Author Anne Glenn takes a deeper-than-usual dive into why doing the right thing is also doing the smart thing.
Workplace diversity is not a new business conversation. 20 years ago, industrial research predicted that “employees in the 21st century will include more women, minorities, ethnic backgrounds, intergenerational workers and different lifestyles.”
As early as 2001, 75% of USA’s Fortune 1000 companies had diversity programs. They knew then that shifting labor compositions in the future would impact their ability to operate efficiently and stay competitive in the market.
Last year, diversity was among the top 7 workplace trends in the world (along with flexible hours and workspace; enhanced work life balance; preventing sexual harassment; outsourcing to freelancers; automating certain tasks and recruiting Millennial talent.)
Since diversity has been an important business imperative for over 20 years, why is it still crucial now? What happened to the first diverse businesses, and the leaders many companies created in the late 20th century? Has diversity management been treated as a passing social commitment or simply a politically correct fad?
Diversity management alone isn’t a key to business success.
Consider the word. “Diversity”, is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as marked by distinct differences, not alike; varied in kind or form, divergent, never unified. By definition, diversity is disruptive, diverting standard operating processes, changing directions, norms and business cultures.
Inside an established organization, diversity may produce troublesome and time-consuming challenges that were easily ignored by management.
Workplace diversity are words that identify the composition or characteristics of a group of unlike members, and describes how the individual differences result in perspectives, identities and behaviors differing from one cultural group with distinct members to other groups with equally varied members.
For the purposes of research, workforce diversity differences are sub-divided into two categories: 1. observable traits (gender, race, ethnicity, and age) and 2. non-observable (cultural, cognitive, technical, educational, functional background, organizational tenure, socioeconomic background, and personality.)
Varied perspectives and approaches
In broad terms, diversity (both observable and non-observable) represents the “varied perspectives and approaches to work that people of different identity groups bring.”
Until recently, “managing diversity” targeted business’ talent recruitment, education, training, career development and mentoring activities. Historic programs were designed to achieve goals increasing and retaining the organizations’ existing operational culture rather than altering, sharing, or examining the culture through the eyes of more people.
At the time, management may have believed that individuals in “diversity work groups” were “included” into the organization at the date they were hired. Later research indicates that diverse cultural and ethnic groups were actually isolated and excluded from informal company networks. And they missed information and organizational opportunities they needed to succeed.
Diversity management programs changed very little from “Minority Hiring” practices adopted in the late 1960s-mid-1970’s. When the first minorities were hired into new management positions, they were expected to speak, dress and conduct themselves exactly as more tenured executives.
Organizational communication was “top down”, focused upon satisfying employment profiles. These programs only proved that the business could hire a more diverse group of employees.
Then came Inclusion
As modern workforces appeared, thoughts and language surrounding diversity management changed. Inclusion came into the mix. With inclusion added, diversity management’s goals moved from equal opportunity, fair treatment, and recruitment to operational compliance rooted in the organization’s strategy, markets, processes and structures.
In 2019, workplace diversity is more important than ever since it was first identified as a proven asset for business’ profitability. Current research shows it adding measurable value to the bottom line when it teamed with “inclusion” as a key human resource strategy.
Workforces that are both diverse and inclusive can power a business to become more successful, more effective and more profitable.
Inclusive employee diversity programs actively engage the entire company to make every individual feel that they are valuable and contributing successfully. In turn, businesses with successful diversity and inclusion programs incorporate all employees’ perceptions regarding
- the value placed on efforts promoting diversity inside the organization, and
- the benefits of the values.
As businesses begin measuring employee perceptions of business processes, policies and practices from a wide range of individual perspectives, three key indicators of positive inclusion emerged;
- the degree of influence that employees felt they had over decisions that affect them at work,
- the degree to which employees were kept well informed about the company’s business strategies and goals, and
- the likelihood that employees will retain their jobs. Inclusive diversity creates climates of equality where employee perceptions of the relationship between organizational excellence and recruitment/retention practices of women, ethnic minorities, transgender individuals, (including qualifications, performance, and access to resources and rewards) are available and comparable for everyone.
Inclusion focuses on removing obstacles to full participation and contributions of every employee in an organization. Inclusion places value on diversity of thought and life experiences – characteristics that are often overlooked by diversity alone.
Diversity and inclusion programs together, benefit modern businesses in many ways. They
- Create a more enjoyable work environment
- Allow businesses access to greater ranges of talent, skills and perspectives
- Provide insights into customer actions and client behaviors
- Increase employee engagement by giving everyone specifically what they need to succeed
- Build winning teams when diversity and inclusion programs are tied to the Company’s vision for the future with clear strategy and equal opportunities
- Empower people to bring their full potential into their job
- Increase top talent acquisition
- Enhance market performance and financial results
Cornerstone International Group is founded upon the dual principals of diversity and inclusion. We are an international group of independent business owners who are equal partners engaged together in an organization dedicated to improving our clients’ executive search experiences everywhere in the world.
To read more about Cornerstone’s effective diversity and inclusion strategies, see “Putting More Women in the Boardroom”.