When was the last time you went to a crowded beach or park, or even went to an outdoor concert where you had to sit on the grass? I can bet you did something – because everyone does this. You set up a perimeter didn’t you? A what?! A perimeter. You put down your blanket, maybe an umbrella, some chairs, etc. You made sure you carved out ‘your’ space, in a public space that is open to everyone. Hell, let’s face it – if you would have had portable fencing you would have put that up as well. Humans like to collect, build and attempt to keep all of it. It’s why the Great Wall of China was built. It’s why we have a silly fence up between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s why you have a 6 foot high fence up around your 40 foot by 40 foot backyard in the suburbs. You’re protecting ‘your’ space.
Diversity is about breaking down those walls, those barriers, so it stands to reason that those barriers that are being broken down are going to cause some folks to be uncomfortable. In 99.9% of the cases in today’s work world – those folks are white people – and to slice it even further – white men. Let me give you an example so we can discuss:
Let’s say you work in a company with 100 employees and 88% of those employees are white. Now HR comes out and says “we value Diversity” (not sure who the ‘we’ is, but we’ll assume our white leadership team who live in the $750K homes and their kids go to schools with zero diversity), and we are going to do a bunch of ‘stuff’ to increase the diversity of our workforce. Here’s what the 88% hear. “You 88 white people aren’t good enough. We need to get rid of some of you and bring in minorities because they can do it better.” Which might be true.
Remember your blanket in the park? Someone just sat their chair down in the middle of your white work forces blanket. That isn’t a good feeling. (It’s uncomfortable for you to hear/read ‘white work force’ isn’t it? Most people who write about diversity/inclusion will use ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ because it puts it in less black and white terms – makes it easier to accept.)
Most organizations and HR shops struggle to do Diversity and Inclusion successfully in their organizations because they are unwilling to recognize this simple reality and address it. Oh, believe me I hear you right now! “Tim – diversity and inclusion isn’t about color – it’s about thoughts and ideas!” Then you my friend don’t get the reality of 90% of the organizations out there today. For most it is still about faces – shouldn’t be – but it is. To be successful – we have to move beyond that. So, how do you do that?
There isn’t a perfect solution. A silver bullet. But I do know one way that has helped some organizations – but it might give you (HR and leadership) some answers that will be hard for to live with! Data. Data doesn’t lie. It just gives you the truth. If you ‘truly’ want better performance – through data, find the exact makeup of the highest performing groups and teams in your organization, industry, competitors, etc. Here’s the catch – data might show you that your 100% all white guy sales team isn’t the most effective. You might find that the makeup should be 90% 24 year old Asian females and 10% middle age Hispanic males. You also might find that 100% white guy is the best. Data will give you truth – most organizations don’t want the truth. Most HR shops don’t want the truth. They want to take your 88% white and turn it into 75% white because ‘feels’ better.
I’m not saying your white employees will like to hear that they are all getting let go so you can bring in your all female Asian team, but at least there is a reason based on data – not feelings. HR and leadership have been sold a false premise that Diversity and Inclusion is good for all. It makes you better. And so we march forward like lemmings off a cliff, not questioning the truth. The truth is – diversity and inclusion might be great for your organization. The truth is – it also might be disastrous for your organization. Do the research. Stop reading USA Today articles. Figure out what is actually best for your organization. Don’t blindly follow anything, just because everyone else is doing it. There is a ‘right’ answer out their for your organization, and you might be surprised at what that answer is.
I love data and analytics and incorporating them into HR work but I think this has a faulty premise. You are assuming that the reason a work group is high performing or not is based on the skin color make up of the team. If Engineering Team A is successful and they are half Indian males and half white males and Engineering Team B is all white and low performing, we must make all our Engineering teams half Indian and half white? Even scarier if you assume the opposite. It can give you a reason to not go after diversity. Our all white teams perform well so why should we try to include others? There are many other factors that influence performance, other than someone’s skin color, that I have trouble correlating the two.
Though the title of this article really caught my eye, I must admit I was discouraged by the content. While I agree that best practice from other organizations can provide a vital framework where moving forward on diversity and inclusion is concerned, we should be talking about opening up all opportunities to a wider percentage of qualified applicants within the pool, and not filling “color-coded” spaces. If anything, that approach seems destined to ignite even more resistance to DM practices.
I believe that a team is not more successful because it is 100% – or 75% or only 50% – white, just like it won’t be magically more successful because it’s suddenly 5% Hispanic or 12 % African-American or 22% Asian. A team or an organization is successful because it’s culture has matured enough to realize, accept, and act upon the fact the qualifications come in all ages, genders, levels of capability, sexual orientations and skin color. White men don’t have a monopoly on excellence. Full stop.
By limiting yourself to only one end of the pool, you are de facto limiting your pick amongst the (potential) cream of the crop in any field or industry. Who can afford that in the current business climate?
Add to the broader spectrum of excellence an organic and committed policy of inclusion facilitates the richness of perspective qualified professionals from the entire potential pool bring to the table, and you can better outfit your organization to meet the challenges on innovation and growth the global economic landscape presents.
Pingback: Tim Sackett serves up A Diversity Plan Even White People Can Live With | Fistful of Talent
Oh and you have to end every blog comment with a smiley face 🙂
I love statistics. It is currently the best way to form the closest thing to a meritocracy we can get.
Unfortunately, I am typically harshly received when I propose statistics to try to solve a particular management problem.
The departments fighting me are usually made up of beer drinking buddies brought on as “referrals.”
Quantifying job performance scares everyone who doesn’t work hard or smart enough. Not just white people. 🙂
Tim, sir, I believe that there is not a single post of yours that I have read and did not like.. I couldnt agree more here: “Figure out what is actually best for your organization.” We [HR] sometimes make things so complicated! I sat in on a meeting a few days ago on developing a new process and the task assigned to me was “call some other companies and see what they do” … bummer. I don’t want to talk to other companies on this subject, I want to talk to our employees and see what ideas they have. You don’t always have to copy someone else’s model and with this particular task it isn’t a one size fits all solution. There can be value in gathering some statistics from other companies I suppose, but we often overlook the internal solution to “human resource issues”.
And to answer your question, this past saturday, and I didn’t put a blanket down and mark my territory, I sat down on the grass, no blanket necessary, and made friends, so lets say I’m open to diversity 🙂