There is no shortage of negative stories circulating today’s business, mainstream, and social media on the topic of diversity, particularly, the Tech industry’s failure to address their diversity challenge in a meaningful way to deliver desired change and outcomes. The thing that I find most startling is that every senior leader I have spoken with understands the absolute value and benefit of creating a diverse organization, and the need to harness the potential and power of diversity. After all, it is a no-brainer given the potential upside on multiple dimensions of organizational performance, including operations, innovation, collaboration, and superior performance and outcomes. Equally as important, that potential upside has proven to be measurably significant. What is more baffling, is that leaders across the C-Suite understand the value of delivering diversity in their organization, so why are they still struggling to address the diversity challenge?
Every new story relating to “the diversity challenge” that surfaces daily on mainstream or social media is a call to arms and adds to the sense of urgency “to do something.” Unfortunately, that “something” is usually falling back on mostly ineffective remedies, and more than likely will continue to be weak. These remedies typically extend to diversity training workshops or cultural sensitivity workshops. Employees sit through these workshops because they have to, and so it becomes little more than a “check-the-box-exercise.” Moreover, for senior leadership, it is their public statement of intent that “something is being done.” However, the impact is minimal at best. If these remedies worked, we would not continue to see the endless stream of stories being shared by people who feel they are victims in workplaces that have been unable to address the diversity challenge robustly.
A fundamental issue is that organizations tend to have a rather narrow definition of diversity, usually extending to race, gender, and nationality. Diversity is so much broader; we must include differences in beliefs, values, ethnicity, culture, physical and mental disabilities, communication styles, language, and of course, the generational gap. Any remedy is doomed to fail if you start with a very narrow definition of the challenge, or an incomplete hypothesis, solutions developed will not address the underlying root cause. A common observation over the years is that many senior leaders are more often than not, afraid to risk creating genuinely diverse teams. Why? For the sake of expediency. After all, as teams go through the forming, storming, norming, and performing stages, true diversity will add an element of stress to the process, and more than likely add to the timeline required to deliver the teams objectives. However, the one thing we can be sure of is that when genuinely diverse teams finally get to the performing stage of the process, the results are likely to be significantly better, if not spectacular!
In the words of Henry Ford, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” In today’s fast-paced ultra-competitive environment, surely no one can be satisfied with what they “have always got?”
In our drive to veer away from “what we always got,” we began to see the challenge with a different mindset. Working with leaders to address this challenge, we decided to deploy a very different approach to enable organizations to create workplaces that can genuinely be more diverse; and in the process, unleash the real power of diversity and Turn Organizational Potential Into Reality. The outcomes led to significant improvements in productivity and morale, both tangible and intangible. The answer lay not in how many people we can put through Diversity Training/Awareness Workshops, but changing how people, and especially leaders, see the workplace, and everyone’s role, place, and contribution to that workplace. We found that Senior to Front-Line Leadership, Engagement, Alignment, and Development is the foundation of real, sustainable change. So helping those leaders see the gaps not only in their leadership style that hindered the creation of diverse workplace environments, but also helping them address the very same challenges in a non-traditional, non-confrontational way.
We believe that our LEAD (Leadership Engagement, Alignment, and Development) approach can help organizations address the significantly divisive issue of diversity, delivering an organizational culture with a clear set of values, highly collaborative, a great place to work, and delivering top quartile performance.