Why Diversity and Inclusion Matters
A diverse workforce should be taken as a central competency of a business because diversity in most cases is directly proportional to increased creativity and innovation. And, it is virtually true that an organization’s success depends on upon its ability to embrace diversity and to harvest it in the long term. Many organizations today are actively pursuing diversity as a “business strategy.”
Cultural diversity is a reality in the modern workplace. Diversification of the workplace is largely due to two factors: primarily the changing composition of national populations and then globalization. Canada has taken the world leadership role in embracing multiculturalism and diversity. In broad terms, Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. Managing a culturally diverse workforce in today’s organizations is therefore of great importance. It comes down to accepting and appreciating differences in your workforce. However, diversity alone is not enough. It’s the Inclusion factor that is crucial. Does everyone feel welcome? Can everyone speak up and be heard? Do you accept people who look differently?
As humans, we view the world from a very narrow perspective: our own. Realistically, we must acknowledge the limitations of our own culture and that with every culture there lies at its foundation cultural bias. There can be unconscious bias as we naturally gravitate to people who look and sound like us. Ethnocentrism by definition is the evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture. This can lead to stereotyping. Stereotypes are preconceived opinions on how things or groups of people are characterized. Stereotyping occurs between various cultural groups and therefore can obstruct an organization’s efforts to include diversity through resistance.
In 2016, we read a release by Google that stated 69% percent of its employees are male while 31% are female; women hold 24% of its leadership positions within the company. 59% of Google employees are white, while 32% are Asian. And Blacks and Hispanics make up only 2% and 3% respectively of their workforce. 70% percent of Google leadership roles and 57% of tech positions are held by white employees. Google began sharing its diversity statistics in 2014, prompting other Silicon Valley giants to do the same.
To manage diversity effectively, there should be support and genuine commitment from all members of the organization. Top level support and commitment to diversity is crucial. According to The DiversityInc. Top 50 most diverse companies across the globe; Companies, where the CEO is actively engaged in diversity efforts, stand out. When preparing to deal with the issues surrounding cultural diversity a focal point must be the structure of the organization. What does your organization have in place for Diversity & Inclusion? You can solicit assistance from the local organizations that can connect diverse candidates to businesses in your community, like recruiters, colleges and churches. Many firms have successfully adopted this method. MasterCard is partnering with INROADs, a non-profit that places high-performing Black, Latino, and American Indian students in internships at leading corporations. Leaders should increase implementation by changing policies, structures, and systems to support diversity. These include fairness in recruitment and career advancement, as well as providing flexible benefits and programs.
Most of the time, when companies focus on diversity, it generally centers on class, race or gender. This is why some companies often make progress in only one area of diversity. Often those with disabilities tend to get overlooked. Walgreens have made it their priority to hire disabled workers – which account for 10% of their employees who work in their distribution centers. And this decision has significantly paid off for Walgreens. The Walgreens Windsor, Connecticut distribution center which has the highest percentage of disabled workers, was found to be their safest and most productive center.
According to research by the Level Playing Field Institute, more than 2 million employees a year leave their jobs solely to recurring instances of unconscious biases or unfairness. Organizations should have diversity awareness training to help people become aware of their own cultural boundaries and their prejudices. There must be sensitivity training for employees and training of managers on cultural awareness and how to handle culturally diverse teams. On an individual level, if this approach is to be effective, managers, as well as employees, should study differences in the rituals of different cultures. Managing diversity reflects understanding people’s differences and viewing those differences as valuable for the organization.
It is beneficial to encourage an organizational culture where employees are happy to share their personal stories which allows for better connection and empathy. If this can be achieved, trust, understanding, respect, and collaboration will be greatly improved. Team members will be able to better assess the needs of one another and will be able to better adjust to changes. This can be facilitated via storytelling.
Ultimately, to better ensure that the organization’s efforts towards promoting diversity is cemented, it needs to be part of the existing culture. Johnson & Johnson, the global healthcare company was listed on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, eleven times. Johnson & Johnson maintains that it not only celebrates diversity — “we champion it.” Diversity inclusion involves moving beyond lip service and supporting these efforts in highly visible ways and building in accountability metrics for senior executives and managers. Diversity metrics can also be linked (directly or indirectly) to management bonuses and incentives. A diverse workforce should be taken as a central competency of a business because diversity in most cases is directly proportional to increased creativity and innovation. And, it is virtually true that an organization’s success depends on upon its ability to embrace diversity and to harvest it in the long term.
