Earlier this month, Chris MacDonald wrote about diversity programs and why they fail. The list of reasons includes breeding resentment toward the marginalized group for causing additional work.
This very realistic (and wholly unintended) consequence is textbook irony. Those attached to an initiative that goes sideways in this manner will exhaust all credibility in affecting future cultural shifts in their organization. This is the danger when efforts are made to solve a “problem” that has yet to be defined and properly contextualized.
Lots of aspirational words drive efforts to change a culture: innovation, efficiency, collaboration, accountability and, of course, diversity. Each of these aspirational (and metaphorical) sticks has a wrong end that is easily grasped. It is well worth taking a step back to ask some critical questions about the current state before launching your program to increase <<insert aspirational noun>>.
If you think your organization has a diversity problem (or, has an opportunity to improve its diversity), go through the exercise of making the case to someone who says to you: “Problem? What problem?”
- In a knowledge-driven industry? Diversity in approach among your staff will drive better insights.
- Afraid of not complying to regulations? Get out in front of this one.
- Embroiled in the war on talent? A focus on diversity might boost your Glassdoor reputation.
- Seeing well-heeled competitors poach your top-talent? Earn loyalty by doing the right thing.
A word of caution:
“The right thing” is in the eye of the beholder. You may run into leaders who feels that, for example, earning loyalty from our employees does not justify the time, energy, dollars, risk, etc. of the investment in your initiative. Such push back may reveal some pervasive cultural attitudes toward employees. As one of those employees, rather than affect the culture, you may rethink your decision to continue working there.