Economic Development and Human Resources

Establishing sustainable diversity, inclusion and cultural competency

Assessng an organization’s capacity to embrace change is key.

August 16, 2013
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Paul Doyle thinks Grand Rapids has the potential to create some of the best practice models in the country around the issues of diversity, cultural competency and inclusion, but he said it’s up to the community to take the necessary steps to develop those models and become a leader.

“For Grand Rapids and West Michigan, what I would say right now is that we are a community that is resource rich, whether that is financial or skills and knowledge, and even genuine intent. What we lack as a community is working models to utilize those resources,” Doyle said.

Doyle moved to Michigan from Brooklyn, N.Y., to attend college at Ferris State University. He put down roots in Grand Rapids after getting married here. Though the couple returned to New York early on in their careers, they moved back to the area to raise their three daughters here.

“It’s a great environment to do that,” he said.

During his time in Grand Rapids, Doyle spent 10 years at Spectrum Health working in the area of community health improvement, which he said was instrumental in leading him to start his own organizational performance consulting business.

“That’s where I learned more about our community — the different groups within our community, the challenges of achieving quality of life in our community,” he said.

“The fact is, that influences or presents barriers to people in achieving quality of life here within Grand Rapids and that really was a big influence on me engaging in this work in inclusion, because that work took intentional effort of developing relationships across groups to have them come together for collective impact — and that is all about inclusion. You don’t achieve innovation without it. You don’t achieve collective impact without it.”

Through his business, Paul T. Doyle & Associates, he works with companies across the country to develop or enhance their environment through inclusion.

“(The) main focus is to be able to create an environment in which organizations are able to embrace the diverse cultures and backgrounds that their employees and their clients present to them so that they are able to provide an employer of choice or provider of choice environment,” he explained. “We do that through a methodology that involves assessing their current culture and then creating a blueprint for their desired culture.”

Doyle said that often people interchange the words diversity, cultural competency and inclusion, but in reality they are distinct things that need to be integrated with one another to be successful within an organization or community.

“Diversity is what pretty much makes us unique,” Doyle said. “It’s our characteristics, our backgrounds, cultures — things that we have as an individual or as a group that we are either different or even have in common.

“Cultural competence is the attitude, knowledge and behavior to interact cross-culturally with individuals and groups in a way that creates a mutually beneficial relationship or interaction.

“Inclusion is an organizational behavior that gives us the ability to embrace the diversity that we have, utilizing cultural competence to interact with one another, and gives us that environment to support both of those, whether it’s how you develop your policies, how you communicate, how you provide your services for everyone to have an equitable opportunity to embrace.”

Many companies see the value in integrating diversity, cultural competency and inclusion into their organization and culture, but may lack the knowledge of how to effectively pursue those goals.

Doyle helps companies to develop an effective framework.

“An organization needs to assess its current capacity to provide the desired cultural environment that they are looking for,” he said. “An assessment is done to be able to get the current snapshot of that organization’s capacity. … Based on the findings of the assessment we create a blueprint, helping them move toward their desired state to a progressive action plan.

“With this approach you are able to identify your existing strengths and your opportunities for growth, and more important, leverage your existing resources to be able to have greater impact on your organization versus creating that as a side initiative. The goal and the key to this work is to infuse this within the existing organizational framework to enhance the organizations performance.”

Doyle said employees at all levels of the company need to be involved in order to create the right environment for change.

“There is research that shows that 70 percent of change initiatives or strategies within organizations fail because they did not assess the organization’s capacity to embrace change,” he said. “That is key to this work.”

Doyle advises a company to involve its employees early in the process, seeking honest feedback and assessments of the company’s perceived environment. By doing this, an organization is preparing the company and employees for change, and employees will be more likely to embrace change if they feel they took part in establishing the blueprint.

Doyle encourages companies and the community to look at the value proposition of making sustainable and systemic change in the areas of diversity, cultural competency and inclusion.

“Regions that are experiencing the greatest performance economically are those that have established an inclusive framework around their economic plan, basically, in which there is opportunity for all groups across the board to be able to participate in the economic development within their communities,” Doyle said.

“You eliminate what they call the economic drag off of the economy by eliminating or shrinking that group of people who are in need of more tax-paying type services to be able to live. When people are working or have businesses and so forth and are able to provide for themselves and participate in economic growth, then everyone wins. I think that is something we need to key in on more here within Grand Rapids. It’s an area of growth.”

He added, “Social justice issues still exist around race in our world and community. We have to incorporate this work strategically so that we can achieve systemic change, because we can talk about it and demonstrate about it — which is good because we have to heighten the awareness of it and heighten what is going on — but you won’t be able to have sustainable impact without systemic change, and that can only come from a real effective framework.”

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