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Embracing Diversity and Inclusion
To date, more than 400 CEOs from many of the world’s leading companies have become members of an organization called CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Launched last June, the organization developed a CEO Action Pledge, which outlines a specific set of values. Part of the pledge says, “[W]e know that diversity is good for the economy; it improves corporate performance, drives growth and enhances employee engagement. Simply put, organizations with diverse teams perform better.”

While many associations support diversity in their organizations, relatively fewer have developed a statement to guide their actions. For example, BoardSource’s 2017 Leading with Intent survey found that 76 percent of association leaders agreed that it is important to incorporate diversity and inclusion into the organization’s core values, but only 29 percent have modified policies and procedures toward that end. Further, 48 percent have evaluated and modified recruitment efforts specifically to reach potential members from diverse backgrounds, while 44 percent of association leaders say their organization has a written diversity and inclusion statement. In addition, a 2017 study by McKinley Advisors concluded that just 16 percent of associations cited diversifying membership as a top priority, down from 19 percent the previous year.

But NAMSS — an organization committed to enhancing the professional development of and recognition for professionals in the medical staff and credentialing services field — has found this to be a crucial step in its efforts to best serve its profession.

NAMSS Takes Action

NAMSS developed a Diversity and Inclusion Statement not just because the association believed it was the right thing to do, but because NAMSS viewed it as essential to sustaining growth. The concept of establishing a statement had been approved as part of its strategic plan in 2016. It became one of the top priorities of then Board President Susan DuBois, now immediate-past president, when she took office in 2017. It was important to DuBois and the rest of the board, which overwhelmingly approved it, because the profession was at an inflection point.

The board examined diversity in the context of their organization. Traditionally, the profession was overwhelmingly female, so the membership was, unsurprisingly, made up of mostly women. But, as the industry has expanded, more men have come into the profession. The board believed the association needed to reflect that, and other demographic shifts occurring in the field. The board also discovered that for their organization, diversity is not just about race, gender, age and other demographics — although that is certainly important — but it's also about reflecting the diversity in roles and job functions of people in the industry.

“NAMSS started out as an association for professionals involved in credentialing in the hospital, but the profession has really changed and expanded to include individuals from all areas of healthcare, including hospitals, managed care organizations, and surgery centers. Medical Services Professionals today are responsible for a variety of tasks in addition to credentialing,” said DuBois. The membership committee would often hear from members and prospects that there wasn’t enough variety in terms of the services and education offered to reflect the changing profession, she said.

The Statement

The board’s objective was to develop a diversity and inclusion statement that would not serve as a mandate, but more as a guide for leadership to strive to fulfill and membership to follow in their professional lives. Here is the statement it developed:

“NAMSS seeks and values diversity and inclusive practices within our membership, leadership and the areas of the medical services profession represented by the membership, and it strives to build committees and the board of directors in a manner that is reflective of the diversity of our profession. NAMSS celebrates diversity and welcomes people of any age, appearance, disability, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, nationality, professional level, race, religion, and sexual orientation, and is committed to ensuring diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization. To this end, NAMSS promotes involvement, innovation, and access to opportunities that maximize engagement across the healthcare settings, professional roles, and professional levels represented by the membership.”

Currently, the association is working on plans to operationalize the statement, explained Lynn Boyd, executive director at NAMSS. The membership committee, for example, is charged with making it a focus when finding and recruiting new members. Further, NAMSS educational offerings and other services will be tweaked to incorporate these ideals. Association leaders also hope that it will guide members in their interactions.

A Competitive Advantage

The statement was formally announced at NAMSS’s annual conference in October 2017 and was exceptionally well received, DuBois said. Being able to help develop and introduce it to membership was among DuBois’s proudest achievements as board president. She noted that what’s most important is that it advances the mission of the association, which is “To enhance the professional development and recognition of medical services through education and advocacy.” Cultivating a more diverse membership will expand the scope of the association and better serve the profession, she added. That, in turn, will help the association thrive and grow.

“From a professional perspective as well as from a profession perspective, I do hope the statement tells people that we have a very broad, open membership, and that we embrace diversity,” said DuBois. “Hopefully, it will make people from all types of backgrounds and all types of roles within the scope of our profession look to NAMSS.”

She also noted that one of the reasons the statement has seen such success is that is wasn’t created through a cookie-cutter approach. It had to reflect NAMSS’s values and needs. Other associations looking to do the same should discuss what diversity and inclusion would mean for — and how they apply to — their organization. Which groups or member segments might you need to better serve to reflect that goal of having a more diverse association? Would you need to change policies, procedures, or practices to accommodate a more diverse membership? Only by carefully considering your organization’s mission, marketplace, history, and dynamics can you create a diversity and inclusion statement that will deliver maximum benefits.
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