There seems to be some confusion in the use of the terms diversity and inclusiveness. Coupled to this is the problem that “diversity training” has become tagged in many organizations as a worthy but legalistic necessity.
What would be the typical reaction in your organization if you received an invite to diversity training?
I am going to leave the moral arguments aside, our area of specialization is cross cultural diversity and inclusiveness and this area is mercifully free of most of the negative legacies of some other forms of diversity training.
In cross cultural training we often see groups who look very similar, both enjoying and being frustrated by cultural differences but without a sense that one is right or wrong or one the oppressor or oppressed.
We think that, because of this, cross cultural differences make a great “front end” to making important points about diversity and inclusion that can then be applied to other forms of diversity.
Diversity is about variety – it is about bringing in a diverse group of people, irrespective of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation and whatever other criteria are the diversity “hot buttons” in your company or geography – and what form of diversity we focus on does vary around the world.
As an aside it does make me smile when companies want a consistent approach to diversity around the world – that’s right a one size fits all approach to variety :-)
Inclusiveness is about creating an environment where this variety of people can contribute and be successful and effective – irrespective of their diversity.
Most reputable organizations now do a reasonable job of bringing in diverse populations, the business case for access to talent is undeniable.
There is less attention paid to inclusiveness. Companies are full of “sausage factory” mechanisms for introducing (often without realizing) common approaches and reactions, our induction, job specifications, leadership criteria, appraisal processes and promotion criteria increasingly define “correct behaviors”.
In global organizations in particular this can be dangerous. Is effective leadership behaviour the same in USA, Japan, Netherlands and South Africa?
In our cross-cultural training we try to explore the differences and learn from each other. By having access to many different ways of operating we can increase our creativity and choose whatever works for the a particular situation.
We think it’s time to match the effort put into attracting diversity with a lot more focus on allowing that diversity to thrive and express itself inside large organizations.
How does your company promote inclusiveness?