Hiring for Diversity is Great, But Inclusion Is Required
by Betsy Burton
During Aragon Research’s Transform Tour in Boston a few weeks back, we held a Women in Technology panel. It was an interesting panel during which the participants spoke about their roles, what it means to be a leader, and their vision for the future. However, one of the panelists brought out a point I had been mulling about for some time: the equal importance of inclusion with diversity.
It this blog, we’ll explore how these concepts are related but require a much deeper level of commitment that will impact the entire organization.
Hire for Diversity
It is important for managers to seek out a diverse set of voices, views, experience, and insights. This means not just hiring more women into engineering, executive and board positions, but also individuals of color, from different economic, education, and social experiences, with different sexual and gender identities. It also means bringing in people of different social styles; not just the brash and the brave, but also the quiet and the introspective.
If we want to support global customers and partners at both an individual and enterprise level, then we need a workforce and executive team that represents that world. And, anyone who has run an innovation, strategy, or agile program knows that sometimes the best and most break-out ideas come from diverse teams working together.
Inclusion Makes Diversity Successful
If we hire individuals of different backgrounds, experiences, and views, but then run our organization as if everyone is of one identity then we are going to waste our efforts and alienate our employees.
The reality is, even though the days of “Leave It to Beaver” are long gone, the business culture has been surprisingly slow to change. The roots current business operations, processes and organizational models are often still based on traditional social, gender, racial and economic rules and perspectives.
I recently spoke with a young tech executive who told me that they start at 6 am each morning so they can leave by around 5 pm to be with family. And, despite working within an organization where diversity is a focus, nights out drinking and dining is still where key decisions are being made. The issue is that even though the team strives to be diverse, the culture still operates under an old “gentleman’s club” style of decision-making.
Now, nothing is wrong with friends from work going out. But, if the operating culture of the organization is one where important decisions are being made in these settings, it leaves out people with other demands and individuals who may not be comfortable in that type of social setting.
If your organization is serious about innovation and serious about supporting a diverse customer base, then you must proactively create a diverse workforce and executive team. And, if you are serious about diversity, then you need to take an honest and open look at your culture. Are you still operating under 1960s, or even 1860s style of business culture? Are you designing inclusive business operations to encourage participation across people of different perspectives, including people of diverse gender, ethnic, economic, religious, education, social, sexual and gender identities? Or are you inadvertently asking them to change to fit your traditional cultural model?
The answer isn’t likely just yes or no for these questions. The reality is most organizations are doing some things well and some things that need more work. Don’t expect to be perfect. However, we may find that honest efforts to create an inclusive culture will be hugely appreciated. The key is to make conscious efforts and investments to be as inclusive of diversity—not just diverse in numbers.