Diversity: We want difference but we don't want to do things differently. (Pt.1)

We want difference but we don’t want to do things differently
— Vernā Myers

Knock, knock...that's me knocking on whatever screen you are reading this from. You see the baby's face in the header image? When the topic of diversity comes up and it's time to talk solutions, that my friend, is the face I make when I hear the same ole bull-manure.

BREAKING NEWS! THIS JUST IN! Another company has made the commitment to diversity by focusing mostly on women, where the scales are tilted predominately towards white women...though not on purpose.  Mandatory unconscious bias training has been announced and increased recruiting from 2 to 3 of the 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in an effort to improve diversity!

Wait...there's more...they are also moving the diversity statement to the homepage of the company website where there's a banner image of an attractive, ethnically diverse person smiling and the text copy will confirm the corporation's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and diversity of thought.

Are you hearing this? The company will now translate all recruitment material to Spanish only (without acknowledging the difference in cultural nuances amongst Hispanic and Latinx people), is adding a token person of color to the board of directors, AND DONATING A GAGILLION DOLLARS TO PUPPIES THAT CAN CODE!!!!!! This is astonishing news!

Press release upon press release. Article after article. Diversity pledge following diversity pledge. We find ourselves looking at and celebrating the same initiatives that have failed and are not working, yet everyone keeps applying them to their business and company culture hoping it will miraculously change their company demographics---fostering an inclusive workplace.

I used to drink the same diversity juice and from time to time may occasionally have a sip from the chalice but I am no longer drunk on failing approaches.

It's not working. The "it" in this case is diversity.

Well, diversity works, but the manner in which companies are approaching to increase diversity is not.

How many times have we heard executive leaders say, "We are committed to diversity, and we are doing X,Y, and the third, but we still have a long way to go."? How many Chief Diversity Officers continue to throw "the talent pipeline" under the bus versus them taking ownership of dropping the ball by not finding innovative ways to solve the problem? How many CEO's will speak up and pledge change, but don't allocate proper funding to support diversity efforts and aren't willing to try something different?

Maybe I am bitter because I have spent the past year pushing for a different way to solve this half a century old problem, but I am finding out that most people, by and large, don't want to do things differently. 

Here are a two diversity initiatives that are failing


Same: Finding and attracting the best talent is the lifeblood of any company. Diversity recruitment has become a key priority for many organizations that are looking toward's the future.  Companies are spending millions to find qualified candidates from underrepresented groups. They are also investing in new systems, enterprise apps that focus on blind recruiting and working with companies that specialize in finding and/or developing candidates from diverse background to prepare them for success in the workplace. Yet, we haven't seen much change in diversity numbers in many organizations.

The priority is wrong. Instead of putting all the emphasis in diversity recruitment, investment should be made in cultural competence.

*Cultural competence is the individual and organizational ability to have and utilize policies, appropriately trained and skilled employees and specialized resources to systemically anticipate, recognize, and respond to the varying expectations of clients, customers, and co-workers of diverse backgrounds.

Different: Many companies are so caught up on focusing on recruitment--- they are not taking the time to understand inclusion and furthermore cultural competence. 

Over 4,000 years ago the Egyptians in Giza figured out how to build structure(s) that are now considered one of the seven wonders of the world. With its wide base, the Great Pyramid of Giza still stands in marvel to this day. If we think of building a diverse workplace in the same fashion, it too can last. 

I equate diversity to the peak of a pyramid because it is what everyone can see from a distance. Clearly, that is what most people focus on. The middle portion of the pyramid is inclusion---serving as the support for diversity. The base of the pyramid, which is the widest, most structurally sound, that is cultural competence which diversity and inclusion are built on. Before you can have a monumental pyramid, you have to build the platform first. 


Very few companies talk about cultural competence as part of their strategic approach to increasing diversity and those that do completely miss how to incorporate it into their organization and day-to-day business.

I've spoken with many people from underrepresented groups that work at companies voted "best place to work" or companies that are changing the way we live as a society---organizations you'd think are the perfect place for a career. These employees are often not motivated, frequently looking for new opportunities because they feel like there is no room for upward mobility within the organization. All of this negatively impacts productivity, employee morale,  and eventually finds it way to impacting the bottom line. 

You can have the most diverse company or candidate pool, but if your company culture is not inclusive, empowering, or engaging people from diverse backgrounds---then you are wasting your money in recruitment. Your only solution is to understand how cultural competence can positively impact your business.

Unconscious Bias Training

Same: People, in general, despise work training--- but when it is mandatory they really hate it. Regardless of all the research that suggest that mandated training is ineffective, companies still subject their employee's, mostly managers, to it. The Untied States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently mandated implicit bias training for its agents and while I believe the sentiment is just (pun intended), it is the wrong approach.

I am a huge proponent of unconscious bias training and it certainly has merit, but do you honestly believe that a two-hour training twice a year is going to completely rewire the mind of a 30-something-year-old person?

Bias training is great for short term impact, but that is all it is---a short term solution to a person's psyche. The individual has to be willing to change and yes, maybe a bias training can spark that willingness, but without constant ongoing work at understanding implicit biases, the unconscious mind, and how it plays into everyday decisions--- organized training is not going to have major impact.

Different: A better solution is taking a systemic approach and really working on ways to remove bias from within the systems of the company.

Blind recruitment is a great way to mitigate bias systemically during recruitment, but what happens when the person arrives for the interview or if they are hired? Are you including a diverse group of people for the interviewee to interview with? Do you pre-issue questions to candidates, helping introverts and people from other cultures become prepared for the interview? You may loose quick thinking, but you gain a good answer, bypassing any bias on the interviewer's end.

In text copy that is used throughout your company whether on a website, print collateral, or advertisement---are you certain that the language used is inclusive to all or is it too masculine, feminine, or alienates certain cultures?

These are things you can systematically focus on to mitigate bias beyond focusing on and mandating training.  Changing systems and practices is more challenging versus hiring a trainer to come in for a few sessions, therefore most organizations resort to the latter.

These are the two main culprits of failed diversity initiatives. Later this week I will give you my thoughts on Gender/Race non-parity, Employee Resource Groups (ERG's), Supplier Diversity programs, and an overall better way to approach diversity that brings real results.

While nothing I said here is completely profound, I do believe that these simple solutions can help get past the current diversity paradigm and manifest into something new and superior. If we want different, we have to be willing to do things differently.It's time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, that is the only way change is going to happen.