I recently had the opportunity to meet a group of LGBT youth with Our True Colors. By way of introduction, we each stated our chosen pronoun. When it was my turn, I said: “I’m Steve, my chosen pronouns are He and Him.” I have to admit I’d never been asked a question like that before and it struck me that I’d also never thought to ask it of others. It was an important moment for me to reflect on the values I represent as President and CEO of DentaQuest, which include respecting each other’s diversity.
As an organization committed to both social impact and business growth, DentaQuest recognizes that a diverse, inclusive workforce facilitates community and drives innovation and creativity. Our mission is to improve the oral health of all. “All” is the most important word in that phrase — and it means all. Not some, or even most. We won’t leave a single person out, or behind.
But being truly inclusive is challenging. At DentaQuest, we need everyone working together with open minds and diverse perspectives to do something that has never been done – give everyone a fair shot at optimal oral health.
So where do we start? With our employees – our backbone. That’s true for any CEO investing in a thriving, inclusive workplace.
I am proud as head of DentaQuest to join CEOs of other top companies in taking the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge to foster this type of growth. The four parts of DentaQuest – Benefits, Care Group, Institute and Foundation – work alongside each other to advance person-centered care and build powerful networks of advocates for lasting change. As a premier oral health organization, DentaQuest is a driving force for health equity and tackles obstacles to that end in several ways.
We talk a lot about our mission and how the work we do every day helps us to meet it. But I’ve recently realized we don’t talk enough about our vision – to achieve person-centered health by transforming the systems of policy, finance, care and community. Our vision is our North Star.
Working toward this type of future has both financial and social impact beyond just our company. We operate based on the belief that the people we serve are more than the disease they’re diagnosed with, more than just a subscriber ID on a claim form. We recognize there are many factors that make a person who they are – their cultural identity, job, environment, way of life. These factors, among others, also impact a person’s oral and overall health and wellbeing.
And so, in order to actively help the people we serve, we must ensure diverse voices contribute to our most important business decisions. Only by doing so can we provide the best services to each other at work and to the diverse communities we serve. A big step we took last year was to rethink our company core values with input from any staff willing to contribute. One of the final six: “Collaborate and respect each other’s diversity to achieve our mission.” Clearly, our values demonstrate a collective understanding that work toward health equity starts with our own DentaQuest community. But we also acknowledge building an inclusive workplace takes ongoing, meaningful commitment. We must live our values every day.
Research shows – and I know from personal experience – that diverse viewpoints create new pathways for success and growth. Given our world depends on and requires a healthy economy, the business community is uniquely positioned to lead the charge for greater diversity. Employers are the only ones who have ultimate authority to hire, fire, develop, discourage, promote, or demote employees. Those employees are part of society at large. Thus, the way we lead our businesses directly affects everyone. We as CEOs must recognize and prioritize this power – not only for company’s success, but also for the greater good.
It hasn’t been and will not be easy. Ensuring diverse views are included in strategic thinking and decision making requires time and resources, the willingness to instigate and have difficult conversations, the courage to look at ourselves honestly and openly, and the ability to change. We live in a world that isn’t fair or perfect. But we can imagine and work toward a better one.
Together, we can make bold moves to drive this change. We will undoubtedly make mistakes, but that’s a good thing – so good it’s another of DentaQuest’s core values: “Try new things, learn from mistakes, and continuously improve.” Improvement requires mistakes. So let’s be brave and make a lot of mistakes, learn from them, and improve. Improve ourselves, our companies, our nation, our world.
I am proud that DentaQuest is committing to leading by example – leveraging our many differences to uncover opportunity, improve communication, and ultimately help us better achieve our mission. In all our efforts to enhance employee experience and company culture, we encourage diversity of thought and perspectives, and now I band together with other leaders to fuel innovation with diversity and inclusion at all levels of our organization. Let’s not be timid!
In this series, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion™ signatory CEOs share their dedication to acting for workplace diversity and inclusion to make impactful changes that benefit both business and society. Follow along with #CEOAction and learn more at CEOAction.com