Diversity in company culture makes organizations better, period. Studies and feedback on some of the top work environments support this, and companies with any interests in achieving an optimal company culture are working hard to diversify their employee population.
Sometimes, in all of the effort to reach a peak ratio or makeup of people, the actual definition of diversity gets lost. Because really, what is diversity? Diversity is a unique, case-by-case term that has a varied meaning in different organizations.
When the term diversity is mentioned, the common immediate reaction is to subconsciously think of some sort of stereotype. We have been programmed to associate diversity with race, ethnicity and gender, all while having lost site of the true value of being diverse. I managed a diversity hiring project for a mid-size healthcare company once where white males were the minority and therefore sought for diversity. Not typically what is top of mind when you hear the word diversity. The white males were different than the typical image of diversity, but the hiring was still focused on an exterior form of diversity, assuming all white males would bring something different to the culture.
Viewpoints can’t be seen, so we assume people that appear different physically, must think differently. That’s if we’re looking for fresh perspective. Rather than assume that people who look different will automatically add some different value to company culture, we should be thinking about a set of differing ideas, viewpoints and opinions. This is where organizations should be looking to diversify, especially in the leadership rankings. It’s nice for shareholders to view what appears to be a diverse executive management team, but often that’s where the actual diversity ends. To truly balance and add creativity to the organization, the emphasis on diverse exterior makeup needs to be replaced with diverse thought process and opinions.
The real value
More often than not, egos get in the way. Companies can reach ethnic diversity and still have a culture of “yes people.” This is the biggest disillusion of diverse organizations. They appear to be diverse but have essentially have a group of very similar mindsets and opinions. No challengers. Organizations need people that challenge the status quo, question authority and push new ideas. Great CEOs welcome this behavior and put ego aside to enlarge the creative pool of the organization. Maybe it’s going against the typical assessments of what’s right for the culture? Maybe working parents add an element of responsibility and flexibility?
Whatever the source of intangible diversity is, we need to get away from just seeing the exterior.
Adam R. Lloyd serves as president and managing partner of Webber Kerr Associates. As an executive talent strategist and consultant, he supports the leadership challenges and objectives of multi-nationals, private equity held and family-owned companies. Lloyd’s experience in CEO and executive appointments spans multiple industry sectors in the Americas and EMEA markets. Prior to founding Webber Kerr, he began his career in financial services and co-founded a midsize human capital services company. He received his a BS, human resources, from Michigan State University. Contact Lloyd on Linkedin, and Webber Kerr on Linkedin and Twitter.
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