When Diversity and Inclusion Become Adversity and Delusion

This entry comes from my latest book…

I’ve been watching a client battle to retool its corporate culture. One of its current initiatives includes a Diversity & Inclusion Program that is aimed at helping the firm form a high performance work setting that capitalizes on the diversity of the individuals comprising its workforce.

The program, still in its early stages, has pointed to the need for establishing a culture where individual differences among workers are recognized as valuable ingredients in achieving the best business outcomes for the company.

This is, of course, a dramatic departure from where most companies are today in regard to managing workforce diversity. It seems that most of the organizations that I’ve had an opportunity to work with have adopted a “color blindness” and “gender neutrality” that seems to have the effect of ignoring, rather than, recognizing and leveraging individual employee differences. When the goals of this program are truly realized, the company that I’m speaking of will surely have an edge over its competition.

But, beware! These kinds of strategic initiatives, like any significant cultural change, are susceptible to misinterpretation. Because momentous change doesn’t happen over night, all kinds of good intentioned people can get in the way of true transformation.

The Diversity & Inclusion Program can quickly become the Adversity & Delusion Program, if the organization does not remain diligent in evolving itself through the stages of maturity that such change management requires, and allow the thoughts and principles that underpin the initiative to become better understood and communicated across the concern.

Because of its inherent nuances, it’s likely that many individuals will interpret the Diversity & Inclusion Program to be about the democratization of consensus building – where every worker has an equal “vote” in decision-making and direction setting. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth!

In fact, diversity and inclusion is really about disagreement. It’s promoting the notion that it’s acceptable to disagree (diversity) as long as everyone has an opportunity to contribute their ideas and thoughts, and that those contributions are recognized and considered equally, regardless of the contributor (inclusion).

Obviously, some workers may falsely think that they now have a “say” in direction setting, those workers possessing more experience and knowledge (and whom, indeed, have decision-making responsibility) may face extreme adversity as they attempt to continue to set the right direction. They can be called to task for not being inclusive by those feeling excluded (under a misinformed definition of inclusion).

Don’t let this happen to you.

Just give us a call. You can count on the Best Practices Enterprise Group to help you navigate through the tough issues associated with getting a Diversity & Inclusion Program off-the-ground.

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4 thoughts on “When Diversity and Inclusion Become Adversity and Delusion

  1. When you think Diversity & Inclusion within an organization, I agree that there is definitely a transition from the “melting pot” approach to the “salad” approach. I think it is important to keep in mind that diversity is beyond just race, gender, country of origin…varying industry backgrounds, professional experience, etc. is also an important attribute to creating diversity. I have seen this at the company I currently work for. As we bring in a more diverse workforce (particularly from an industry and work experience perspective, but also from the traditional diversity definition), we have definitely broadened our horizons as an organization. Best practices previously unrecognized within company walls are introduced and new ideas have invigorated the energy level. Your words of caution are also quite true. Making it acceptable to disagree helps inform decisions. If the company norm is to only make decisions based on consensus, this could lead to big trouble.Jim – any additional tips for moving a Diversity & Inclusion program along without leading to a sense of entitlement or the following mentality – “all decisions need to be aligned with my input because you asked for it.”

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  2. Diversity and inclusion is often confused with EEOC efforts and many firms shy away from getting involved here because of this perception. Too bad because it is a competitive reality that today’s global businesses cross both borders and cultures. US businesses need to be thinkning about this and taking steps to get the best talent availble from anywhere on the planet.

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  3. Thanks for the thoughts and questions.Here are some tips right out of my most recent book:The diversity and inclusion game is won when an organization establishes a diverse and inclusive corporate culture. This requires that the organization be comprised of diverse and inclusive people. A diverse workforce can be created by default. After all, the global marketplace demands diversity. However, a diverse workforce developed through deliberate effort will likely be a more powerful force to be reckoned with in the marketplace. There are multitudes of ways to orchestrate the development and retention of a broadly diverse workforce. Here are some of the successful ideas that many organizations are employing:• Reexamine job postings and descriptions (adjusting them as needed) to ensure that they truly reflect the skills and talents needed by the organization and that they don’t somehow limit competent people from applying• Make certain that all promotional materials visually reflects diversity and inclusion• Use diversity-related success stories in company PR campaigns• Sponsor and participate in Ethnic Studies programs at local colleges• Place college interns and co-op students who represent diverse groups• Establish associations with government programs that train and develop diverse groups• Design and promote employee referral processes that will serve to introduce prospective employees to the firm• Ensure that the organization provides diversity training, establishes a diversity charter and rewards diversity efforts within the enterpriseRegardless, of the techniques used, it is important that businesses establish reputations for being diversely populated and inclusive. With such a reputation, it is much easier to attract and retain the talent that is needed. Qualified and capable people seek-out such organizations. They want to take part in the fun and excitement.

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