The Keys to Creating an Inclusive Culture

Diversity and inclusion is an imperative, and we’ve built a program that attracts and retains employees from all backgrounds

Jane AndersonStudies show that diversity in companies, on teams, and on boards leads to financial gain and increased efficiency. Gender and ethnically diverse companies are 15% and 35% more likely, respectively, to financially outperform companies lacking diversity. Most leaders recognize this well-documented truth and claim to support diversity and inclusion (D&I). In fact, 85% of large global enterprises agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace. Yet many companies fail to effectively take action and create an inclusive environment where diverse individuals not only want to work but also are able to thrive.

At Navigant, we value diversity of thought, experience, perspective, education, and expertise. D&I is an imperative, and we’ve built a program that attracts and retains employees from all backgrounds and orientations — both to these individuals’ and the company’s benefit. I believe two distinct practices make Navigant a diversity destination.

Start at the top

The most important feature of Navigant’s diversity initiative is the commitment from senior leaders. In 2008, Navigant established its D&I initiative with the support of senior leadership, including Julie Howard, CEO and chairman of the board. To make sure the program gained traction in the first few years, several senior leaders were members of the D&I Council; Howard acted as the executive sponsor and a number of practice-area leaders led D&I Council initiatives. The D&I Council is a venue for leaders to communicate about programming, goals, and objectives and to align on the importance of the larger D&I program. Today, senior leaders continue to take an active role in the program, and one of the three segment leaders has taken over as executive sponsor.

In addition to establishing the D&I program, Howard signed the Business Coalition for the Equality Act, as well as the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. By signing these initiatives, Howard has publicly shown her commitment to D&I and has encouraged her employees to engage in the program and various initiatives.

Build programs and support networks

After establishing the D&I program and council, Navigant’s leaders realized the importance of additional programs and networks to build a cohesive, overall approach to D&I. These programs help create a safe environment for individuals to share ideas and be heard by leaders. For example, over time, Navigant has established seven employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide a platform for diverse individuals who are passionate about their affinities, as well as allies, to connect with one another and build cultural awareness. They are co-chaired by senior leaders who sit on the D&I Council, so they provide different affinities with a direct line of sight to leadership.

Navigant’s D&I volunteer coaching program came about because of conversations among D&I Council and ERG members about best practices. This program is offered to every ERG member, and interested individuals can choose to have a coach from within their practice, their office, and/or their affinity group. These informal coaching sessions are not focused on performance reviews but instead provide individuals, some of whom don’t see many people who look like them in leadership positions, a place to come to talk about their career, their goals for advancement, and how they can make those goals happen.

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We’ve made a lot of progress, and that’s reinforced by the diversity of faces in the hallways, in client meetings, and at the highest levels of the organization. Are we happy with where we are? Yes. But there’s always more we can do to achieve an inclusive environment that is diverse enough that gender, ethnicity, and orientation are no longer defining characteristics of the workforce. We will continue to welcome and provide feedback, and we will iterate on our programs endlessly. Until the composition of our workforce mirrors the diversity in society, our work isn’t done.

And as we continue to pursue this goal, my coworkers and I will also continue to write about it. Look for other articles that will explore D&I throughout the year.

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