Diversity and Inclusion – What Does it All Mean? Why Does It Matter To Your Organization?
ver the past three years we have seen a drastic push towards diversity, inclusion, and belongingness in the workplace. Perhaps social movements such as #blacklivesmatter and #metoo has encouraged organizations to re-think their recruiting structures, promotional systems, and assess gaps in their processes to be fair and equitable in relation to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. While the BLM and #metoo movements have really helped to expose these gaps, organizations have been forced to internally analyze why there is a gap. Looking at the metrics of hiring practices, where and how human resources (HR) recruits is essential to seeing why companies are seeking the same types of people for certain jobs. It is also important to note that managers are seeking people who are just like them. While this has very little to do with race, there is a reluctance of change. Managers are people just like you and I. They fear change as many people do. Therefore, subconsciously managers do fall back into their habits, some are consciously done, others are unconscious. This is not an excuse as managers who may have a bias against race or gender for a specific type of role is a very clear issue.
In the higher ed sector, the issues are very similar. While universities are attempting to hire individuals of different backgrounds, they have to be mindful not to leave out any race, gender, or ethnicities. In a recent case, Yale was turning down Asian Americans to make space for African American students. This is not good considering Yale could have balanced out their recruitment efforts across all ethnicities. What is the issue here? Let’s think about which minority group took a hit in acceptance of the program at the expense of another.
While the BLM and #metoo movements have really helped to expose these gaps, organizations have been forced to internally analyze why there is a gap.
Top 3 Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in Your Organization
Some of the most unique benefits of having a diverse workforce is hiring individuals who bring new talent and efficiencies.
#1 Education & Multiculturalism
Recruiting individuals with a strong background and experience in multicultural settings brings to the organization an array of skills, experiences, and innovation. New thoughts and ideas can easily assist in building a team of individuals who have the “it” factor. These are your rock stars and superstars who can work efficiently under last minute deadlines, and can think quickly on their feet. Their knowledge and skills are transferable for different projects. A multicultural perspective brings to each organization’s mission value. The value – new ways of thinking to adjust to remote working permanently. A new way of thinking that is efficient, effective, and productive. Multiculturalism brings forward shared understanding, patience, tolerance, and connects people to systems through soft skills such as empathy, active listening, and cooperation. A multicultural workforce helps to curtail conscious biases (actions) and bring to the surface unconscious biases (thoughts).
#2 Curtail Conscious Biases & Unconscious Biases
In the workplace, when individuals speak of cultural foods, arts, books, and work experiences in other countries, most people from the bottom up are genuinely interested and want to learn about it. A diverse workforce brings forward loyalty, achievements, purpose, and low turnover. They take pride in their work. The work they do becomes their identity as they are brought up this way with their cultural norms. There are many benefits for having a diverse workforce, including taking the organization to another level.
Do you know companies who are seeking to advance their artificial intelligence and data analytics actually recruit from southern India? American contracting companies are seeking talent in Chennai, India to recruit individuals who are able to develop Artificial Intelligence algorithms. In speaking with contracting companies, they find this type of talent does not exist in the United States. Rather, the diet of individuals that is specific to local Indians in Chennai has helped to develop brain cells that allow such systems to be innovated. What can we do better at home? Perhaps invest in trainings and skill development as an investment into the workforce. After all, it is challenging to find and recruit top talent. With such investments, there will be a decrease in turnover and an increase in loyalty to the organization. Your employees will remain with your organization for a very long time!
#3 Accountability: Walking the Talk – HR, you can help!
What can HR professionals do to foster Diversity & Inclusion within their organization?
They can start by being accountable. There should be no tolerance for discrimination and this begins with human resources creating anti-discrimination policies and enforcing them. More often than not, managers are given a free pass when they make racist remarks. When a subordinate speaks up, they are reprimanded with a letter that hits their files. In a recent case that I worked with, a manager who the agency had a consistent issue, called an Indian employee, a “terrorist”. She referred to her as a terrorist over and over again due to her skin color and heritage. When the subordinate complained to HR, which took a lot of courage, HR asked her to produce proof. The individual was not lying as this manager had a known history of referring to people from India and the Middle East as terrorists. HR failed to realize that women of Indian descent rarely speak up. When they do it is because they have hit the last straw. Having no knowledge of multiculturalism, HR acknowledged this may be an issue, but asked the subordinate to go back to her desk and keep doing her job if she wanted to remain employed.
HR failed on several accounts. With multiple complaints from individuals and racist slurs made against another minority group should have been grounds for removal. But this was not the case. HR chose to look the other way as this manager had technical experience, they needed to get the job done.
Also, HR professionals can make the workforce more personable by partnering up with an organizational ombudsman. An organizational ombudsman not only mitigates conflicts that fall in gray areas, they also build long term relationships. Their goal is to increase morale, which a skilled ombudsman will do and bridge connection with cooperation that sustain healthy teams. Dr. Bina Patel dealt with healing a divided workforce during the riots in Charlottesville in 2016. There were people from both sides, bringing in their racist views into the workforce. Dr. Patel educated the workforce on multiculturalism, using real life events, applying emotional intelligence, and building in accountability factors into the performance evaluations of the workforce, specifically senior leaders to ensure there was change. She helped to restore trust in the organization, while ensuring bad actors were held accountable.
HR Experts- What Can You Learn From the Mistakes of Other Companies?
HR experts have to educate the function of HR explicitly and often. The biggest misconception is that HR is for the people. Not true. The function is designed to protect senior leaders and the organization, not employees. HR should partner with an organizational ombudsman, who can bring the ‘people togetherness’ factor to build a solid identity of the organization that is visible to external and internal stakeholders. It is vital for HR to remain true to its function, hire and recruit outside of their norm, while partnering with an ombuds. I also believe HR can hire a third party to resolve issues and not attempt to do it themselves. HR professionals by function design are not neutral. Their desire to mitigate issues is indicative of a power imbalance to people of lower status. Partnering with a third-party neutral such as Dr. Bina Patel is the most effective way to retain top talent, increase morale, and keep a productive workforce.