The below transcript is from a 2013 interview with Allison Rimm. Interviewees for the series My Inclusion Dividend were asked for their personal opinions and not those reflective of their current or past employer. The views expressed are not necessarily those of any employer or this website. Click here for other interviews in this series.
The Dagoba Group: Please provide our readers a brief overview of your work history and your current role.
Currently, I am a strategic planning consultant, coach and educator. My focus to help my clients find success and satisfaction on and off the job by helping them to determine what’s most important to them, define what success really means, and create actionable strategies achieve it. We work to achieve overall balance as they bring their vision to life. For the past 25 years, I have been mostly in the healthcare industry. The last 16 of those years I was an executive at Massachusetts General Hospital. When I departed MGH, I was the Senior VP for Strategic Planning and Information Management with responsibilities for managing the Office of the President and the activities of the Board of Trustees. My duties also included running the Diversity Committee for the hospital. Before MGH, I held a number of policy and management positions in state government and the not-for-profit sector.
The Dagoba Group: We understand you have an upcoming book. What is the name and topic?
The book is The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life. It is the accumulation of my experience of the last 20 plus years. I realized that the same process I used to create successful strategies for organizations could work for people who want to plan a meaningful and effective life. The book draws on my executive experience as well as success stories from coaching clients and participants in my workshops.
The Dagoba Group: At what point in your career did you become aware of the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace? In what way?
The first time I was paying attention to it the workplace was about 25 years ago. There was an openly gay man who was reporting to me. He shared with me the issues he had about not having equal benefits for his partner. At the time, I was working with an insurance provider so it was especially poignant.
The Dagoba Group: Think back to your first D&I development? What topic was it and in what capacity? What was the impact of that development experience on you?
I served on a variety of committees which offered diversity trainings throughout the years. Mass General is the largest non-governmental employer in the City of Boston and a provider of health care to a diverse population. Our development looked at employee as well as patient care aspects of diversity. If you think of them as two concentric circles, there are separate issues for both employees and patients as well as the intersection where they overlap. It is a very complex multi-dimensional model. We also looked at it from the perspective of being a member of the larger community and a leader in the healthcare sector. We paid special attention to addressing disparities in health care services and outcomes in the underserved community.
When I think back to some of the trainings, some that stick out in my mind were those focused on our recruitment efforts. We were educated on raising our awareness of our implicit biases. We required everyone on the recruitment team to take the Harvard Implicit Association test. It helped everyone, including myself, to become aware of our unconscious biases.
The Dagoba Group: Can you describe a situation in which you saw a clear and measurable impact from an inclusion strategy or an inclusive behavior?
It was mostly on the recruitment and retention side for physicians. MGH has an Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs which reported to me. Recruitment and retention of minority physicians was a key objective. We had a lot of innovative recruitment strategies to reach a diverse population of physician trainees as well as to retain them after their residency. We understood that although a candidate may be influenced by their group affiliations, a successful strategy concentrated on them as individuals. We started to work with every Chief of Service in the hospital to make sure they were aware of the diverse physician population and to actively engage them in planning their career path. It demonstrated the department leaders were personally invested in their growth.
Coupled with this personal approach, we also created a competitive faculty development award which rewarded high potential physicians with support to establish a research or clinical program over a period of three years. We retained 10 out of 11 of the diversity award recipients past the third year. This was a huge win for us. This group also helped to bring in over $1 million in additional federal research grants.
On the recruitment side, our efforts resulted in a 60% bump in recruiting minority applicants in one particularly successful recruitment year. Other competitive programs nationally started to copy our approach and we were forced to continually innovate new approaches.
The Dagoba Group: At the Dagoba Group, we define diversity to be the presence of difference. How do you define inclusion?
I define it as fostering an environment where everybody feels welcomed and recognized for the special attributes they bring to the organization.
The Dagoba Group: For those companies that have not invested in an enterprise wide D&I strategy, what is your advice?
Going back to The Joy of Strategy, it is really about fostering joy in the workplace. If you want people to be their best in the workplace, they need to feel fully welcomed and given the opportunity to develop their unique talents and to use then in a meaningful way. If people do not feel nurtured as human beings, they will not bring their best to the workplace. My general advice is to really take the time and effort to get to know the people in your workforce on an individual basis and foster their growth. It is a critically important economic approach for any organization. And creating genuine, caring relationships makes coming to work every day a much more joyful experience for everyone.
Interviewers Mason Donovan and Mark Kaplan are principals at The Dagoba Group, a global diversity and inclusion consultancy, and authors of The Inclusion Dividend (Bibliomotion, 2013).