Diversity is not a compliance policy. Diversity is not about tolerance, or sensitivity, or special treatment, or filling out a form regarding the gender and ethnicity of an organization’s workforce. And diversity in the workplace is not merely a brute fact of our national culture and economy; a rising tide which will either lift us or overwhelm us.
For those companies that have created inclusive cultures, it has becoming a key advantage in their competitiveness, their creativity, and their success as business and social enterprises. The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Just being exposed to diversity can change the way you problem solve.
This is not just wishful thinking: it is the conclusion of decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers.
As such, our tendency to focus on diversity as a compliance issue has distracted many organizations from understanding that hiring for inclusion is not merely checking off boxes of race, ethnicity or gender. It is looking for those people who are, themselves, prepared to actively participate in “an inclusion culture.” We can now look more deeply into the preferences and behaviors that allow us to combat unconscious bias in the workplace and focus on those traits that take full advantage of a diverse workforce.
New technologies and assessment tools allow us to evaluate those preferences and behaviors that make for an inclusion culture. Examples include:
- Flexibility – The ability to react promptly and with agility, and adapt to different changes, personalities and working styles.
- Managing Generations – A flexible management style that adapts to generational differences, enabling inter-generational collaboration that motivates and increases the efficiency of the team.
- Connection to Others – The capacity to easily relate to people, to be motivated by a feeling of belonging to a group and create, maintain and value interpersonal relationships.
- Positive Thinking – The capacity to assess and interpret a situation in an optimistic, confident manner, to identify the advantages or benefits of a situation and expect positive results.
- Engagement – The tendency to exert maximum effort on a daily basis, to be dedicated to the goals and values of the organization, to be motivated in contributing to its success, demonstrating high morale.
- Personal Growth – The desire to constantly seek development opportunities, be preoccupied with giving and receiving feedback and continual learning.
- Cooperation – The tendency to establish close social relationships based on trust, empathy and mutual support.
- Team Work – Full participation in team effort and providing support to others in pursuit of organizational goals. Encourages the creation of work relationships between co-workers and shows generosity in information sharing.
All these dimensions (and more) can be measured and assessed even before new employees and managers are hired and promoted; contributing to the real value of an inclusive workplace culture. We can in this way build these cultures organically, from our people out, rather than trying to impose them from the top down or from the outside in.