I'm Tired of Hearing About #Diversity. How Do We Move On?

Originally posted on Linked In

The Silicon Valley tech giants have a diversity problem and so does the Oscars. Universities and colleges nation wide are struggling with diversity as well, right along with many corporate companies, small businesses, and non-profits. Clearly everyone has a diversity problem, right?

Maybe it is my LinkedIn algorithm feeding me content it thinks I would like, but it appears that the discussion of diversity is everywhere.  Given the state of the socio-climate, especially here in the United States, it makes sense why we are talking more about diversity, regardless of the fact that the discussion is almost half a century old.  Well, I am tired of hearing about it!  

Let me rephrase that.

I am not tired of hearing about diversity, but I am tired of hearing about the direction, noncreative solutions, and the surface level attempts to fix diversity within various enterprise systems.   

One of the biggest #marketingtrends to watch for in 2016 will be diversity. Yes, I referred to diversity as a marketing trend and I must emphasize the trend aspect. Trends come and go, and right now, diversity is on trend in corporate circles. Look at the overwhelming amount of companies all of the sudden hiring Chief Diversity Officers and emphasis on recruiting more diverse candidates.  It is the same thing as focusing on virtual reality, wearable tech, electric cars, and generic branding videos.

Understanding that marketing takes on a tactical approach to solve a problem, there is no wonder why many companies are failing and will continue to fail with diversity. Simply put, they are not thinking in terms of creative strategy and instead the issue head on.

The lack of diversity is the symptom to a greater issue. You cannot fix the symptom unless you address the cause first.  

The conversation about diversity is loud, but there are only whispers about inclusion and more importantly cultural competence.  

For these reasons, many organizations are struggling with their diversity initiatives and efforts, even when a Chief Diversity Officer is in place.

How do we move on?

Many say that solving diversity issues is a convoluted process, but I choose to think differently.  If you want to move on from diversity issues, you have to think beyond diversity. 

Cultural competency emphasizes the idea of effectively operating in different cultural context and altering established practices and behaviors to reach different cultural groups. 

Building an organizational culture that understands how and why cultural competence impacts the business is how you move beyond diversity. You can have a diverse company, but without an inclusive culture it is meaningless. You cannot have an inclusive culture if your company does not understand cultural competence. Diversity and inclusion are both products of cultural competence.

Focusing on diversity, but not putting the same amount of energy towards strategically and systemically shifting the culture results in failed attempts or at best, very slow progress (cough... most companies nation wide...cough).

Ad-hoc initiatives such as contributing money towards STEM organizations, little girls, the urban core, and HBCU's are great, but if you are not focusing on your internal culture at a deeper level beyond diversity recruitment, then your organization is not investing wisely for the future. 

The first step towards cultural competence starts with senior leadership. They must commit the time, real financial resources, and make it a corporate priority to reshape the organizational culture. It's the same concept for any other growth opportunity and initiative such as product development or innovation.

Increasing diversity is not the greatest challenge-- fully integrating, fully engaging, and fully empowering people from diverse backgrounds is. The best way to approach that is through cultural competence and allowing it to guide a new culture, improved systems, inclusive brand and business objectives.  That is how we move on and beyond diversity.

If you are interested in going beyond diversity, lets talk!

Louis Byrd