How Getting Diversity Wrong Will Kill Your Enterprise

yinyangI’ve been working on a Good to Great parallel case-study, focused on Bay Area modern day companies. Of the many the many lessons to highlight, none of them shockingly new by the way, diversity & the implementation process was a critical one that surfaced often.

This shouldn’t surprise us, we see it in so many aspects of our own day-to-day lives. It’s not only the element of diversity itself that’s important for nurturing boundless growth & opportunity, but rather how it’s implemented that’s going to be the key driver for success.

Simply pushing diversity as a topic of agenda without a well thought through integration process will actually do more harm than good. Companies, just like all societies, in order to be highly productive need the right yin & yang.

Diversity

The full definition from Merriam Webster states (1) the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety; especially : the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization <programs intended to promote diversity in schools> & (2) an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities : an instance of being diverse <a diversity of opinion>

From the HBR article Diversity Is Useless Without Inclusivity, “while many organizations are better about creating diversity, many have not yet figured out how to make the environment inclusive—that is, create an atmosphere in which all people feel valued and respected and have access to the same opportunities” is the key phrase in regards to integration. While the article addresses diversity in the context of race & sex, I’d like to address it in the context of personalities & skill sets.

People gravitate toward people like them

When you begin a program of expanding diversity, how are you integrating new and or different skill sets & personality types into the existing fabric in your company? If you’re a tech startup you most likely have a high number of introverted (in the traditional sense) personalities as compared to extraverted. The fact that everyone has a similar personality has up until now diminished their natural introverted state when compared to a more diverse group.

Subtle biases persist,  leading to exclusion & employees from the majority group put up resistance

Now your company has grown & you need to bring in more extroverted personalities, such as sales & marketing roles. If not integrated properly, like oil & water, the two will naturally resist each other & become antagonistic (toxic company culture). The practical end result are the company silos we tend to find between engineering, product, marketing, sales, finance and customer success, just to name a few. This is one of the biggest contributors that keeps company from reaching the high level of performance it’s capable of.

Out-group employees sometimes try to conform

As with any change process, early, frequent & transparent communication is critical to success. Start with the end-game in-mind. What does success look like? Why do we need to diverse? Focus as much on the emotional conversation as you do on the logical one. This is going to start breaking down the barriers of resistance, and with this you will identify your champions of change. Those anchors that you can rely on to create a multiplying influencer effect that will accelerate change.

Doers vs Thinkers

As a company grows, the ratio of Doers vs. Thinkers needs to diminish appropriately. While this is a general rule of thumb, the same ratio does not apply across the board. And again, early, frequent & transparent communication will accelerate this integration. Each skillset & personality type will find their own place for contribution, increasing their feeling of self worth and inclusion.

While I’ve laid out some very basic fundamentals in this post, it’s alarming how many organizations don’t put enough thought into this process. It’s always more important to favor on the side of caution than speed when integrating diversity. The line is both fine and huge between creating & integrating diversity in the workforce, as it is in society in general.

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