Editor’s note: Veteran entrepreneur and investor Donald Thompson writes a weekly column about management and leadership as well as diversity and other important issues for WRAL TechWire. His columns are published on Wednesdays.

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Winning organizations don’t have time for unproven tactics and feel-good measures with fuzzy results. Top-performing companies invest in a healthy, thriving and diverse culture because the payoffs are clear and powerful: stronger teams, tighter efficiency, easier collaboration and teamwork, greater innovation and better problem-solving. 

Over the last several years, every study has shown that you can help people market better, sell more, recruit and retain better, serve customers better and sell more goods and services if you have more diversity – more women leaders, people of color, voices from traditionally marginalized groups and diversity of thought and experiences. These are the traits C-Suite executives and senior leaders want to see in their teams. 

The next evolution of diversity-led culture transformation is to make it a permanent part of the organization by linking diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to bottom-line business results. Of course, we will never completely break the tie between DEI and social justice issues, but in preparing for the workforce of the future, we have to change our perspective: How does diversity-focused culture change help organizations of all sizes win in the marketplace? 

It all comes back to the first point: Businesses that make culture a focal point of their operations sell more, increase productivity, market better, are more creative and have enthusiastic employees ready to win. Culture is the future of business.

Ignore workplace culture now and you will kill your company, TechWire columnist warns



After years of constant change, it is understandable that C-suite leaders are feeling depleted. The day-to-day challenges can seem overwhelming. Executives are juggling the need to constantly pivot while also keeping the organization moving in the proper direction. They have to remain optimistic, be both empathetic and results-driven, and set an example for teams and employees. 

Here’s the upside to change: Placing transformation in context today will get change working in positive ways sooner, instead of the constant rowboat struggling against the tide. I’m not asking you to naively flip the script and ignore the hard work, but rather to reorient your thinking so that you can lead your team and organization to new heights. 

What I have learned firsthand – and watched hundreds of clients implement – is that creating workplace excellence changes an organization’s DNA. Through the political rhetoric and culture wars, we have been helping forward-thinking companies create culture-centric leaders and organizations regardless of size or where they are on their DEI path. 

How does an organization (and its leaders) change with the culture? Here are a few ideas I have been talking about with my executive coaching clients and at board of directors meetings.

– Win through diversity: Creating heterogeneous sales and marketing teams or leveraging diversity among your suppliers or vendors will almost immediately improve overall operations and revenue-generation. Let’s be blunt – we live in a more diverse economy and research has shown that if you have a diverse sales team, they sell more. Period.

– Consider all your customers: The LGBTQ+ community represents $1.4 trillion in buying power. Organizations that ignore them do so at their own peril. For example, non-inclusive application procedures at a financial institution are basically encouraging these customers to get mortgages and loans elsewhere. If your marketing team hasn’t adapted to culture change, the company is missing out. 

– Bring diversity to the heart of the organization: People of color have more wealth now than ever before. We are buying cars, homes, investing for the future and starting businesses. As a company executive, if your teams are not adapting from a sales, marketing, recruiting and retention and talent management perspective, then you are losing opportunities to expand your customer base. 


Innovative companies are shifting to tie diversity to business initiatives and objectives. From a tactical viewpoint, organizations need to demonstrate their authentic commitment to DEI by placing diversity at the center of operations, from marketing to finance and people operations. The strategic objective, though, is even more consequential – make DEI a business-driver by connecting its outcomes to profit and loss. Moving diversity initiatives from the category of “nice-to-have” to imperative will drive C-Suite support and sustained effort. 

As senior leaders we frequently talk about pressing forward to a better future. This mindset is essential, but it has to be more than flowery language. Creating an excellent workplace by tying diversity initiatives to financial outcomes not only helps you win today, it sets your company on the right path toward future successes. 

You can’t argue with the outcome: better teams, greater productivity, and more revenue. 

About the Author 

Donald Thompson founded The Diversity Movement to literally change the world. As CEO, he has guided its work with hundreds of clients and through hundreds of thousands of data touch points. TDM’s global recognition centers on tying DEI initiatives to business objectives. Recognized by Inc., Fast Company and Forbes, he is the author of Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, hosts the podcast “High Octane Leadership in an Empathetic World” and has published widely on leadership and the executive mindset. As a leadership and executive coach, Thompson has created a culture-centric ethos for winning in the marketplace by balancing empathy and economics. Follow him on LinkedIn for updates on news, events, and his podcast, or contact him at info@donaldthompson.com for executive coaching, speaking engagements or DEI-related content.