Diversity Isn’t Smiling Faces and Rainbows, It’s Intangible

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My high school chemistry teacher was a strong advocate for diversity. In the classroom she had a poster with a mnemonic phrase in the form of an acronym for the word diversity that read:

Each Other
Regardless of  
Talent or

I don’t remember much from that class besides this statement. Mainly because the teacher had us repeat the statement anytime we got into differences in the classroom. By doing this, that teacher helped mold our beliefs to the point of affecting our behaviors.

Interestingly the poster had no image of people of various backgrounds with smiling faces. But as adults when you think of corporate diversity programs and initiatives this is usually the first image you think of.  If you are a Human Resources professional, you may think of running a report of demographics within your organization’s headcount. But is this truly diversity and inclusion?

Culture & Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are more often felt than seen.  Essentially if you need a formal diversity program your organization has failed to create an environment favorable for diversity to nurture on its own. Ultimately culture directs diversity.  To see if your organization’s culture has the environment for organic diversity and inclusion consider these three questions:
 Are your leaders open-minded?  Thought leaders and those responsible for making employment decisions in an organization should be open-minded. If dissimilarities are spurned in general, diversity will not happen organically.
Do your leaders allow themselves to be uncomfortable?  Step one of including people different than ourselves is dealing with the potential initial feeling of being uncomfortable.
How is change management at your organization?  If things like technology adoption are hard at your organization, consider how more challenging it will be for the same individuals to work with a person who is different than what they are used to.

Unfortunately open-mindedness, comfort levels, and response to change are not tangible items that easily can be analyzed, supported by data, and incorporated into evidence-based decision-making. True diversity and inclusion requires strategic approaches sustained by influential leadership.

Taking Action

Human Resources departments don’t usually focus on beliefs but rather behaviors in the workplace. But to effectively improve diversity and inclusion you must affect core beliefs of individuals in your organization. Diversity and inclusion has to be seen as more than an employer-branding gimmick or compliance focus.

Diversity and inclusion must extend beyond having diverse employees in entry level or highly specialized roles. Diversity and inclusion is achieved and brings benefits when it is reflected in an organization’s thought leaders. Affecting this level with diversity will lead to measureable results such as improved attraction and retention of minorities.

A great activity for an organization is to have their entire leadership team write a diversity statement and compare the results. This will provide a good gauge for areas needing improvement and deficiencies.

An Objective, Performance Approach to Diversity

Often an objective approach in Talent Management is considered negative. Much can be accomplished with such an approach though. When talent is looked at objectively, as capital and resources, this helps create an organic environment for diversity.

When an organization is managed by and for success there isn’t much room left for discrimination. A performance focus within an organization will naturally increase opportunities for diversity and inclusion. When an organization’s hiring, review, promotion, and compensation practices are based on performance the focus on demographic will be reduced allowing for talent to be the true focus.

As Human Resources and Recruitment professionals it is important to project the same outlook as C-level executives and board members. On the executive and board level, there are usually only three colors that matter: making and saving green, staying out of the red and being in the black.


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About The Author

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Charles Newton is a Human Resources and Recruiting strategist who aims to make sure tasks are strategic and strategy can be converted into tasks. Charles has gained experience in a variety of settings ranging from non-profit to global Fortune 100 organizations in the healthcare, financial, retail, social services, manufacturing industries. In this regard his personal mission is to motivate, innovate, and achieve in Talent Management. He shares this passion via the website/blog The Middle Ground and the associated social media accounts.