From the outside, it seems that the deep-seated cultural and business barriers for diversity and inclusion is a huge rock. This huge rock has been sedimented over years in the belief system of people and has been carried on for generations, with different layers inbuilt. When you scratch one layer, you are encountered with another layer of challenge.
To break this huge rock, we gather different tools (Initiatives, policies, KPI's), Bring in more resources (Employee Resource Groups(ERG’s), Volunteers), Gather force (Leadership involvement) and hit the rock as hard as we can at every angle possible, to realize that the more energy we use, the more resistance we encounter.
But the stone must break someday, as H. Jackson Brown, Jr said: “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance.”
The relentless stream of diversity and inclusion will find its place one day, and with the right set of Leadership, Culture, policies, and most importantly employees; the day will arrive much faster than anticipated.
Business Imperatives: A small dip stick survey into the leadership of top multinationals is sufficient to say, today’s leaders not only understand the usefulness of diversity; but also, thoroughly aware of the opportunity cost of not having diversity in an organizational setup. A good leader knows the financial, cultural and social cost of having/not having a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture within the organization.
Over the years, the layer of “Why Diversity & Inclusion?” seem to have been carved out by the relentless stream and moved to the layers of “What and How of diversity and inclusion?”
Two main layers have come to fore now:
1. Inclusive Mindset
2. Relevant pipeline and Meritocracy
1. Build an Inclusive Mindset:
- Inclusion is no more about the central initiatives of the company. Inclusion is to do with our everyday culture.
- This journey of progressive realization can start with the leaders using a gender-neutral language.
- Messages are to be subtle but plentiful. Two minutes’ mention of the inclusive culture in an employee all hands by the business leader, goes a long way than 2-hour training program on Inclusion.
- Employee resource groups(ERG’s) which work on overall inclusion runs longer and appreciated more than the ERG’s which cater to only specific gender or community.
- Proactive policies and facilities provided by the company help individuals with different sexual orientation come forward with their identity and be comfortable with who they are.
- If inclusion is a culture, then it is of prime importance to see if the culture has percolated to all the businesses of the organization. The game of averages where one business is at 50% diversity while a few others at 10% might not work. As the case with UBER, companies will one day find the loss of reputation at stake if they leave certain business out of this inclusive culture.
2. Build relevant pipeline:
A hiring manager often than not chooses to hire a suitable candidate as soon as possible during an ever-increasing business demand. While it is true that the business managers must be equipped with a mindset to look long term (w.r.t diversity and inclusion), the daily practical challenges for a manager is as much true. “Why let go of something good at hand, in an aspiration to find something I am not sure of?”
Building relevant, specific, proactive and most importantly credible pipeline, both internally and externally becomes important. While the companies have concentrated on building internal women leaders for managerial and different technical positions. A clear gap exists between the generic skills and the specific skills required for the role.
What more, all this must be achieved without faulting on the meritocracy. Inclusive environment means a level playing field with the same rules for everyone. The rules of the game remain the same, while the differences in skills, viewpoints, and abilities are what will create a most innovative culture we finally aspire for.
The End Game: The end game, however, is not to destroy the rock but to ensure that the rock and stream co-exist in complete harmony. The inclusion will happen when Men and Women let go of the race to become the superior gender and start relishing their differences. The inclusion will happen when a Gay or a Lesbian or a transgender can relish their differences without fear or humiliation. The inclusion will happen when disability is not met with scepticism but optimism. The inclusion will happen when each of us embraces the differences which others bring in and respect ourselves for what we are.
In fact, Inclusivity is not achieved by doing something, instead, the day when we find each of us feels comfortable with each other and think “I am ok”, “you are ok”, “We are ok”. The inclusion has happened.
This blog was first published in Digitalistmag.com