Diversity Shi-Mersity - Why Diversity is Failing

Now that the politically incorrect title has caught your attention…let’s talk diversity! While a blog post cannot come close to conveying the reasons behind my sentiments, I will do my best to summarize a few key points. I have had a love affair with Diversity Intelligence work - understanding how employee diversity and inclusion impacts the performance of an organization. 
 
Point #1: Diversity is a Culture Changing Event it is not a Point-in-Time Event. All too often we see people going to “diversity training” in organizations. It’s a sad phenomenon to see because a majority of the participants were mandated to attend, their heart is not into the session, and the materials are typically outdated (there I said it). So the exercise of “diversity training” becomes some perfunctory event that all parties involved have not become any better at the conclusion. Diversity is a culture changing event meaning it requires that all major aspects of an organization make changes (and in some cases significant changes) to operate differently. Trying to change the way in which you do business is not an easy task. Trying to change it at all levels, well that’s just asking for growing pains. Most organizations are not equipped to handle that type of major change at once. Therefore many relegate their “diversity activities” to a public showing of affection – classes, potlucks, and a diversity speaker or two throughout the year. The focus on the people and performance is typically lost in the “diversity busy work” that people engage in. Sound familiar?
 
Point #2: There is No Common Language for Diversity. Companies throw around the word diversity like it is fully understood in the organization. If you poll any organization, you will find that the definition of diversity is as varied as the people who work for the organization. It’s hard to rally the troops to experience a culture changing event when everyone has a different idea of what the finish line looks like. People use diversity to represent “racial fairness”, “having everyone in the room”, and “respecting and including others”. While none of those phrases are necessarily wrong, they become conflicting schools of thought when not everyone is on the same page. Basic lesson on teamwork – get the team to agree on the goal before you start playing the game.
 
Point #3: Most Corporate Structures do not Support a Diversity Change Initiative. Positioning is everything. I find many organizations name a diversity officer by title however do not create the organizational positioning to allow the officer to flourish. Now, it is a two-way street. The Diversity Officer must also be active in creating a position of influence within the organization. How do you do that? Make the organization money! How can you do that? Relate the diversity activities to revenue generating actions.
 
In most organizations Diversity is an Expense, when in fact it can be a Profit Center for the organization. Again I go back to a recurring theme – it’s all about performance. The diversity officer should be an expert in people performance. That’s rarely thought about when hiring for the diversity officer position. Ironically if you look at the ethnicity and gender of the diversity officer role in most companies (that is those that have a dedicated resource), it looks like reverse discrimination has occurred. I scratch my head and ask myself, how this role can consistently be a woman and/or person of color, but the other thousands of positions in a firm struggle to hire in this same way (surely I wasn’t the only person thinking this).
 
Final Point: Diversity boils down to organizational performance and it fails because companies relegate it to actions disconnected from performance – marketing ploys, philanthropic shows of affection, check the box activities for RFPs, etc. Organizations who will be on top in the next 20 years will be those that stayed focused on the real game of diversity at the performance level, not the trendy look of diversity. There is obviously more for me to discuss on this topic…so much more. Stay tuned…
Let me hear your thoughts.
 
BE AMAZING! #ShockTheWorld
--drJ

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