How to improve passion for diversity in 8 steps

There has been an evolution in how companies view diversity, which has gradually become less an issue of demographics – and more one of values, according to a recent research report

There has also been a corresponding shift in how companies are responding to the issue, with a majority of executives stating that a lack of interest in assimilating organisational values will require significant change in HR strategies over the coming few years.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) research report, which took in more than 200 HR executives globally, also found that conflicting values across a multigenerational workforce and unrealistic expectations of millennial employees are driving a need to change HR strategies.

“Executives view the integration of millennial-generation employees into the workforce as a significant diversity challenge,” the report said.

“This is true, in part, because millennials are perceived as having different motivations than previous generational cohorts had and, in part, because of millennials’ perceived lack of interest in assimilating the values of their organisation.”

“It suggested that organisations with a long history of centralised control find accommodating flexibility particularly difficult”

The EIU research also found a link between workforce and marketplace diversity, with 83 per cent of executives believing that a diverse workforce improves their company’s ability to capture and retain a diverse client base.

A further 82 per cent said a strategic approach to managing diversity can help access a rich talent pool while 80 per cent said effective diversity management yields a competitive advantage in labour markets.

Differences in work ethic, communication styles and motivation now considered aspects of workforce diversity, according to the report, which also said the Asia-Pacific is perceived to be most challenging region for generational concerns.

It suggested that organisations with a long history of centralised control find accommodating flexibility particularly difficult, while traditional concepts of the value of “face time” can also make it difficult for firms to help their diverse workforces create flexible schedules that meet the requirements of the business and the varied and shifting needs of their employees.

How to drive a passion for diversity
Jennie Walker, director of global learning and market development for the Najafi Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, said that in order to develop inclusive behaviours that stick, individuals need to first understand their real level of interest in and ability to work with diverse others.

She outlined 8 steps that HR professionals can take to help enhance passion for diversity within their organisations:

  1. Facilitate opportunities for employees to connect at a personal level through interests and activities, such as philanthropic work, recreational teams and activities, and social events.
  2. Facilitate opportunities for employees to showcase their unique talents and cultures by involving them in planning of organisational events and activities.
  3. Facilitate experiential learning activities to explore the concept and emotions around diversity and inclusion issues. You can download a free activity guide called Beyond First Impressions: An Exercise in Multicultural Understanding at www.globalmindset.com.
  4. Create a diversity and inclusion interest group for employees in your organisation to facilitate discussions and events and to host forums for broader discussion within the organisation.
  5. Work with professional trade or industry organisations specific to the business or to professions within the business to identify diversity development and networking opportunities that you can promote throughout the organisation.
  6. Be a connector of others by facilitating a mentoring program that connects diverse others through career development.
  7. When coaching managers, ask them open-ended questions about their formative experiences with diversity as well as their current level of comfort and skill in engaging diverse others. Example questions may include:
    – How would you describe the diversity of the people you grew up with in your community?
    – Based on your experience, what does diversity mean to you?
    – Thinking about your education and life experiences, how were you taught to interact and work with diverse others?
    – How would you describe your level of comfort and skill in engaging and working with diverse others?
    – What challenges have you experienced in working with diverse others?
    – What does inclusion mean to you personally? How do you think this applies to working with diverse others?
  8. When coaching dispersed teams, encourage them to connect with colleagues in other locations and/or cultures by providing them with useful suggestions on how to do that, including:
    – Rotate conference call times to include geographically dispersed members.
    – Form project teams that include members across regions.
    – Spend time getting to know each member of the team, especially when they are not collocated, through sharing of photos, biographies and social conversations.
    – When possible, rotate meeting locations to other regions.

For Walker’s full column on how to improve diversity, see the next issue of Inside HR magazine.