03/29/2021 | by Katie Feldman

Robert Greene, president and CEO of the National Association of Investment Companies, spoke during the closing general session of REITwise 2021: Nareit’s Law, Accounting & Finance Conference on why diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) matters more than ever, and how organizations benefit from DEI strategies.

Greene set the stage for his talk by highlighting a few key disclosures and acknowledgements, including:

  • DEI is about all of us, not some of us.
  • Race is a critical element of diversity and can be difficult to discuss among people who do not know each other.
  • Unconscious bias is real. We all have areas of unconscious bias based on our life experiences, parental and family teachings, exposure or lack of exposure to others, our social networks and other factors.

Throughout his presentation, Greene emphasized the core elements, benefits, and virtues of diverse organizations, and explained that motivations for diversity differ, and efforts to increase and support diverse companies elicit different tactics and outcomes.

Several benefits he described included:

Bigger talent pool

“We have an extraordinarily talented country, great universities, and places where people gain interesting experiences. Companies should broaden their talent pool for a competitive advantage.

Increased employee engagement and trust

People who you work with wonder where they fit in, are they trusted, are they respected. Even top performers. Having a program that allows people to compete, perform, and feel respected, helps them have more trust in the organization, which oftentimes leads to a more high- performing organization.”

New perspectives and innovation

“Innovation doesn’t occur at a center of an ecosystem. Innovation occurs on the edges of a network, and the edges are ultimately about being diverse and inclusive.”

Better decision making

“If more perspectives are brought to bear then more factors can be effectively considered. More people who will be impacted by decisions involved in decision making, along with more data, make for better decisions.”

Improved performance

“There is a business case to have diverse organizations – more diversity can lead to stronger business results and profits.”

Greene also addressed how diversity is a value and should be aligned with the other values in an organization, such as transparency, integrity, appreciation, quality, and performance, and that belonging is the best outcome for any organization’s DEI efforts. Without a complementary blend of diversity, equity and inclusion, the organization will not be engaging the full potential of the individual, will not find where innovation thrives, or where views, beliefs, and values are integrated.

Robert Greene chart

Importantly, Greene also addressed what doesn’t work to solve a diversity problem in an organization:

  • Assuming a lack of complaints mean that people feel included.
  • Hiring a few diverse people and hoping they stick.
  • Celebrating various cultural and heritage months without meaningful dialogue.
  • Engaging in a diversity plan that doesn’t require the active engagement of everyone at every level.
  • Hiring a chief diversity officer and expecting her/him to solve everything.
  • Trying but not succeeding, then returning to past practices.
  • Not establishing metrics.
  • Not holding people accountable.

He wrapped up his presentation by outlining five practical things that every professional can do to push past discomfort:

  1. Educate yourself and your organization.
  2. Develop closer relationships with a broader array of members of your team/firm. Ask them to tell you their story and ask for feedback regularly.
  3. Give different people the opportunity to prove their worth. Talent is broadly distributed but opportunity is not. Spend less time thinking about how things have always been done and more leveraging the best of your team.
  4. Make this important to your team by making it important to you. It has to start at the top and you’ve got to be consistent and be deliberate.
  5. Get involved in the community – your internal communities – people doing different things, talking about different things, thinking differently so you can have the benefits of their knowledge and how they see things.

Follow Robert on LinkedIn.