Culture of Diversity

April 20, 2021

Peter Drucker has said: “Demographics are the future that has already happened."

According to U.S. Census bureau data published in March 2015, by the year 2020, white children will be in the minority and by 2044, whites will outnumbered by non-whites. This shift is do to a variety of reasons, primarily birthrates among whites is in decline while non-whites are having more children. Given these shifting demographics and increasing globalization, the workforce we see and experience today will become radically different over the next 25 - 30 years. Organizations that build a culture that embraces diversity will be better prepared to succeed with the workforce of the future. There are several reasons to begin a cultural shift in the direction of diversity now rather than waiting for some talent crisis in the future. The reasons to begin a shift towards a culture of diversity include (but are not limited to):

1. Cost Effectiveness: Organizations that wholeheartedly embrace diversity make everyone feel valued for what they contribute – at every level, regardless of background. As a result, job satisfaction increases among diverse groups and turnover and absenteeism decrease.

2. Talent Retention: When an organization has a reputation for valuing diversity, it is better able to attract and retain the best job candidates among women and other culturally diverse groups. This improves problem solving and innovation.

3. Creativity: Creative solutions are more likely to be achieved in diverse groups rather than in homogeneous groups. Homogeneous groups tend to fall into “group think.” In heterogeneous or diverse groups, people bring different perspectives to the table and typically are able to provide better solutions.

4. Marketing Advantage: A diverse workforce which represents the people it serves shares similar cultural traits with customers and may be better able to establish better, longer-lasting relationships with its customers and/or clients.

To fully realize the advantages of a diverse workforce, organizational culture and its leaders must be aware of a number of organizational and personal obstacles which stand in the way of achieving diversity. By removing these obstacles, organizational leaders create opportunities for the every member of the culture to improve performance. Some of the organizational and personal obstacles that must be removed to increase organizational diversity include (but are not limited to):

1. Stereotypes and Prejudice: To stereotype is to classify people based on an overgeneralized characteristic or image. Prejudice is the act of forming an adverse opinion, without just cause, about people who are different from what one is familiar, using a particular characteristic such as race, gender, ethnicity, etc. Both stereotyping and prejudice carry an assumption that people who are different from what is familiar are less competent or inferior in some way. A strong organizational culture supports leaders and cultural members in eliminating all stereotypes and prejudices for a diverse workforce to thrive.

2. Ethnocentrism: Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own group or subculture is superior to other groups or subcultures. Ethnocentrism is an obstacle to diversity because it creates homogeneous groups where everyone shares the same set of beliefs and values. This has the effect of limiting creativity and innovation within an organization.

3. Policies and Practices: Policies in hiring, training, promotion, compensation, and layoffs may work against maintaining a diverse workforce. A strong culture guides leaders and members in the organization to audit, review, and change policies that act as a barrier to selecting, keeping, and/or promoting individuals who increase diversity in the workforce.

4. Glass Ceiling: The glass ceiling is the invisible barrier that separates women and minorities from top leadership positions. Evidence of this phenomenon lies in statistics which describe white males as representing more than 50% of executive and managerial positions, while women, African-American, and Latino representation is in the single digits.

5. Unfriendly Work Environment: Minorities and women who are excluded from connecting with supervisors and peers feel isolated and alienated. This often leads to dissatisfaction and turnover within a particular group. This type of turnover weakens culture and limits the diversity of the workforce.

To achieve the full benefits of diversity, a culture must strive to not only remove the obstacles to a diverse work environment, but also find ways to support diversity in the organization as a whole. This includes ensuring that women and other minorities have opportunities to move up the corporate ladder into positions of leadership. Changes in culture regarding diversity require leaders to display courage in the face of dissension among those who want to protect the existing culture. Failure to remove obstacles to diversity and support diversity can have seriously negative consequences including lawsuits for discrimination. Several years ago Denny’s Restaurant, because of its unwillingness or inability to diversify its culture, settled a racial discrimination lawsuit which resulted costing the company $45.7 million. Research has identified several key characteristics of cultures that support diversity. They are as follows:

1. Diverse Leadership Structure: Organizations that successfully support diversity create a diverse leadership structure by creating mechanisms that ensure there is an equal distribution of women and minorities throughout the organization’s leadership.

2. Bias-free Environment: Cultures that are successful at managing diversity create leaders which ensure that the work environment is bias-free by creating an organizational task force to monitor policies and procedures for evidence of bias. The result is an organization where everyone is treated fairly.

3. Low Conflict: Diversity training which includes cultural sensitivity and acceptance of differences between people does a great deal to diminish resistance to change and reduce conflict in the workplace between diverse groups.

4. Strong Identification with The Organization And Its Culture: Members of a diversity-supportive culture identify strongly with their organization. In a well-integrated organization, there is a strong feeling of identification with the company by all members of the workforce, not just a few.

5. Strong Social Support Network: A culture which supports diversity assists in the creation of a strong social support network for women and minorities through social media and other communication tools. These networks can be formal and/or informal, but it is clear that they exist and are used by everyone, not just a chosen few.

Keep cultivating your culture!

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