal opportunity, talent development, lifelong learning and work/life balance.” Cisco’s CEO says “when we talk about diversity at Cisco…it’s about inclusion.” CVS Caremark says that their diversity team “drives inclusive practices.” This is just the tip of the iceberg.

But inclusion is not just for big business. Small businesses have the ability to embrace inclusion as a business strategy through actions as simple as:

•        Reviewing the language that you’re using (in department names and titles, in policies and in your communications) and make a shift from a focus on “diversity” to “inclusion.”

•        Emphasize inclusion as a cultural component.

•        Practice inclusion by ensuring that you are focusing on the value that each individual provides and offering them opportunity to participate and be included.

•        Focus on the bottom-line impacts that an inclusive culture can provide through innovative ideas and process improvements.

It’s not just about having diverse people on board – whether employees or our customers. Simply having a wide range of people reflecting different races, ages, religions, ethnic backgrounds and perspectives is somewhat like simply gathering a wide range of different tools to build your toolbox, but not knowing when or how to use the tools to make something of value.

The time for change in how we view the role of a diverse work force - and how to best benefit - is now.  This year, celebrate Global Inclusion Day.