Diversity and Inclusion – Not All Actions Are Good Actions

HR professionals are frequently called upon to help the members of an organization understand what Diversity and Inclusion is all about. There are probably hundreds of individual trainers and coaches who would be more than happy to come in and do a two-day seminar to help people learn more about the importance of D&I and why D&I will make the business stronger.

I’ve been in such training myself, and have seen people in the room react in a whole range of ways. Everything from someone proclaiming “I get it now!” (but I bet the don’t really, even though they believe they do) to the long tenured white guy who doesn’t believe there really is a white male privilege, because that would devalue the hard work he put in to get where he is.

When all is said and done, however, it’s not about understanding the topic, it is about taking actions that will improve the true inclusion of all employees in a work group, and to build a better, stronger, more improved outcome for the teams involved.

Taking action is not easy, and what some people see as the “best action” to “fix the problem” is not always a good action. Here are some example of actions that might not be so smart and also what might be the appropriate next action.

Here are some situations and a quick quiz.

Situation 1: Women are under-represented in a particular job classification or management hierarchy level. Would you

a. Declare that the next x hirees into that classification must be women

b. Look at the last several times someone was hired into that classification and determine if there is any bias (intentional or unintentional) that could be at work

c. Review recent candidate slates to see if women were well represented in the candidate slates

d. Assure that future candidate slates are balanced and that the selection process is more closely monitored for potential bias. You might even have to recruit to other than your favorite schools.

Hint – if you chose “a” then you may not understand Diversity and Inclusion as well as you should. The other three actions might all be helpful in fixing the root cause of the issue.

Situation 2: You manage a team that is visibly diverse, but there are two members who don’t seem to contribute in group discussion and debate as much as the others. Would you

a. Start calling them out more in meetings and asking for their input

b. Look at your team processes and determine if there is something getting in the way of their contributions

c. Have individual discussions with them about how you value them, and want them to contribute more, asking them if there is something you can do differently that will help them

d. Put them in charge of the next team meeting.

If you chose a. or d., you might be watching too much of “The Office”. You need to understand the root cause of their silence, and you may even have to accept that they are simply not comfortable in debate.

My point here is simple – you can design actions that you think will improve diversity and inclusion, but you really should understand what it is about your processes that doesn’t encourage and allow greater diversity. Creating a standard or an edict that is numbers based does not fix the problem. You need to get to the root cause.