Diversity and Inclusion – Time For HR To Step Up Its Game

With all the emphasis on fake news recently, it is good to see that when someone posts something that doesn’t sound quite right, someone else does the research and adds information to the post. I ran into this last week when someone posted something from 2013 regarding Barilla pasta, and it was quickly researched and updated.
The short story – the Barilla CEO stated, in 2013, that he would only portray “classic families” in advertising. He stated that if people didn’t like that, they should eat another brand of pasta.
Fast forward about one year, Barilla received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign list of LGBT friendly businesses.

I guess everything is now better and damn-well perfect at companies that score like that, right?

Not likely.

Here’s the thing – I know enough HR folks who are good at their jobs. They are striving to make their companies more diverse in leadership, not just population. They want their companies to reflect their customer base. And they want a broad customer base. So having a broadly diverse employee population makes sense. Their challenge is in getting the leadership, the top levels to understand the problem is not just numeric ratios. The problem includes the biases that each manager has. Biases they may not even be aware of.

If a finance leader, for example, thinks that the college recruiting should consistently come from the same two or three universities, she may not be considering not only the student population of those universities, but the culture of the university community as well. I know two men, one white and one African American who could not be more similar in how they think and work. They went to the same high school and college and then came to work in the same company. On some level there is diversity, but on another we miss out on diversity of experience.

If you are in HR and are trying to bring more awareness to your managers, I have a few suggestions.

  1. Research methods for uncovering and mitigating unconscious bias. We all are afflicted and there are ways to understand the impact in the workplace and take steps to minimize that impact. A good starting point is Sondra Thiederman. I have heard Sondra speak and she has some really good insights in this area.
  2. You might not think a middle-aged white guy would be a good go-to to gain understanding in this area (another way we may be biased), yet I am a huge fan of the way Joe Gerstandt expresses the real importance of diversity.  I know of few others who work so hard to help others in leadership truly understand the value and equality of all humans.
  3. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you to read each and every post from our own Sarah Morgan. In particular, her series from this month (February, 2017) where she is providing key insights on her experience as a human being and as a professional. I am learning things I wish I knew years ago as she takes the whole of Black History Month and writes thought-provoking pieces under the hashtag #BlackBlogsMatter. She is joined in this effort by some of our other team members, Keirsten Greggs and Janine Truitt. Thank you, ladies!
  4. Read the Performance I Create blog regularly! The writers here are diverse in many ways, and I can say that I have gained a lot from reading each and every entry over the last 3 years. Heck, you can skip my entries if you like, but please read all the others. And when one seems to speak to the situation in your workplace, forward the link to the leader who can make a difference.

I work in an environment that promotes diversity, and I routinely am in contact with people from all over the world. Many are just a few steps away from where I sit. Compared to my early days in engineering, it is truly a world apart. You may not know what you don’t know, but you have to go looking if you want to uncover new truths and new ideas.

We should all be working toward the day when Diversity and Inclusion are no longer terms that HR is accountable for. But HR must lead the way beyond ratios and numbers and drive improved business through diversity. Make yourself smarter on this topic.

Every day is training day.

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