Diversity is not just about differences. It is also about similarities—the things that people have in common. Leveraging similarities can be an asset in solving business issues and is often underutilized or abused with little in-between.
Assuming that diversity means differences and similarities let me share with you where many companies go wrong with diversity. They miss the element of different and only focus on similar or what is familiar. Familiar is safe, reduces immediate risk, and puts your company at risk in the long-term.
Let me explain. I am sure you know of a construction company that has already begun to implement a diversity program. These programs almost always look the same when they start. Hire more usually men of color for the field, a few women for the office if you’re lucky, advertise and promote that you are a diversity-friendly company and check off the boxes to show your “good-faith effort” in reaching out to the minority community.
On the surface, this program looks great. It looks like it meets all of the criteria and should get you results. But what is being measured? Who is being held accountable? What results are you really looking to achieve? How will you know when you have achieved them? What values are really embraced at your company?
This diversity program is very outward-focused, a lot like a marketing campaign and makes your company extremely vulnerable.
I was brought in to a company to talk about implementing a diversity program. Their approach was predictable, as were their results. As we talked about the approach they were trying, what they revealed was that they were approaching implementing diversity as a marketing campaign only. This company assumed that what they told to the subs and the market, the subs and market would believe—no questions asked. In all reality, this doesn’t work for marketing so why would they think it would work for something as personal as diversity?
When a company approaches diversity as a marketing campaign, the first thing that the subs and market do is look at the employees of the company and the subs they hire. How different do they look and how many of them are there?
Diversity needs to be throughout the entire organization to prevent the company from being at risk—field staff, the subs hired, middle management, office staff and senior management. It needs to be readily visible and not just the token minority.