Diversity and embracing each other’s differences is already an important conversation and focus for many organizations, and it is only going to become more so in the coming years as Generation Z starts to make up the employee base. This next generation will be the most diverse and inclusive generation of workers ever—completely comfortable and accepting of different viewpoints, orientations, and backgrounds.
We are already seeing companies take steps towards being more inclusive and accepting of others, but it has to go well beyond just the required annual training event. Companies must understand that you cannot train someone to be less biased. People are inherently biased as a result of cultural cues and messages received throughout their lifetime. These biases affect their interactions and decision-making. Diversity training programs have suddenly become the “training de jour” as a way to provide companies with a quick way to tick the box on their diversity responsibilities. The reality is that all this training and investment are not working because most people do not think of themselves as being biased, and most organizations are not willing to do more. Let’s consider what else a manager and company can do.
Start at the Top: The senior management team must take the lead in creating a collective mindset or culture that respects and embraces differences. Senior executives must stop excluding themselves from the diversity discussion (or training) by making diversity just about frontline employees. While bias from senior leadership may not be as blatant as the recent example from the founder of Papa John’s, all leaders must realize that their words and actions set the tone when it comes to culture. Senior managers can lead by example by being humble enough to admit that bias exists in everyone, including them. Once managers can identify and analyze their internal biases, then they can address them accordingly.
Enrich Your Hiring Practices: Embracing differences is most easily shown in your hiring practices. Research confirms that a more diverse team leads to better results and, at the very least, better decision-making due to the variety of viewpoints being considered. Creating a more diverse workforce is a good thing. By recruiting from a variety of communities and socio-economic backgrounds, you open yourself up to a wider group of candidates and possibilities.
Today’s managers are more focused on technical skills and experience during the hiring process than finding the person who best fits the company. Remember, you can teach most skills, but you cannot teach personality. I know I am repeating myself, but the next generation of workers is going to be the most diverse ever, so when it comes to selection, you may not have a choice. Companies who do not adapt to attracting and selecting diverse employees will be at a significant disadvantage. In addition to casting a wider recruiting net, consider how your interview and selection process can evolve. Some ideas include using objective interview questions and scorecards, implementing a diverse panel of interviewers, and including more minority applicants in your final pool of candidates.
Host Meaningful Conversations: Instead of offering the required annual training event on diversity, get employees involved in making diversity a regular topic of conversation and consideration. If you are going to have a diversity training event, rather than delivering a lecture, make the focus of the event on how to be more open-minded and considerate of others. By bringing employees and managers from different backgrounds, orientations, and race together to talk and listen to each other, you create the best possible opportunity for shifting perspectives and opening up minds.
Celebrate Differences: Managers can have an immediate impact by celebrating the differences of their team. When managers respect and recognize the different talents, perspectives, and ideas that their employees showcase each day, then an inclusive work environment becomes a reality. All employees want to be seen at their best, so when managers spend time with their employees, recognizing their strengths and abilities even beyond the work they do each day, it makes a difference. Celebrating each other’s differences is a significant step in creating a work environment that accepts and supports diversity.
Thanks for taking the time to read my latest thoughts on workplace culture. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my book, Culture Hacker, to learn more about how you can reprogram your employee experience. Let’s talk at firstname.lastname@example.org.