Why diversity is crucial to a 'Best Place to Work'

A Q&A with Jesse Bridges

Editor's note: This story was updated on June 22, 2017.

On Friday, Advisory Board made Modern Healthcare's list of the 100 "Best Places to Work" in health care. It was the only large supplier honored by the publication.

Among the criteria considered by Modern Healthcare were the company's culture, work environment, and employee satisfaction. The Daily Briefing's Josh Zeitlin spoke with Jesse Bridges, who oversees Advisory Board's Diversity & Inclusion program, about how she works to build a welcoming workplace, how to make the business case for diversity and inclusion initiatives, and more.

Question: Jesse, your job includes both promoting diversity at Advisory Board and supporting members with their diversity and inclusion efforts. To kick off our conversion, how do you define diversity?

Jesse Bridges: Well, historically having a diverse organization has meant supporting diversity of race, ethnicity, and gender. But as society has evolved, that definition has broadened. Now, diversity in the workplace, while still focused on equitable representation of those identities, also means having a variety of unique perspectives and lived experiences that people fully bring to the table.

Each one of us carries a variety of identities and perspectives to work. I'm a working mother, a woman, and a person of color. All of those identities have shaped who I am and what I bring to the workplace; they've shaped my perspective. So part of my job at Advisory Board is to work with internal stakeholders and with members on how they can focus intentionally to pair diversity in the workforce with an inclusive environment. That's critical to helping employees feel empowered to bring their full selves to work in a way that can yield tremendous benefits for organizations.  

Q: To that point about the benefits of diversity—what would you say is the business case for investing in diversity and inclusion?

Bridges: First, there's research that shows big potential dividends from such investments. According to studies by Gallup, companies that are both diverse and have inclusive environments have 39 percent higher customer satisfaction, 27 percent higher profitability, 22 percent higher productivity, and 22 percent less turnover compared with other organizations.

Second, the demographics of America are shifting. We'll be a majority minority nation in the coming years. As hospitals and other providers serve an evolving population, the ability to promote culturally competent care will be critical.

And third, the workforce is changing, too. As millennials become a larger share of the working population, identifying what matters to them as employees and future leaders is critical to becoming an employer of choice. Millennials want spaces to collaborate and communicate, to be challenged and be surrounded by a variety of perspectives in order to reach the best solutions.

Q: Those are some clear benefits from having a diverse and inclusive workforce, but how do organizations get there? What do they need to be doing to improve?

Bridges: There are a couple key places to start.

It's crucial for leaders to be honest with themselves, recognize that their organizations have an opportunity to be better, and communicate that opportunity to their employees. CEOs and other C-suite executives can provide great signaling value and indicate to the entire company that diversity and an inclusive culture are priorities.

Then, organizations should do an internal assessment to identify what they're doing well and where they have areas of opportunity. It's important that leaders put someone in charge of those efforts who has the ear of the employee and the C-suite, who will hold people accountable and make sure that important issues get addressed. And that they create short-term and long-term goals to inform those efforts.

At Advisory Board, we've tackled that by gathering both quantitative and qualitative data with our firmwide engagement survey, and we also have held interviews and focus groups to hear individual stories that a survey doesn't capture.

One thing we're grateful for is that many of our employees feel empowered to be radically candid—to speak their minds and not shy away from dialogue about how their unique perspective shapes their approach to certain problems. But we still have work to do, and we'll be creating more spaces for people to engage in honest dialogue going forward.

Q: How has Advisory Board helped other organizations with their diversity and inclusion efforts?

Bridges: We recently partnered with HealthSouth, one of the nation's largest providers of post-acute health care services, who wanted a better understanding of where they stood in providing culturally competent care and supporting their staff and how they could improve.

We did a consulting engagement with them that looked at diversity and inclusion from a 360 perspective, analyzing staff management, talent development, and patient experience with an equity lens. If other members are interested in how we can support their diversity and inclusion efforts, they can email my colleague Graham McLaughlin at MclaughG@advisory.com.

Advisory Board also does pro bono work to support our members through our Health Disparities Initiative, which provides a variety of resources on reducing health disparities, building cultural competency, and building community partnerships. Those resources are free to all members.

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