Moving From Diversity & Inclusion to Inclusion & Diversity

June 22, 2017 9:26 am

Monsanto is a perennial DiversityInc Top 50 company, ranking on the list for ten consecutive years. The company ranked No. 39 this year and placed on four DiversityInc specialty lists. So if the company is managing diversity well, why did it shift to placing more emphasis on inclusion and putting inclusion before diversity? We interviewed the person responsible for the shift, Melissa Harper, VP of Global Talent and Inclusion & Diversity, to find out why.

Shane Nelson: Why did Monsanto change its diversity management strategy to putting Inclusion first?

Melissa Harper: We had certainly been on a long journey around what most people, and we, call diversity and inclusion. It’s critical to understand that both play a key role, but they mean different things. Therefore, they lead to different results. Diversity for Monsanto is simply about the demographics, so that’s the workforce composition. Inclusion is really the culture driver, so it’s the value you get from having a diverse workforce. So, we felt, and we changed and flipped the order and put inclusion before diversity because we recognized that to fast track results, we must have an all-in approach and strategy. This means everyone has to see themselves in this work and in this space of what diversity means. That’s really about the culture, so why not just put that first, and then we’ll certainly get to some of the results we started to see before.

The move to put inclusion first was more to permeate the culture, have an all-in approach where everyone sees themselves in it, and responsible and accountable. Certainly, we thought about what that game changer was, to really disrupt this work. Now what that means is that, while seamless, it’s really two strategies. I call it both: inclusion and diversity. Each one has its strategy. Each one has its metrics and accountabilities, and that’s really seamless to people, but it’s really a two-fold strategy.

Moving From Diversity & Inclusion to Inclusion & Diversity

Melissa Harper

Shane Nelson: Did the organization sense that executives or middle managers or just employees in general weren’t being inclusive, or that some folks felt like they were being excluded? Was that part of your reasoning in changing?

Melissa Harper: That wasn’t part of the reason in changing. However, we certainly did a discovery or assessment, if you will, by using surveys and focus groups to really understand at the start of that new strategic direction, which started a couple of years ago, what that baseline was and how people were feeling to really understand and the anecdote behind that. That then really starts to go into how we operationalize inclusion, globally, across the company. The end game is that with every existing people in business process, that tactically, we apply inclusion into that, an inclusive lens into every existing process, whether it’s people strategy or people review, for example.

Shane Nelson: What metrics do you use to capture the inclusion piece?

Melissa Harper: For our metrics, we administer what we call a Leadership Survey 180 annually. All of our people leaders receive this survey. There are eight items or eight questions that are part of this Leadership 180 Survey of our people leaders by their teams that goes into a metric, an inclusion index, as we call it. These items correlate to leader performance. So this index can be used to study inclusion across all of our various demographics, functions and world locations. Some examples of the eight items included are “leader demonstrates authenticity and is genuine with interactions with others,” “leader truly values and leverages the diverse viewpoints and backgrounds of the team” and “leader conveys confidence in others’ abilities or shows a sincere interest in his or her team.” Those are some of the items that go into defining the inclusion index.

Shane Nelson: What kind of results have you yielded so far?

Melissa Harper: Overall, it has had a more positive impact in a few areas. One is the culture impact overall and specifically we’re able to measure, based on the Leadership Survey 180 and our organizational-wide engagement survey, that we have a more positive, engaged work force and an increase in our workforce demographics. Our theory is if you lead with inclusion first, then the diversity from a pure metrics and number representation should follow and should move at a faster pace. That is happening for gender and people of color.

It also really has helped us in globalizing the inclusion and diversity overall strategy, so a consistent definition, consistent language around what this inclusion means around the world. We then saw a direct correlation to increase leader performance. Some of the drivers of how we’re executing this, certainly our Business Resource Network groups, are a key piece of the ways that we are pushing for inclusion, but also, unconscious bias. We’ve reached almost all of our people leaders across the globe with unconscious bias, and are now shifting to what’s the 2.0, what’s the next iteration to keep that moving forward to permeate within the organization.