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How embracing diversity uplifts a workplace


Dr. James E. Taylor, chief diversity, inclusion, and talent manager, shares how recognizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace can lead to lasting success.

Leaders often look for strategies to create a more productive workplace where employees at every level can help the company achieve common goals that bolster its mission—and its success. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a strategy that businesses of all sizes and across all industries can use to fuel growth in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.

How to advance diversity in the workplace: Guidance from a DEI leader

James E. Taylor, PhD—UPMC’s chief diversity, inclusion, and talent manager—outlines how companies of all sizes can implement or advance DEI in the workplace as a strategy to support long-term success.

Reframe your lens. Instead of viewing DEI efforts as one more thing to do, think of it as a differentiator that is a key aspect of your business strategy. When you shift your vantage point, you’ll see that DEI efforts are an approach that adds value to the work you do around growing your business and achieving your mission—elevating it to a different level.

Whether you are part of a large or small business, DEI can benefit your company. For example, if you own or help manage a small business, having a diverse team is a great way to gain insight into new markets and areas you have not explored or ideas you haven’t thought of trying before. Businesses can expand their hiring pool to talent that has not been considered before. Consider recruiting from community colleges, trade schools, or technical schools to bring in more diverse candidates. When you have a team that is made up of different backgrounds, they can draw on their experiences to bring new ideas to the table. If you are a large organization, this same concept applies to your business. One actionable approach businesses can take is adding inclusive language to job descriptions. This attracts traditionally underrepresented groups and encourages them to bring new and creative ideas to the table and can help you reach a new pool of customers or clients.

Embed DEI at every level. When you look at your company’s core mission and strategies, embed DEI into every goal and every opportunity that your business has to engage your workforce to better support and partner with your community. Organizations, including our own, have seen success with this tactic that helps us improve upon our work.

“At UPMC, we view DEI as an approach to do our work better and deeply embed it into every pillar of our strategic priorities as an organization. That means we build DEI into every goal and every opportunity that we have as an organization to deliver care better, to engage our workforce better, and to support and partner with the community better. This approach strengthens our organization and the work that we all do at UPMC—no matter what the role.” said Dr. Taylor.

Identify what DEI means to your business. Whether you want to develop a DEI strategy or improve what you have in place, take a step back to get a clear picture of how to move forward. Identify what diversity means to your industry and, more importantly, your company. “Think about DEI from every angle. Zoom out and think of ways to link it to your organization’s overall culture. Then, get close up and determine how each individual in your workforce fits into this picture,” said Dr. Taylor. He suggests using these questions as a starting point or as a path to advance DEI efforts in place:

  • How can you link DEI to your company’s culture?
  • How can you tie DEI to your teams?
  • How can you use this work to advance your business goals?

Be intentional with your DEI efforts. Measurable outcomes and objectives are critical to framing, building, and growing new or existing DEI efforts. Companies that want to incorporate DEI throughout their organization should be intentional and deliberate by linking it with their objectives to clear outcomes. Approach DEI the way you approach other strategic initiatives: by setting clear goals with metrics and then achieving them.

“At UPMC, we said out loud that we would increase the representation of people of color in executive roles by 40 percent and increase the representation of women in executive roles by 20 percent over a five-year period, which ended 2021. While the goal was 40 percent increase for people of color, we finished our five-year goal, achieving a growth of 96 percent and had incredible growth in progress with women as well.”

Keep going. There’s always room for improvement. The work of DEI is an ongoing experience in a journey. When you feel like you've reached your destination, you haven't. Recognize that there are always more avenues you can explore to advance and to learn. Don’t limit this process to leadership. Keep your employees engaged in this growth process.

“While we have made great strides in DEI at UPMC, we are not done. We realize we have opportunity to double down on our efforts. We continue to work on building our culture of inclusion inside of the organization. I encourage other organizations to approach their DEI efforts in the same way,” said Dr. Taylor.

UPMC DEI efforts

UPMC’s DEI efforts reach across our entire organization. Our Board of Directors provides governance to our systemwide diversity strategy through the UPMC Inclusion and Diversity Committee of the Board. UPMC adopted a framework to advance our DEI inclusion strategies that is multifaceted. Coined the UPMC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Agenda, this body of work is designed to ensure that diversity permeates all aspects of our culture, shapes the daily interactions of our people, and is even further integrated into all that we do. From this Agenda, countless initiatives have been developed and implemented across our organization.” For example, the UPMC Diversity Mentoring Program pairs diverse leaders in supervisor, manager, and director-level roles one-on-one with senior executives to assist in advancing their exposure and coaching at all levels of the organization. Initiatives like our UPMC Scholars Program awards scholarships to underrepresented first-year and sophomore students and grants tuition loans to juniors and seniors. The UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion is charged with advancing the organization’s rich DEI agenda.

“As an outspoken and active proponent of DEI, I’m confident that diversity in the workplace has allowed us to make a difference across our organization and throughout the communities we serve. As a strategic partner, we aim to lead by example and help other organizations see how empowering it is to embrace DEI and the lasting success it can have on their business,” said Dr. Taylor.

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