It’s quite unfortunate that the rally cry for diversity has companies scrambling to make sure that they appear diverse to the outsider. You may think that this statement is cruel, but let me unpack it a bit before you summon the executioner. A significant percentage of companies have developed informal “quotas” to make sure they are a diverse organization. The common thought is that it mitigates discrimination accusations and makes them appear forward thinking to stakeholders and investors. Pretty much keeping up appearance for the current “trend”.
Of course this isn’t true for all companies, but it’s more common than what it should be. The mantra “diversity strengthens an organization” is absolutely true, but with one caveat. You have to embrace what diversity brings. The mere existence of various cultures, ethnicities, gender and religious beliefs within the same relational space does not connote strength of anything. It’s just a description of a group of people.
Oft times, even in the face of diversity, there is an expectation that those diverse groups of people must somehow lose the thing that makes them diverse for the sake of conforming to specific standards so that there is less conflict. The leadership of a number of organizations view the expression of that diversity within the organization as an increased chance of conflict, so their conflict strategy is to encourage (dare I say, enforce) this generic sense of homogeneity.
This completely strips the power of diversity altogether and is ignorant leadership. It is the varied viewpoints and filters through which each diverse group of individuals see the world that adds strength to the solution development process. Is it common to feel threatened by an unfamiliar viewpoint? Of course it is, but that’s what seems to perpetuate the juvenile drama we see in Washington D.C. Is that what you want for your company? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Not as a token gesture, but genuinely make it a point to include the opinions and insight of those from varied cultures and ethnicities. Switch off your judgment for a moment (or permanently) and instead of seeing their perspective through your filters, ask questions to understand why that seems like a viable solution for that individual. You may actually learn something. You are giving people a voice and may be able to incorporate a hybrid of what differing opinions bring to the table.
If you value what a person’s culture/ethnicity (something extremely personal) brings to the table for solution management, how engaged do you think that person will be? How likely are they to be looking for work elsewhere? Things don’t have to be perfect, just moving forward in a way that can allow them to be proud to be a part of making the solution a reality.
Don’t bastardize the idea of diversity just to meet some ubiquitous expectation by the industry trends. If you embrace the true value of diversity, you may find the innovation and creativity within your organization will flourish at an alarming rate. Turnover may just decrease as engagement increases. How much stronger would your bottom be if just 8% of your workforce would increase their discretionary effort by 5%?
Choose to be a market leader and an employer of choice because you have a healthy understanding of how diversity can be that distinction you’ve been looking for. What can you do to support quality diversity in your organization or community?