Looking through some of the old files, I came across this article on diversity I wrote some time ago. Without all the bias attached to a self-written article, I must say the article is very powerful, particularly the ending, and certainly makes you think about the issue of diversity in the workplace.
Upon reading this piece of text, I asked myself the question; is this still relevant today? The sad truth is, whilst things are better, what you will read is still relevant.
I hope you take something away from this article, and please do share and comment via LinkedIn.
What is your commitment to employment diversity?”
A few days ago, I sat down with some business leaders to discuss various topics around the use of IT and more specifically what can be done to improve people’s perception of what was a very busy function and, more importantly, how it could evolve from being a business contributor that was, for want of a better phrase, a system churning engine (business has a need, plug it with a system attitude) to a function that was driving change that promoted business efficiency and business opportunities.
As the conversation progressed and I explained what ‘IT’ actually is, what seemed quite randomly, the conversation turned to workforce diversity. A very hot topic, and certainly one that can carry with it a lot of emotion. So bear with me here!
“So, what is your commitment to employment diversity” – firstly, you must understand the context that this question was raised within, and in order to provide this context, it best simply to re-write the question: “What are you doing to make sure your workforce is a diverse one?”.
So, with that context in mind; “what is your commitment to employment diversity?”
As it turns out, these business leaders outlined their organisations commitment to having a diverse workforce with corporate policies such as 50% of the workforce must be from an ‘ethnic’ background, at least 25% must be women etc.
These policies are great, particularly within those business cultures that need to change their attitudes to employing people of different backgrounds. These policies are a catalyst to bring this much needed attitude change, but must be used as exactly that and in a manner that does not prevent the business moving forward.
There are many businesses that still have the wrong attitude towards diversity, they still use age, race, sex, the way you look, height (yes, really, height!), amongst other reasons, of why not to employ a person or provide opportunities to make people reach their potential.
“So, what is your commitment to employment diversity”, “What are you doing to make sure your workforce is a diverse one?”
Let’s think of this a different way: “Should there be a ‘commitment’?” Should the real ‘commitment’ be to employing the best people? Should the real ‘commitment’ be to develop people?
Businesses with the wrong attitude in actual fact are providing a blocker. Being non-discriminate provides a much larger pool of people, increasing the probability of finding the ‘best people’ that will help in providing sustainable growth.
If there were two candidates, one man and one women (you can change this scenario accordingly) – which would you employ? Would you employ the man? Or would you employ the woman because that’s what your corporate policy told you to do? Or would you employ the person that has the right attitude, the willingness to learn, the hunger, the fire in the belly?
Does race, gender, cosmetics, height, religion, age and sexual orientation mean your desire, commitment, appetite and capability is somewhat impaired or any less than that of the person sitting next to you in the waiting room?
Businesses need to stop looking at diversity as a KPI, and look at the opportunities diversity provides.