May 1 2013
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Strategies for Enhancing Diversity

Catherine J. Malone, MBA, DBA(c), is a program associate working in the areas of diversity and nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This is the first in a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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As a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Human Capital team leading the group’s diversity efforts and the Foundation’s Diversity Team, I would like to share some of our work in this area. I must start by noting that “diversity” means different things to different people. At RWJF we recognize and value all types of diversity and therefore have a broad definition of the term which is described in the Foundation “Diversity Statement” below:

Catherine Malone

“Diversity and inclusion are core values of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reflected in our Guiding Principles. We value differences among individuals across multiple dimensions including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion and socioeconomic status. We believe that the more we include diverse perspectives and experiences in our work, the better able we are to help all Americans live healthier lives and get the care they need. In service to our mission, we pledge to promote these values in the work we do and to reflect on our progress regularly.”

The value of diversity is documented in studies and across sectors from academia to business to health care and beyond. As a doctoral business student, my courses in innovation, change, strategy, management and leadership have all emphasized that the multiplicity of perspectives, experiences and knowledge present in diverse groups leads to innovation and an enhanced ability to solve complex problems. In the context of health promotion and health care, the diversity of our nation’s health workforce and leadership is instrumental to developing creative solutions and informing the decision making processes needed to improve the health and health care of all Americans.

RWJF Human Capital programs support the preparation of a diverse and well trained workforce and leadership while working to attract historically underrepresented applicants to our scholars, fellows and leadership programs that will address the health and health care needs of our nation—today and tomorrow. We actively seek new approaches to broaden our outreach to a diverse applicant pool.

In 2009, the team initiated the Human Capital Diversity Project to identify, implement and disseminate strategies to enhance diversity. It was a three-phase project.

Phase 1 was research. We supported an environmental scan of the academic, philanthropic and business sectors identifying successful strategies in diversity recruitment and inclusion.

Phase II was implementation. We established the role of a Diversity Liaison to translate the research results into outreach and recruitment practices that could be adapted by RWJF national programs. The diversity liaison worked closely with six programs to identify their diversity needs, challenges and priorities; providing strategic counsel to assist in advancing their specific diversity goals.

Phase III focused on dissemination. We created an online community, Diversity Matters, to share strategies for enhancing diversity and inclusion featuring the work of our national programs and previous RWJF investments in diversity. The community’s podcast series of audio interviews highlights strategies used by our programs to increase outreach to a broader applicant pool and enhance diversity. Topics in the series include:

  • Moving Beyond Traditional Approaches for More Effective Recruiting
  • Virtual Access to Technical Assistance: Increasing the Number of Successful Applications to
  • Scholars and Fellows Programs
  • Bringing New Voices and New Perspectives to the Research Agenda
  • Holistic Review: Expanding the Institutional Field of Vision

These podcast recordings and summary documents are available in the community along with other resources such as our toolkit on strategic alliances, scans of the academic and philanthropic sectors and webinars. I encourage you to join the community and let us know your thoughts on the podcasts and other resources available. In June the community will transition to a Learning Resource Center on RWJF.org.

In doing this work, I have learned a number of lessons along the way. Most importantly, diversity goals for our initiatives must be explicitly stated early on in all of our work—from the planning and initiation of a project or program onward right through implementation and evaluation.

In the context of evaluation, developing a strong set of metrics during the program planning phase is critical to assessing our progress.

And finally, enhancing diversity can only happen with the knowledge and collaboration of teams working toward this goal. Engaging everyone (from Foundation staff, to our national programs and grantees, to partners, experts and stakeholders in the field) to work collaboratively toward diversity objectives positions us to successfully achieve these goals.

Tags: Diversity, RWJF Leaders, Toward a More Diverse Health Care Workforce