The PPAI Expo delivers compelling education and big ideas to the promotional products industry through The PPAI Expo Conference. The PPAI Expo 2023 will be no different, and the Conference’s day of education will deliver compelling industry speakers and industry experts. One of the most exciting speakers on the Conference’s agenda is James Pogue, Ph.D., who will share actionable insights on the connection between diversity, inclusion, bias and business success.

Pogue specializes in diversity, inclusion and multi-generational leadership and frequently consults with companies, colleges and business groups on how to prepare, recruit and retain Millennials and members of Generation Z into their organizations. Earlier this year, Pogue joined PPAI’s North American Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs. There, his session broke down the obstacles and errors that lead to failures in corporate DEI programs, forcing company leaders to consider their unconscious biases.

He recently spoke with PPAI Media about his upcoming session at the PPAI Expo Conference, which will focus on DEI and leaders’ roles in driving diverse teams to success.

PPAI Media: How is diversity relevant in the promo industry and at businesses today?

Pogue: In today’s market, diversity must be recognized as everything that makes us similar or different. If we can increase our diversity acumen, we increase our ability to attract, retain and promote talent. Further, it positions us to connect more deeply with potential clients and customers.

PPAI Media: Can you tell me more about a leader’s diversity acumen? What determines it?

Pogue: A leader’s diversity acumen is their ability to lead across the diversity spectrum. This means that a ‘perfect leader’ would lead equally well regardless of the individual. This is a big ask and sheds light on the idea that becoming an inclusive leader is a journey, not a destination. Each of us is a continual work in progress pointed (hopefully) toward an ever-increasing ability to lead.

PPAI Media: How does diversity acumen affect a leader’s ability to attract, retain and promote talent?

Pogue: The most inclusive leaders will have and be able to execute on a high diversity acumen that allows them to ‘see’ the best ways to attract talent across the diversity spectrum. Or, in the absence of being able to ‘see,’ be willing to ask for help to fill their blind spots.

These leaders will have little to no problem engaging with team members and asking them what challenges exist to take advantage of organizational opportunities. And then, they will work to address those challenges. They would also be happy to engage with colleagues of all backgrounds to determine the best strategies and tactics to retain the current talent.

Many leaders are concerned about initiating a conversation that speaks to the background of a team member. This hesitation, this pausing, creates space between leaders and team members. The most inclusive leaders have deep connections with their team members. They do not pause when questions about differences occur. They will not always approach them perfectly, but they can and will do so with courage.

PPAI Media: Is there anything about the promo industry that makes it unique, in terms of diversity, inclusion and bias?

Pogue: This industry faces many of the challenges as others. The most critical is a clear understanding of the business case for diversity alongside an equally well-understood business case for inclusive leadership. Absent this, adoption of strategies that will improve the attraction and retention of the best candidates is impossible.

PPAI Media: What factors go into making business cases for diversity and inclusive leadership?

Pogue: The business case for diversity is based on the same components as any other business case. What is it about diversity or inclusive leadership that helps businesses to “win?” The answer is stark and clear, and in fact, the numbers have been clear for quite some time. Diverse teams are more innovative, creative and as a result, productive. Yes, the teams are more uncomfortable; that is part of what makes them more productive. In other words, the discomfort drives productivity.

PPAI Media: Is there anything your audience should keep in mind or look for in doing so for their own businesses?

Pogue: Inclusive leaders are the inspiration that pushes, drives, and directs the team’s diversity. When trying to “land the plane” of understanding around the business case, it is critical to use the same analytical framework you would use for any business decision. When DEI is held to the same standard as other business practices … it holds its own.

PPAI Media: What ideas and inspirations do you want your audience to leave your session with? Where should their head be at?

Pogue: I want them to come away from the session thinking “This is doable.” Even or mainly in the contentious world we live in, we can engage in the DEI space and be successful. Folks should know that this is a leader-led initiative and that they as the leaders are the ones who must execute the work.

Lastly, attendees will leave with a clear understanding of the business case for diversity and inclusive leadership.

Pogue’s keynote will be held on the main stage at The PPAI Expo Conference, January 9, 2023, at 10 – 11 a.m. Following his session, attendees have a wide range of breakout sessions to choose from to tailor their education experience to their needs.