Diversity & Inclusion-To Rise by Lifting Others

Strength lies in differences not similarities – Stephen R Covey

It is interesting how certain words gain prominence in our lives. The word “diversity” is one such word. Ten years ago, it was a different story. But even today, although it has become part of the jargon, not everyone has a common understanding of its meaning.

In the name of diversity organizations are mainly focusing on Gender diversity

Equal opportunities for women and men are emphasized. A lot of initiatives are taken on developing women leadership to reach the boardrooms. Why are such initiatives taken? Simply because the organizations have understood the importance of diversity- It makes the organizations sustainable and successful. It is a key aspect of entrepreneurialism.

We know diversity increases productivity, brings creativity, synergies the work culture, improves retention, leads to higher customer satisfaction and helps organizations succeed. If this is so important then why are we struggling? This is because we may have embraced this word in our work dictionary but have many of us embraced it whole heartedly in our cultures? We still have the generational taboos that somewhere echos it to be completely out of the box and involves higher risk.

Here I would touch upon other important aspects of diversity other than gender diversity that not many work places have yet focused on

1. Generation diversity

Today we have four different generations present in any work force. Baby boomers, GenX, Gen Y or Millennial and Gen Z. Each generation brings its own life stage, communication preferences, priorities, work styles and more. Do we have acceptable ratios of such diverse generation diversity on all levels? Mind it, I said all Levels. Many work places are still loyalty driven than performance.

Managers and leaders who are able to understand, communicate, motivate, train, and retain four or five different generations at the same time excel in their roles. This skill set need not be inborn but it is one that can be developed through learning and practice. Leadership plays a major role in any change hence It’s critical to understand each generation’s wants, needs, and expectations and how organizations engage with each differing group. The four different generations all bring their own challenges, but also offer incredible skills that will assist in the overall success of the organization. All one needs to do is accept the change. Cross mentoring of these generations have proven remarkable results.

2. Cultural Diversity

I have often come across employers who still believe in hiring locals, as they want longevity of employment. Loyalty is very important factor and we all need loyal employees but there is difference between employing locals and employing only locals. People grow up under different beliefs, customs, values, perspectives and having the diversity in culture help organizations see from different perspectives. it is believed that if you show a picture to an american, she/he focuses on the front of the picture however a Japanese will focus on the background of the picture. Hence, Inclusion brings multi perspective and creativity on the table; there is less sarcasm as communication is often direct, people get adaptable to things as they learn something new from each other.

3. People with disability

In order to bring total diversity and inclusion; embracing disable people is crucial. Many organizations hire people with physical disabilities who are visually impaired, hearing impaired etc but there are not many workplaces where individuals with autism are welcomed. However autistic individuals are considered to be the most innovative people and we have many living examples. James Hobley, a 15 years old ballet dancer from Yorkshire. He couldn’t read or write at the age of 8 when he discovered dancing. It changed his life. Not only did he learn to read or write but also completed his way to the 2011 finalist in Britain’s got talent. Another such example is Temple Grandin, She did not speak until the age of three and half and made her expressions through screaming, humming and peeping. She was then declared autistic. With a degree in Ph.D., she is now the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.

Now let us look at how well these two words are understood and what plays as deterent. Professionally educated managers have very little understanding of what D&I means. They tend to hold a  naive belief that D&I  is simply a matter of being sufficiently “broad-minded” and “sincere” to treat people equitably irrespective of their class, race, gender and ethnic background. Thus while they demonstrate high degree of comfort in dealing with people of “diverse backgrounds”, they are completely at a loss when they have to deal with people who are not “their type” i.e. people who do not share their way of looking at things and/or people whose values,beliefs and priorities are different than their own .

Another deterrent is that managers have to constantly walk the tight rope between that what is urgent and that what is important. They  can rarely ignore either. However the increasing emphasis on “quarter to quarter” deliverables, short term career goals, unwillingness to make long term commitments have tilted the scale significantly on side of the “urgent”.By its very nature the D&I agenda falls in the category of “important” and not “urgent”. It has no bearing on the immediate quarterly results but is crucial for the long term health, viability, sustainability and success of the organisation. Thus often, the managers are required to excel their “urgency preoccupations” in order to pursue D&I agenda. It is most clearly visible in situations of recruitment and placement, where the primary concern is to get someone who is immediately available and usable. In such a scenario D&I will necessarily be seen as a catch 22 situation.

It is a never ending journey and if we do not identify the road blocks, we tend to not be able to solve this maze.

It is not our differences that divide us, it is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences – Audre Lord

What do you do to lift others?

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