The Paradox of Diversity and Inclusion
Almost every organization has a firm understanding of how important diversity is. There is an abundance of research out there that confirms more diversity results in success. Forty-nine percent of executives surveyed by Forbes Insights strongly agree that a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation. With the rise of millennials in the workplace, many organizations have achieved diversity organically. The average human being has turned on the news over the last decade any maybe even has a moral compass that tells them diversity is simply a fairness issue that should be the norm.
I find myself wondering, if everyone knows what diversity is, and why it’s so important, why are white men much more likely to hold leadership positions than women or minorities?
It appears HR’s approach to diversity suffers from the tunnel vision that started with a misunderstanding of what diversity is.
I consulted with an HR pro once who would put a post-it on any applications from minority candidates that read, “Hire a minority,” when passing those off to a hiring manager. When I was first made aware of this practice, I thought to myself, “This has to be limited to this one organization?” After all, who else could believe it’s okay to hire someone solely based on race? Did I read that article on the Supreme Court ruling on racial quotas correctly? It turns out, this practice is all too common throughout organizations, schools, governments, etc.
To truly achieve a diverse workforce that is also inclusive, we must re-examine what diversity is and educate our teams on inclusion.
Real diversity is accomplished through teams that are comprised of multiple generations, cultures, genders, ethnic groups, races, personalities, cognitive styles, length of tenures, organizational functions, parental status, military status, educations, and backgrounds. When building our teams, if we concentrate solely on one characteristic, we alienate groups of society. Much like the HR pro from above was alienating anyone that did not fall within a particular minority. When re-structuring the organization, we must ensure that our teams are as eclectic as possible.
Like many initiatives, there are only as good as the tools you provide to utilize them. Diversity is no different nor is it only HR’s problem or responsibility. Once you have teams where everyone does not think, look and act alike, they are set up for failure if they do not have the knowledge and skill to work together cohesively. This is the most important aspect of diversity and will sabotage your efforts if not setup correctly.
Here are only a five top inclusion initiatives:
- Ensure your Baby Boomers, Xers and Millennials know what motivates each other and how to communicate.
- Show your high Ds that their personality type is not superior to others.
- Create initiatives that enable ethnic groups to see the values of different points of view.
- Encourage your tenured employees to engage in reverse mentoring of new hires.
- Invest as much as possible in each team member’s professional development.
If we truly want to make progress and ensure everyone has an equal opportunity, we have to stop thinking about diversity in a vacuum. We owe it to ourselves, our organizations, the HR field and most of all, to society.
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