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” ~Maya Angelou
Sixty-five percent of 321 executives of large global companies surveyed by Forbes Insights said they have a plan in place to recruit a diverse workforce — but only 44 percent have retention programs. This reveals an obvious gap when it comes to retaining diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Companies must have solutions in place to monitor and retain a talented and diverse workforce, such as employee resource groups and multicultural talent management. Mentors and role models should be in place to secure the survival of diversity programs. Networks can provide social support and access to role models and mentors of the same gender and race/ethnicity.
Benefits of Diversity include greater creativity and innovation as people with various backgrounds bring multiple perspectives to the table. Diversity also helps to prevent and reduce groupthink. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
- Diversity initiatives can be the catalyst for a better ROI in human capital.
- The financial rewards of appealing to a more-diversified customer base are significant.
However, poorly managed diversity may cause severe losses to an organization. Mismanaging cultural diversity at work causes tensions between employees and employers, a loss of team productivity, a smeared corporate image and even discrimination lawsuits. With more than 200 languages spoken in the United States today, it is common to experience some language barriers creating communication problems. Cultural and language barriers need to be overcome for diversity programs to succeed. Ineffectual communication of important objectives results in misunderstandings, lack of teamwork, and low morale. Communication is an essential ingredient in any organization. Poor communication results in millions of losses each year for businesses. Then diversity is added to this, posing more challenges. A manager can adapt their written and spoken communications to prevent this, for example; speak clearly and slowly, avoid slangs, use simpler language and reiterate key points.
Religion has one of the strongest influences on how a person’s beliefs and values. However, it is one of the subjects that managers avoid discussing with employees. It’s like walking a sensitive line, a statement taken incorrectly could be deemed as bias. Therein lies the risk of one party unintentionally offending the other, destroying team spirit. Although diversity is beneficial to an organization. It has drawbacks that organizations must take into consideration to ensure it is reaping the priceless benefits of “Unity in Diversity.” I have seen some cases where organizations have gone over the top on diversity trying too hard and have overused the term that the spirit of real diversity gets watered down. On the other hand, you shouldn’t be pressured to hire individuals to meet your diversity targets who truly are not a good fit for your organization. Additionally, if you keep only heralding diversity workers, those from the homogenous home group may feel left out.
Diversity is supposed to include all people and make them feel appreciated and welcomed. Make sure you are not missing the mark or being manipulated by focusing on the loudest group who are quick to cry discrimination. Organizations can often feel trapped when dealing with attitudes of entitlement among certain minority groups. Sometimes individuals are quick to feel offended by even the slightest of issues that might have happened innocently.
In a world where “ethnic cleansing” is a present evil, leaders need to be an instrument to another set of values that do not “rate” people, by prejudices. We must realize in spite of all the differences people are very similar and most of us want the same things. We are all part of one single human family. Seek Unity rather than uniformity. One of the greatest challenges facing larger corporations is the question of unity. There is a continuous danger of growing apart or even fragmenting unless we develop programs to maintain and grow a genuine closeness. There shouldn’t be clusters of diverse groups who don’t interact with other groups – that is defeating the purpose. Leaders need to get these employees out of their comfort zones by moving them around in different teams. Leaders should spread unity over divisiveness for individuals to work together as a team. It doesn’t mean we must dress, speak or look alike but we value and respect each other’s differences and are committed to working together for the overall success of the organization. A sustained focus on unity is, therefore, needed more than ever as we face the challenges and competition in the evolving marketplace. Employers must not only see the urgency to include diversity, but they need to understand what motivates an employee’s behaviors. Universally, we all want to achieve self-actualization. Self-actualization is the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs which he describes as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that you can be. It should also be noted that, since each person has individual characteristics, cultural diversity management should regard the diverse needs of individuals. To make diversity a life-force, it must be coupled with speaking to the hearts and aspirations of your employees.
In today’s world diversity isn’t an option. Your survival may depend on it. Due to the intense competition among companies on a global scale, it is even more important for companies to be able to retain their workforce. People aspire and want to work at such as companies such as Facebook, Google, American Express, GE, McKinsey, etc. because these companies go out of their way to take great care of their employees. Therefore they recruit and retain the best talent, thus making them even better at what they do and they remain globally competitive.
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