Is anyone doing diversity right?
Amir Kabel, February 29, 2016
Diversity is a hot topic, but beware of it being a purely box-ticking, policy-driven or siloed activity
The issue of diversity is high on the HR agenda in almost every sector; but simply being on the radar is not enough to change the legacy environments introduced by the ‘old boys club’. Paying lip service to the issue purely to promote that you are complying with initiatives, ‘political correctness’, or doing the minimum required is no longer adequate. And it’s entirely transparent.
Over the last few years huge social movements in the LGBT community have caused a significant shift in the levels of recognition and acceptance, with household names such as Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner paving the way for the understanding of ‘sexual/gender fluidity’. Social media is being used to address racial issues on a monumental level – this month we woke up to a storm about Beyoncé’s controversial ‘black activist’ video (can you make a more political statement than ‘stop shooting us’?). Here in the UK the impending introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting provides hope that we are taking baby steps in a positive direction.
However, the glaring issue here is that it’s 2016 and the steps are still being taken, and they are having to be taken because the playing field is nowhere near level when it comes to diversity in the business world. No-one is doing diversity right. And guess what? There is no silver bullet. Even if you address diversity from the start you can be criticised more than when you’ve ignored it.
Let’s forget about ticking the boxes for a second. Diversity doesn’t stop at race, gender or age. The issue is about fully diversifying the wealth of experience and knowledge within a business. That extends to religion, family circumstances, divergent thinking, education and upbringing. With a view to creating a highly effective work environment via better decision-making process, you should look to draw on a range of perspectives and backgrounds. So let’s welcome and respect those who are underrepresented and marginalised and rejoice in the colourful, authentic injection of enthusiasm and redefined vision.
In the way that it shouldn’t stop with a particular minority, diversity shouldn’t stop in human resources and it should by no means start there either. The very essence of diversity should begin in the board’s state of mind. A top-down approach is critical to ensure the attitude trickles down through the rest of the company and is the foundation of its culture. It's business critical that you forget about being ‘compliant’ and focus on truly understanding what diversity means to you and your organisation.
It should be understood that diversity touches everything, so you may do great stuff in recruitment but if you don’t focus on all areas of the business your diversity efforts will be in vain. Including it within a mission or vision statement is a somewhat draconian, policy-driven take on diversity, rather than an authentic concern. The diversity infrastructure requires a continued effort that has to be sustained. It should be led by a ‘diversity champion’; a central role responsible for all aspects of diversity and inclusion. Every CEO should be a diversity champion, spearheading the commitment to this agenda.
There is an enormous amount of great practice out there that you can draw inspiration from when it comes to creating a business that lives diversity and inclusion. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and identifying the problem within an organisation creates the opportunity for an innovative solution. To do diversity well you need to be 100% open to the diverse global community that lies before you; step outside the box, go against the current grain, and be unapologetic in becoming a leader that creates a revolutionary business model.
Amir Kabel is head of diversity and inclusion at Green Park