Earlier this year I was listening to a speaker talk about diversity programming. He said that in today’s world we have to toss all the ideas of diversity out the window and start from scratch. He proceeded to share a complex vision of what diversity programming in today’s organizational world should look like. The digital world is changing peoples values and preferences, and the workplace is becoming increasingly heterogeneous. How wrong this speaker was.
Diversity and inclusion always was and always will be about creating respect for all people. It is about valuing divergent ideas and thoughts. It is about the inclusion of divergent people and ideas as necessary to the very fabric and foundation of the organization. It is about creating a culture where all people are held accountable for behaviors that allow everyone to feel safe being oneself.
And, diversity programming is no longer just about those traditional things such as ethnic, gender, religion, race, etc. Diversity programming must also include respect, inclusion, and understanding of generational preferences and values. Without understanding of these divergent preferences and values, managers will spend a great deal of time managing intergenerational conflict instead of inspiring teams to arrive at results.
When true diversity and inclusion exists, your team members feel safe to share and collaborate—the first steps in creating a learning organization which is self-perpetuating. A learning organization is a continuous spiral of process improvement and innovation. You can more easily maximize peoples’ potential and create team energy.
Employee satisfaction improves. Employee satisfaction is a direct link to customer experience and revenues. In today’s service intensive world, every transaction and interaction has to do with customer service—customer experience.
An organization that has a culture of diversity and inclusion is able to tap into team members’ divergent thoughts, values and preferences with the understanding that “collectively” this diversity creates organizational strength. True diversity and inclusion creates a competitive differentiator for any organization.
Diversity and inclusion is NOT espoused programming and words on a wall. It is a culture, a living breathing way of life and way of doing business. Before any organization can create diversity and inclusion, the right culture must come first. If the culture does not support and hold people accountable to certain behaviors, then you do NOT have a culture of diversity and inclusion. You have only espoused programming and words on a wall that is nearly meaningless.
I point to one of my favorite quotes—author unknown: “We don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand.”
Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Hatley
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