Series: Part 2: What does a diverse workforce look like?

If you have recently visited hrtechgirl, you may have read my post on Is Diversity delivering ROI?. This piqued my interest in all things diversity and inclusion. So this post looks at some thoughts around “What does a diverse workforce look like?” Hint: it is not just about gender equity and it’s definitely not a recent fad!

Diversity timeline 1

You only need to take a look at a quick historical (pictured above) timeline view to realise that diversity is and has been an important aspect in workplaces since the 60s! But surprisingly not much has changed in the last 50ish years.

In a recent discussion with SAP and HR experts we discussed amongst other great topics, “Diversity is now an organisation-wide priority. I need to lead the brigade, but how do I demonstrate the ROI on Diversity to my board?”. While we discussed ROI, here are key thoughts that were worth sharing:

  • a key focus was around what is diversity? It was obvious, the most common thoughts around diversity are still focused on gender, ethnic background and more recently around age/year born in. But in sharing diversity challenges and examples across the table, it was re-affirmed that every organisation is different and hence has different organisational challenges.
  • Should there be quotas and targets? This idea was discussed and the table was divided in their views on this one. While we all understood that quotas were a good start in the past to force some matters like gender equality and affirmative action, they are no longer perfect. This is especially true when the selection criteria to fill certain quotas may eliminate other valid candidates and not get the most qualified person for the job! Targets on the other hand were mostly welcome. Especially if targets were to aspire a more inclusive workforce and no solely focused on any one aspect of diversity like gender. However, the cautionary notes here were: (1) this one works when the organisation is ready and has the headspace; (2) every organisation has a different diversity and inclusion challenge, so the solutions should be bespoke and organisation specific!
  • should diversity be driven from the top as an agenda? We were all on the same page on this one. Inclusion and diversity has to be part of the culture and DNA of the organisation. If the leaders in the organisation embody those behaviours and lead by example, it is most likely that inclusion and diversity will become BAU (Business as Usual) in every aspect and process of the organisation.
  • should organisations do everything diversity related? The obvious answer is no. As noted before. every organisation has a different diversity challenge so not every initiative is valid and relevant. And given the time, money and effort that goes into doing things well, we were all in agreement that every organisation needs to pick the initiative that gives them the best bang for their buck. Hence, do fewer things well, rather than multiple things without success and focus.
  • last but certainly not the least, how do you measure the value? Well, this was certainly a topic where more conversation was required. We definitely talked about the ways in which diversity can be measured, especially noting that most organisations have the basic data sets required. However, we acknowledged that what gets measured and reported has to make business sense. The data should empower decision makers by giving them information that supports problem solving with diversity and inclusion solutions. Deep diving into data to identify patterns was definitely identified as a skill that every HR person needs to learn and develop. If you don’t measure, you cannot (prove) value!!!


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