Building a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace—Avaya’s Priority Commitment

Building a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace—Avaya’s Priority Commitment

Diversity and inclusion advocate Vernā Myers uses a terrific illustration about the difference between diversity and inclusion, and why you can’t have the former without the latter: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” While the music has been playing for some time, businesses clearly must do more.

Business leaders today increasingly recognize that a diverse and inclusive workforce is about more than fairness and overcoming biases, it in fact, ensures that our businesses are representative of the communities we serve. And that diversity drives success, breeds innovation, and delivers a competitive advantage for companies. The proof is clear.

Consider the following:

Companies clearly need strong and evolving diversity and inclusion programs and they acknowledge as much, so why are we not making greater strides? Throwing money at the problem isn’t the answer, as Google found out.

What we are learning is that diversity and inclusion need to be at the heart of a company, with every business group playing an active part. An effective strategy needs to start from an authentic respect for people. We need to bring together a diverse group of people with diverse perspectives to really understand the problems we’re trying to solve. Perhaps most important, we need to engage employees so they understand diversity and embrace it, so it becomes personal for them.

Since taking on the role of CEO for Avaya, I have committed to taking these learnings to heart, and turning them into actions. Avaya is making diversity and inclusion a priority across our teams. While our company has made some strides in driving diversity and inclusion—including development of an empowering Women in Leadership platform—we can do better, and we will. We will roll out initiatives to facilitate inclusion and establish our company as a leading employer of choice across the global communities in which we do business.

As an important step in our commitment, I’ve joined CEO Action for Diversity & InclusionTM. It’s the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace. CEO Action members pledge to create accountability systems within their organizations to track progress, and share best (and unsuccessful) practices that can help other companies evolve and enhance their diversity strategies.

Being an active member of CEO Action, I expect we’ll be able to accelerate our progress and the success of our initiatives. What’s more, it will align us with those who are focused not just on building a more progressive and inclusive workplace, but on bringing about a more progressive and inclusive society that values diversity and evolves understanding. As Stephen Covey once said, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

It’s time to get everyone, from every background, out on the floor dancing.