“If what you’re doing with diversity isn’t aligned to strategy, then it’s not that important,”  These words were given by Deborah Elam, former chief diversity officer for General Electric and president of the GE Foundation at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s annual Diversity in Business Event earlier this month.

And she is not wrong.  If diversity isn’t something your utilizing to grow your business or its sectors, then you are not pushing it correctly.  A great example of utilizing diversity correctly and tying it to overall strategy “was in early 2010, when Elam and other high-ranking black GE officials went on a trip to Africa, making stops in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. The goal was to increase business in Africa, by showing that GE was a company they should do business with because it had black employees in key roles.”

If you’re looking to connect to a potential group of consumers, the best way is to show that you care about their values.  One way is to connect them with people inside your company that looks like them.  While this doesn’t mean that only Africans can sell to the continent of Africa, this does help expand into a foreign market that is not familiar with your practices. Hiring a supporting a group of people is the best way to show you support them.

Another good way to increase diversity is through internship programs. Even if you’re a small business, using internships are a great way to grow and connect with people outside your network.  This is good because it expands your thinking and can create new opportunities you didn’t think about previously.