One of the first things that many companies like to do when they begin to incorporate diversity into their culture is create a program or department with a person to serve as the point man or woman to steer the organization’s diversity and inclusivity initiatives with regards to hiring practices. However, this is not the most effective approach.
A better way to establish a diverse culture is to ensure that it is part of the framework of an organization, rather than an appendage that at some point could be cut off and deemed non-functioning or not useful. When organizations endeavor to make diversity a priority, they tend to overshoot and fail to put into place the critical building blocks that articulate the company’s goals for working on their lack of diversity and inclusivity.
A company that envisions diversity to be an integral, indispensable part of the systems in place will provide the necessary education and training essential to transforming their cultural practices from the inside out. A company or organization with fluid diversity vertically and horizontally is more likely to experience more sustainable growth and innovation in this global economy. Here’s a few general strategies for how to develop this within your organization.
Inclusivity should not just be seen, but must be heard
Having a director or department for diversity should not become a way to showcase, highlight and check off every time someone is hired of a different gender, race, or age. Compartmentalizing diversity into numbers is a sure way to experience superficial success.
Diversity may be achieved by bringing new employees through the door. But to achieve inclusivity, employees must be heard, not just seen. Having diversity without inclusivity does not transform a company’s culture in the more nuanced ways. Companies should strive to encourage and engage all employees in meaningful, sometimes tough, discussions about how they feel about being an employee and whether or not he or she feels appreciated, valued and respected.
Who is not at the table matters
Whether taking a break, eating lunch, or having a department or board meeting, employees and leaders must be mindful of whom they are seated with and what’s being said, as sometimes key decisions are made about significant issues that affect more than just the bottom line. Having a table where everyone looks, sounds, acts, thinks, and even dresses alike is a sure way to ensure groupthink. Being cognizant by looking around the table, being mindful and taking notes of who is not there is a pathway forward.
For all of the ways that the group or individuals in the group are alike, there are an equal or greater number of ways that they are different. This presents rich opportunities to recruit for diversity in backgrounds, skills, and talents across gender, race and socio-economic lines. So, who do you need to invite to lunch, dinner or your next meeting?
One size does not fit all
Every company has to deal with diversity in light of who they are, where they are, what they do, and how they do it. There is no one size fits all — when dealing with people and preferences, what we practice must first begin with flexibility.
When a company tries to model another company without doing the hard work of determining their own barriers and builders to diversity, they inevitably make mistakes and waste resources, time and talent trying to be something that they are not. Companies should remain open and understand that what works for someone else may not work for everyone. No company should be in such a hurry that they imitate another’s approach without doing the work necessary to understand its own needs with respect to who makes up their workforce, clientele or vendors.
The work is not easy, but it is worthwhile.
Diversity should not lower standards
One of the worst mistakes that a company can make is to think that they must lower standards and expectations in order to have a more diverse workforce. This is such a slap in the face to potential recruits who are well-educated, skilled, talented, and capable of doing the job as any other.
Lowering standards is an inauthentic, disingenuous approach to creating equality, closing gaps of achievement and access, providing equitable opportunities for growth, and establishing a culture that understands the power and strength in diversity. All companies can be better, not in spite of diversity, but because we will stop at nothing to ensure that diversity is welcome.
Diversity should create inclusivity in thought and innovation
The Internet, technology and innovation are transforming how and where we work. Having a diverse culture offers positive attributes that enables a company to access diverse thoughts and ideas that drive innovation.
Diversity is not something that has a stopping point. Seeking differences in opinions and ideas is an ongoing endeavor that is meant to continuously transform a company or organization’s cultural, physical, geographical, and emotional make-up. Being diverse in one area does not complete the process — new ideas should continuously challenge the status quo, break down barriers, initiate thoughtful and meaningful conversations, and spur change at the core of the organization.
Diversity leverages competitiveness and affects the bottom line
From small and medium to large-size businesses, every business is facing tough competition. The frenzy to reach one’s targeted market is fierce and quite frankly, if you aren’t ready to see everyone as a viable employee, customer/client or vendor, you may have trouble keeping your doors open and defending your competitive position.
Diversity is more impactful today than ever before. It’s not enough for a company to say they believe in diversity and are trying to make their working environments more culturally relevant and diverse. There must be clear evidence in plain sight that diversity is a priority.
Brenda Green, PurposeHR’s Lead Consultant, contributed to this column
Brianna Jackson, Founder of PurposeHR and Head of HR at Atlanta Ventures, is an experienced human resource professional with a passion for helping companies build winning teams and work environments that inspire.