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.