19 October 2020
Diversity has been seen as an ‘objective’ of HR policy for a number of decades. On the one hand because we see diversity as a lever for innovation and on the other because society wants to guarantee access to work and equal treatment of certain groups at work from an ethical and social perspective. We ask these four questions:
Common Practices ?
A diversity policy usually includes:
A few things stand out :
What is the theory in use ?
The ‘thinking’ behind diversity in organizations comes originally more from a generative paradigm. But in reality most diversity policies have been built in a way they still focus on containment and control, in characteristics such as :
When we talk about diversity as an important ingredient of innovation and creativity and a condition for divergent thinking, it is actually the absence of ‘theory’ that stands out. If we have to describe the theory in use then we end up with :
Dominant ideas on HR websites ?
A balance between men and women in the workplace leads to better business results. When organizations are able to achieve more diversity in all layers of the organization, this makes organizations more effective and profitable.(https://buroheron.nl/)
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a phrase that refers to efforts an organization or institution can take to create a more welcoming, equitable environment that enables people of different backgrounds to succeed and for diverse perspectives to be heard through valuing individual difference, fostering cultures that minimize bias, and addressing systemic inequities. (independentsector.org)
In a nutshell, it’s about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin. (https://globaldiversitypractice.com/)
What are the consequences ?
Even though it is a commendable goal to compose the organization ‘diversely’, that in and of itself is not a sufficient condition for really developing a divers organizational culture. The consequences of focusing unilaterally on ‘composition’ are the following:
Wat kan je anders doen?
Here I would think that the most important thing is to start a dialogue in the organization at all levels and in all teams around the question: what is diversity and how do we use it to become more innovative, more resilient as an organization. How does it help us to deal with uncertainty and think out-of-the-box..
If the discourse in the organization moves away from the ‘numbers story’ and from the ‘group labels’, you create a dynamic in which people actively search for each other’s ‘being, acting and thinking’ differently in order to use it positively.
It is not so much about ‘being diverse’ but about what you do with your diversity to be more flexible, innovative and above all more inventive in unexpected VUCA situations.
A far from exhaustive list with some ideas to get that dialogue (and practice) going :
Unia, the Belgian Institute for Equality and Anti-discrimination has developed an e-learning module (and other tools) that help to develop a diversity policy. This mainly concerns the law, how discrimination occurs and not so much about converting differences into innovation. The website and the tools are only available in French & Dutch.
Two articles discussing the need for and the impact of cultural diversity in the Workplace.