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Diversity in the Workplace Should be as Diverse as the World

November 13, 2018

Susan Francis

In today’s world where trends, branding and catch phrases are the popular attention grabbers, the word “diversity” is now the go-to word for every business from new startups to traditional conglomerates.


The definition of diversity according to dictionary.com is: “…the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness. Variety; multiformity. The inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.” 


Most of today’s top businesses are focused on how to achieve true diversity within their ranks from entry level to upper management. There are several proven ways to incorporate diversity easily to any business. Here are a few of the most successful methods:


1- Measure it. Ever heard the business advice of “what gets measured gets done”? Of course, measuring alone is not enough, but it’s often true that whatever gets team focus – such as items measured in quarterly reports or in executive key performance indicators (KPIs) – does get more time and attention. Measuring an organization’s diversity and looking at it objectively helps to increase diversity by putting more focus on the actions required to do so.


2- Remember that diversity is about more than race. Diversity means having a workforce composed of many different types of people. Different races is just one example. Different religious backgrounds, different genders, different nationalities, and differing physical abilities are more diversity options.


3- Don’t forget to foster diversity at all levels, not just in hiring. If the workplace culture is not diverse at the upper levels, there will be less of a chance of retaining diversity in general. If all employees don’t see they have an opportunity to achieve their personal goals they may be more likely to leave.


Some organizations have chosen diversity training as a way of developing open communication on the subject. However, various studies have found most diversity trainings do not work. Most diversity training initiatives fail because they come across as a none-too-thoughtful exercise in political correctness, rather than the valuable business education programs they should be.


Academics Alexandra Kalev from Tel Aviv University and Frank Dobbin from Howard University have analyzed three decades worth of data from over 800 U.S. firms, in addition to interviewing hundreds of managers and executives. Their conclusion? Mandatory diversity training actually led to fewer women and minorities in management positions.


The authors point to a range of past social studies that have shown that trying to force people to reduce prejudice can backfire, actually increasing bias or leading to more hostility rather than less.


 


Remember that diversity is about more than race.


 


When Unconscious Bias Training or Diversity Training is made compulsory without proper messaging or executive sponsorship, some people might feel forced to attend and become resentful.


Many workshops fail to educate people on the harmful effects of unconscious biases. This leads to normalization of unconscious biases without provoking any meaningful change in people’s behaviors.


Awareness alone is not enough to create culture change. Workshops that focus solely on concepts and theories may be intellectually stimulating, but without actionable recommendations, people will go back to their old habits of relying on their unconscious biases to make important decisions.


Diversity and inclusion should not be treated as a “one-off” initiative. Many leaders struggle with how to manage workplace diversity. Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a constant work in progress, and it must be maintained and nurtured to be effective.


Leaders need to know that they have to build accountability into their systems with regard to asking their managers to take responsibility for creating a diverse and inclusive work environment. The most effective organizations are organizations that don’t simply use their diversity in order to impress clients, but use diversity to increase the cultural competence of their workforce.


Companies that do diversity well aren’t afraid to examine and acknowledge their own preconceived notions, assumptions and biases, and then work to address those if they’re negatively affecting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


While diversity has increased over the past few years, not had as great an effect on mid-level management, executives and corporate boards, according to the Leaders 2020 study conducted by SAP and Oxford Economics.


One of the strongest business cases for diversity is the fact that U.S. demographics are shifting. As a result, the workforce should reflect the population at large. McKinsey & Company reports that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform homogenous companies. Even more impressive: Ethnically diverse companies outperform the competition by 35 percent.


The benefits of building a workforce of diverse people who are empowered to positively contribute to a company’s success are numerous – from better financial performance and more innovative problem-solving to easier employee retention and greater appeal to customers.


SUSAN FRANCIS is the Dallas Office Manager for SKIDATA, Inc. She can be reached at Susan.Francis@SKIDATA.com



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