First it was Michael Sam. Then it was Jason Collins.
It had been rumored. I mean…gasp…could there be homosexuals playing professional sports?
Given the macho, meathead stereotype of mainstream American sports – there couldn’t be an openly gay player, right?
Well – guess what? There can apparently.
Why is this such a big deal?
Well, the obvious is…it’s never happened before. So of course it’s news.
The less obvious point here is…society doesn’t associate an openly gay man with professional sports in America – they couldn’t possibly fit into the stereotypical “macho”, “meathead” sports culture. But…because of Sam and Collins, mainstream American sports are now forever changed.
What does this have to do with business?
Why does diversity matter in the workplace? In case you didn’t know – professional sports is also a lucrative, for-profit business. It wasn’t that long ago – and to some extent the discrepancy still exists today – that women couldn’t hold high-level positions within a company. Successful businesses are becoming more inclusive. Just look at GM with the hiring of the first female CEO in their history. Times they are a changing – and for the better.
It wasn’t that long ago that…society didn’t associate a woman as being tough enough to run a fortune 500 company.
Well – guess what (in case you didn’t already know?) They can apparently.
The point of all of this is…it’s time to value diversity – it matters to the bottom line! Diversity brings different points of view to the table. It brings new sets of ideas, strategies, and new ways of thinking – it increases innovation, engagement, performance, and revenues.
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” - Stephen R. Covey
So – How do you create a culture that values diversity and inclusion?
- Policies: Creating an organization that embraces diversity requires leaders and employees to create diversity policies that are incorporated into every aspect of the organization’s functions — and connect these policies and goals directly to corporate strategy and performance management. Diversity needs to be defined within the scope of the businesses strategy and mission, and in order to succeed should be fully aligned with the organization’s objectives. Policies and initiatives shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach and should meet the diverse and changing needs of employees and customers.
- Recruitment: Having a diverse workforce begins with recruiting diverse talent. Organizations with successful talent acquisition and talent management approaches target diverse talent via multiple strategies — not a one size fits all approach. Businesses that truly value building a diverse workforce are involved in community development and corporate citizenship opportunities, have partnerships with diverse organizations, train recruiters and talent management employees on the needs and value proposition of different demographics. For global companies different cultures also impact recruitment strategies. For example, the same company with offices in three different countries may have very different priorities on talent acquisition and management from location to location. Cultural norms and geography play a large role in the success of a diverse recruiting and talent strategy. It’s also important to note that recruitment doesn’t stop once candidates are hired, it’s imperative to engage and retain diverse employees.
- Engagement: To successfully create a culture within an organization that embraces diversity — always focus on the people. Your organization can’t exist without people. People make the difference in every business. Once you have diversity strategies and initiatives in place, you need accountable and committed leadership to engage employees in your diversity practices – and get them to engage with one another. Design on-going communication systems to create and reinforce the workplace diversity commitment and practices to all employees with an emphasis on why it is important and what it means to the organization. These communication systems should encourage peer to peer learning and knowledge sharing increasing diversity awareness amongst employees. Additionally, training and empowerment initiatives provide a foundation, for all levels of the organization, to foster the accomplishment of diversity goals. These can include cross cultural mentoring and coaching and employee led learning events. You need to constantly strive to engage your workforce, if you don’t other businesses will, and you will be left with talent gaps.
- Commitment: Leadership commitment is a necessity for creating an organization that embraces diversity. Accountability for achieving diversity goals and objectives needs to be directly tied to incentives and pay increases. The degree to your diversity initiatives will be successful relies on the involvement and commitment of leadership. Organizations which have leaders who are actively involved in implementing diversity initiatives create cultures that embrace diversity by inspiring their employees. Committed leaders champion diversity by infusing it into all organizational processes and ensuring that diversity is integrated into the core values of the organization. They recognize diversity as an important goal, and position the responsibility for meeting diversity goals not merely with human resources departments or diversity offices, but with top-level and senior executives – and themselves. Leaders that are committed to diversity provide the visibility and time and resources to make diversity happen. These leaders view diversity as both a top priority and a personal responsibility.
These are just a few examples of how to create a culture that values diversity and inclusion. For a full list view our checklist: How to Create a Culture that Values Diversity & Inclusion!
Today’s most successful organizations are succeeding because they have created cultures that make employees feel they can bring their full selves to work – employees see their organization values a 100% of who they are – and thus try to perform 100% at their jobs in return.
So yes, the idea of encouraging and embracing diversity in the workforce is extremely important. In the end, companies that are able to adapt to changing demographics, embrace diversity of the individual and diversity of thought, are likely the companies that will thrive in this ever changing competitive world of business.
About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions - an Organizational Development & Strategy firm. He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing people –> performance –> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.
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