The world is replete with people who delight in the differences that complete us. They see little splendor in homogeneity and groupthink. I have often been on the side of equality. Rooting for those who are ostracized because of thinking, gender or race. Despite living in a time where we can see every reason to celebrate why then do we fixate on the differences as though they are offenses rather than reasons to celebrate.
Diversity has been in the news considerably. When we constantly make our insecurities, prejudicial behaviors justified by our smallness it can be annoying. Because frankly, none of us are in this alone. How would any of us feel being the one spoken of in whispered tones while openly exulting our friendship?
A client following our training was motivated to create a diversity program expected to reflect organizational mandates while maximizing the unique contributions of the entire employee population. The goal was to demonstrate workplace benefits of diversity beyond what some see as an unmanageable feel-good message beckoning, “Why can’t we all just get along.”
The program’s goals were to ultimately improve the bottom- line by increasing profits. The way to get there was to build trust through employees who in turn would have better engagement leading to team and individual effectiveness. Goals included productivity and turning customer concerns into real relationships that created sustainable competitive advantages. Valuing employees would begin at the top by example.
Thus, turning the oft-used phrase “Our employees are our greatest asset,” into the new workplace culture.
One of the problems was the belief that such change must take a long time to see results. This belief became the prevailing culture. We asked the customer to imagine they were on the other end as a dissociated employee or customer who is compelled to wait years to get it right. Then confirm what was wrong to get it right again. With leadership and employee changes this would in effect “Never become accomplished.” Moreover, since more than 70% of change programs fail one could either obtain buy-in or use the stick and carrot approach.
We suggested the customer take the program beyond Affirmative Action initiatives. Diversity is more than race or gender. It is the distillation of ideas, a divorced man or woman who now has a poor credit rating because of job loss, a person coming back into the job market after a long absence, young and more mature working together, language barriers, a “good old boys” network growing sub rosa. Even prevailing groupthink where alternative viewpoints are suspended as non-team player like.
How much time is needed?
How much time do you need for management to build trust? How long will it take you to discuss people more than numbers? How much time does it take to catch people doing something right?