Diversity and inclusion aren’t just important values because they’re morally good — they are vital to a productive workplace and pay dividends to companies’ bottom lines, according to the Detroit-based authors of a new book. In Hard Reset: Framing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as the New Normal, Marlin Williams and Marlo Rencher argue that the economy’s reignition in the Black Lives Matter and post-COVID-19 era provides an important opportunity for a range of organizations to reimagine how they approach these often-thorny issues.
“Embracing inclusion and equity is not an act of weakness or surrender,” write Williams, vice president of global diversity and inclusion at StockX, and Rencher, the director of technology-based programs for TechTown Detroit and founder of Tech Founders Academy, in their opening chapter. “It’s a business imperative rooted in common sense. Strategic fairness profits all.”
The authors self-published this slim volume of case studies, they say, because both the pandemic and the national reckoning on racial disparities jumpstarted by the murder by police of George Floyd illuminated the importance of a fairer society and more inclusive work culture.
“Workplaces around the world, from mom-and-pop establishments to global enterprises, are facing a hard reset on their relationships with their employees,” they write early on. Frontline workers during the pandemic — health aides, nurses, cashiers, utility staff — have often been underpaid, which creates a ripple effect of problems for the economy writ large, they note. “In terms of pay and quality-of-life inequities, all those things happen on systemic and organizational levels,” Rencher says. “There’s a perception this change can be addressed solely on the individual level, but organizations are where inequities are structurally embedded.”
Rencher and Williams offer Hard Reset as a guidebook of sorts to organization leaders reluctant to spend big on this pursuit as well as to those eager to do so but unsure about how to start. In Hard Reset, Rencher and Williams recite case studies and recall their own personal workplace experiences to assert the need for a top-to-bottom review of whether companies are doing the best for all employees. Their advice can be useful not only for for-profit businesses but “all the places you’re socially working with other folks,” including church and social clubs.
Yet the most provocative notion is that a lack of inclusion and diversity can hurt profits and diminish an organization’s ability to retain talent. “Upcoming generations are much less inclined to accept the status quo,” Rencher says. “Your top talent is not going to want to work somewhere people aren’t treated fairly.”
They’re also often adept at seeing through cosmetic changes that are unsupported by substance. Rencher says many organizations present a sympathetic facade on social media, but that’s as far as it goes. “I’m not saying don’t put your efforts out there,” Rencher says. “But most companies are not structured for inclusion, so there’s a great deal of deeper, more strategic work to be done. You need to have not only a plan, but also actual resources behind it.”
This story is featured in the August 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.