We’ve all heard it before: Technology companies are under immense scrutiny to exercise ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ (D&I) as they pledge their allegiance to equitable workplaces. Why? Because increasing number of employees expect a fair, equitable workplace and believe D&I will get them there. In a series of studies conducted by Deloitte, D&I has repeatedly emerged as a topic of global importance (with emerging economies rating it higher than their established counterparts).
Despite the expectations, organizations’ response can at best be described as underwhelming. Solutions often include creation of a new department called ‘Diversity & Inclusion’, typically headed by a Chief Diversity Officer. Also typically sitting under the the aegis of HR, this department often invites diversity experts for talks and holds mandatory trainings for people managers. It also regularly sends blasts of D&I information and equitable workplace regulation trainings (in addition to the existing pile of Ethics, Gifting, Software Coding, Harassment and Privacy policies’ trainings). In addition to that, the department also pro-actively sponsors more female employees to women-empowering conferences, works to have a visible organization representation on pride parades and pushes upper management to create a pro-D&I image on social media. And yet, employees don’t feel their workplace is inclusive. In a study of 5000 participants across United States, employees repeatedly expressed disappointment regarding their organization’s opinion of inclusion as ‘non-business critical’.
HR and the-new-kid-on-the-block ‘D&I department’ of course disagree. They repeatedly claim their organization actively encourages employees to participate in anonymous surveys and in dire situations ‘Speak Up’ if they notice a non-inclusive leader or abuse of diversity in any way. They also claim that the introvert techie crowd is difficult to have a conversation with or train to become inclusive leaders. And since inclusion isn’t a pressing problem anyway, efforts to promote it are already way beyond their current paycheck. Diversity is what they care about.
According to a top HR consulting firm that takes pride in ‘data-driven hiring decisions’ : “The top diversity and inclusion priority is recruitment of diverse employees.”
Since diversity is measurable and just a matter of headcount, organizations consciously choose to ignore the bigger problem of lack of inclusion. It’s as if their goal is to shove people of different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and races in one room and hope everyone magically feels like they belong !
The problem lies in how organizations continue to view Diversity & Inclusion : An issue that bears resemblance to discrimination supposedly ended by civil rights’ act of 1964 (or Affirmative Action). And so, the solutions they come up with are also very 1960's. They completely forget that its 2019 and that their workforce doesn’t have a fragmented view on diversity because they live in a society that’s welcoming & diverse. This is a workforce that doesn’t shy away from discussing paychecks or has second-thoughts quitting a job that lacks purpose. An infographic from a study on generational perspectives about diversity & inclusion brings home the point:
Clearly, for millennials diversity and inclusion are inseparable. And the ways to achieve either are very organic and human. Trying to address their expectations of a workplace that provides them that, can’t be achieved by rigid, measurable & fragmented viewpoints.
“Diversity without inclusion is a story of missed opportunities, of employees so used to being overlooked that they no longer share ideas and insights.”
-Harvard Business Review
Organizations need to meet their workforce half-way : some where between measurable, data-driven, objective metrics and subjective, transparent, human ways. It’s not going to be easy. And perhaps the first step is to acknowledge that fact : It’s Not Going To Be Easy, But We Are Prepared To Do What It Takes!
- Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, Big demands and high expectations: The Deloitte Millennial Survey: Executive summary, January 2014, http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/gx-dttl-2014-millennial-survey-report.pdf.
- Laura Sherbin and Ripa Rashid. Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion. February 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/02/diversity-doesnt-stick-without-inclusion
- M. Christie Smith and Stephanie Turner, The radical transformation of diversity and inclusion: The Millennial influence, Deloitte, 2015, http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/radical-transformation-of-diversity-and-inclusion.html
- Josh Bersin, Tiffany McDowell, Amir Rahnema, and Yves van Durme, Global Human Capital Trends 2019: Rewriting the rules for the digital age, Deloitte University Press, 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capital-trends.html.
- Juliet Bourke, Stacia Garr, Ardie van Berkel, Jungle Wong. Diversity and inclusion: The reality gap. Deloitte Insights, 2017, https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capital-trends/2017/diversity-and-inclusion-at-the-workplace.html
- Ashira Prossack. How Millennials Are Changing The Way We View Leadership. Forbes, May 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashiraprossack1/2018/05/18/how-millennials-are-changing-the-way-we-view-leadership/
- Kayla Kozan. Diversity And Inclusion: A Beginner’s Guide For HR Professionals. Ideal, February 2019, https://ideal.com/diversity-and-inclusion/