Organizations can intentionally hire more diverse employees but just hiring people doesn’t mean they will be included. In fact, the reality is that most of us are more comfortable interacting with people who are more like us. Given that most people are good-hearted and well-intentioned – and don’t want to say or do something that is offensive – exclusion (at times unintended) becomes the default. Being polite and courteous to others is nice – but that isn’t inclusion either.
The Wrong Assumption: Diversity is the End Goal
For decades, well-meaning organizations have been trying to hire people from under-represented groups. Literally, more than 50 years after Affirmative Action got this party started, most organizations are still trying to get the numbers right.
Let’s be honest. For the first decade, many organizations made mistakes in how they implemented Affirmative Action. The vast majority had no idea how to make it work after they hired someone from an under-represented group. They didn’t prepare their work-environment and existing workforce prior to hiring people from diverse backgrounds. Most managers were afraid that if they gave candid feedback to a woman or person of color, they would be viewed as racist or sexist.
That left the newcomers without the meaningful performance feedback that all new hires need. They got performance appraisals that said they were meeting or maybe exceeding performance expectations – when they really weren’t. Their peers recognized that their performance was falling short, and when management didn’t address that, they perceived that these new hires were getting special treatment and they resented it.
Women and people of color felt excluded and recognized that they weren’t being developed like others, so they left to go to another organization because the grass always looks greener somewhere else. This revolving door is still the primary reason why organizations are still trying to get the numbers right. If organizations calculate how much turnover is costing them, they are more motivated to stop the revolving door.
Diversity Training Can’t be a “One and Done”
Training has been the number one, and sometimes only solution that has been implemented in order to address some of the challenges of effectively integrating people from diverse backgrounds. In the early decades, there was a lot of diversity training being done, and some of it was bizarre at best. But even when it has been extremely well done and well received, training alone is simply insufficient to create and sustain meaningful change.
It’s About the Culture
Organizational cultures aren’t changed in a day and they’re not easily changed. Senior leaders need to understand the Business Case for increasing diversity in their organization. Just saying “We need to reflect our diverse customers” isn’t enough. Executives are responsible for making sound financial decisions on where to invest their human and financial resources to get the best return on their investment. A strong Business Case reflects what ineffectiveness is costing the organization as well as the bottom-line opportunities that aren’t being leveraged.
They need to be trained on how to be an inclusive leader and how to hold their managers accountable for creating an inclusive culture that allows every employee to contribute to their fullest potential. Similarly, managers need to learn how to build an inclusive, high-performing team.
If you’re ready to discover the true costs of a non-inclusive work culture, and how to create and sustain meaningful change in your organization, contact Pope Consulting today. Our team of industry-leading diversity and inclusion consultants have the experience needed to start the conversation toward true change. For more than 40 years, our team has been working tirelessly toward the goal of eliminating barriers to inclusion so individuals, organizations, and communities can thrive.