Why Diversity in the Workplace is so Important and Why it’s so Hard to Achieve

Are there any people out there that don’t believe workplace diversity is a good thing for ?

Diversity allows you to access a wider range of talent than talent that is restricted by a narrow worldview, ethnicity, or other restrictive definitions. This helps you understand the motivations and needs of all your clients or customers, not just a few. It can also help you understand the motivations and needs of all your clients or customers, rather than just a small portion, as McKinsey & Co has shown.

But, it has been far more challenging than expected to actually achieve this in practice.

RSM’s research suggests that, despite the will of major corporations to implement productive diversity strategies and a desire to do so, very few have yet to come up with anything that works.

What is the problem? How can it be fixed?

First, many organizations make the fatal mistake of not aligning their diversity policies with their organizational goals. In such cases, regardless of how good you may feel about diversity, the reality of running a business day to day, keeping customers happy, selling the product or service, and maintaining customer satisfaction will continue to undermine it. Second, it is common for organizations to have mismatches in how they design diversity policies and implement them. Or, to put it another manner, what appears good on paper often fails in practice.

These disconcerting findings were not surprising, but they helped us identify four steps to make workplace diversity a reality.

  • It is important to clearly identify the goals you want. It is not enough to simply say “workplace diversity” because the devil is in the details. Too many diversity initiatives miss the mark. Many organizations seek to maximize the performance potential of diverse teams by implementing diversity policies that are primarily focused on influencing the representation of certain social group in leadership positions. To achieve the ultimate goal, you must first understand it.
  • Do not copy and paste. Every organization is unique. Therefore, every diversity initiative must be unique. It is impossible to borrow one from another place. It is why attempts to replicate Norway’s boardroom diversity approach in other countries have been largely unsuccessful. This is largely because these other countries don’t have the Norwegian history or the Norwegian social infrastructure, gender norms, and so it’s difficult to borrow one from Norway. If a program is to be successful, it must take into consideration the culture and context of the host organization.
  • A good design is essential but a good implementation is crucial. The military has a long-held maxim that no plan can survive contact with the enemy. In corporate life, few diversity initiatives are able to survive contact with operational managers. It is a recipe for disaster to simply hand over even the most well-designed program to people who don’t have the ability, motivation or tools to implement it.
  • Win hearts and minds – A successful initiative must answer the fundamental question “Why should we do this?” If people within an organization are unable to see the benefits or even identify the disadvantages, then the program will eventually fail.

It’s not a cliché to say that there is no easy way to achieve anything worthwhile. It’s true. True workplace diversity is so attractive, that it must be addressed. We hope the four steps we have outlined will help us to achieve that goal, at least partially.

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