The Two Missing Pieces of Diversity in the Workplace.

“I hate the word diversity”

From a leader like Desiree Adaway who is the Principal of the Adaway Group, this is a shocking sentence. Once you hear more from Desiree in our latest ConvertiClass (MasterClass) session on Diversity In The Workplace it becomes clear.

[For the full show notes from this interview click here]

“Diversity is worthless if we don’t have shared leadership and welcoming organizations”.

I’ll admit, I haven’t given as much thought to diversity, as I should. The teams that I’ve been part of included a diverse mix of people of various races, sexes and sexual orientations. Over time I’ve grown the teams that I’ve managed to be more diverse.

That simply isn’t enough.

As Desiree points out a goal of building diverse organizations can be for any number of reasons, such as moral or ethical reasons. But it could also be for another reason.

Business owner, beauty enthusiast and creator of Duchess Cosmetics Toni McEachin explains why companies need to build diverse teams.

“For a company to be successful it is imperative that the culture is one that embraces diversity and inclusiveness. For most, race is what immediately comes to mind when diversity is mentioned; but diversity is so much more than race. Diversity is race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class. To meet the needs of a diverse customer base its necessary for an organization to have a diverse culture to ensure the various needs are represented in the products and services being sold. Embracing Diversity is key and the secret ingredient to an organization’s success or failure. It’s an absolute must for an organization looking to excel globally.”

Toni makes an excellent point diverse organizations are more profitable. It’s still not enough to just build a diverse team.

We must be more welcoming to diversity.

To be honest, when I began writing this I immediately became uncomfortable. As a white man writing about diversity how could I articulate what would be considered welcoming? That is exactly the point. If I can’t write about the subject, if we can’t talk about it how will we fix it? I tried to explore some ideas of being more welcoming for someone like me, a Millennial leader. Someone who has tried to hide the fact that he is a Millennial in the boardroom. To feel more welcome in my situation would be to acknowledged (not overlooked) and respected.

Could acknowledging a person’s diversity and showing them earned respect be more welcoming for people of color? Women and Men that have been discriminated against much more harshly than any Millennial?

To find out I asked Clinton Springer a motivational speaker in Ontario. Clinton made a very valid point, that we already set the stage when we start talking about diversity as a number. I can’t disagree despite my use of numbers later in this post. “When you begin targeting a number as your target for diversity it undermines the true goal”. Clinton encourages a shift in mindset, to acknowledge diversity. “Business owners and leaders should talk about why diversity matters and not just hire employees because they are diverse”. Clinton points out that when diversity is a number or focused on without the dialog new employees are always proving themselves. “Leaders need to show respect for the reasons why an individual was hired such as their skills, experience and potential”.

Making employees feel welcomed through discussions, dialog and respect is just the first new step we need to take. The second area that Desiree identifies during the ConvertiClass interview is an area that’s not even considered part of the “diversity” universe as we know it, is share of leadership. We drive to ensure equality when hiring. Create a diverse workplace. All this while overlooking leadership.

Can an organization be diverse without a diverse leadership team?

Isn’t that like asking if a country can win the most Olympic medals without the best athletes? At a Men’s Olympic hockey game, there would be thousands and thousands of people watching from ages 1-100. The audience would include people of every ethnicity, sexual orientation, Women and Men alike. Regardless the team is still the Men’s Hockey team. It wouldn’t matter if the entire audience was filled with Women and children, it doesn’t change the fact they are watching a Men’s hockey game. What if you added one Women to both teams? Yes, it’s still a men’s hockey team. Next you add one child to both teams. You’d still be watching Men’s Hockey.

When does it change from Men’s Hockey, to just Hockey?

Does the team need to be 50% Men, 25% Women and 25% Children? The concept seems to be getting more and more ridiculous, doesn’t it? Do most the players need to be Women and Children before we stop calling it a Men’s hockey game? You see the audience hasn’t changed the audience is still filled with completely with women and children. The team is now minority men. Sadly, I’d suspect we’d still call it Men’s hockey, until it’s not. Until we had a single Man or possible none on the ice.

Now take this analogy to the business world.

The players are the leadership team and the employees are the audience. What we determined in the hockey analogy was that it didn’t matter about the audience, what mattered was the players. Well when we think of a group of employees it does matter, but what’s the right mix?

What ratio of non-white employees does an organization need to have to be considered diverse?

That was much more difficult to figure out than I had thought. Some websites said over 50% the others were “wishy washy”. It’s upsetting that this is such an important subject, yet the best info I can find is “wishy washy”. I’m not alone, most organizations don’t have a definition for diversity. Visible minorities in the workplace are still struggling a study in Canada and the US.

Is 50% of an organization’s workforce enough to say it’s a diverse workforce?

No. We proclaim TV shows are diverse based on the main cast. We determine if our political parties are diverse based on the leaders. In addition to the workforce we must look at the leaders of an organization to define diversity.

For an organization to truly call itself diverse it must be welcoming and have a diverse leadership team. Before you can be welcoming to those new employees and create that diverse leadership team you need to find great candidates. Download our free guide to learn the three steps to find and select those amazing candidates you need.

Click here to download the free guide three step guide “Three Steps To Winning The Recruit-To-Retain Revolution”.