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Taking a Look at Diversity Fatigue

It's a real paradox that at a time when the greatest changes are happening in the workforce and emerging markets, a fatigue has set in as far as diversity is concerned. While many organizations are continuing to make efforts to promote diversity strategies, they often come up short.

Let's revisit the concept of diversity fatigue. Many organizations are sick of hearing about how they should or must be more diverse by hiring more women, hiring more people of color, and opening the ranks of upper management to underrepresented groups.

To some extent, these complaints are valid, as organizations have historically used the number of women and people of color at all levels of the organization as a primary diversity approach.

But when the focus is only on representation, diversity fatigue sets in. What lies behind this phenomenon?

  • The focus on representation didn't include everyone. Diversity seemed like it was only for women and people of color. By their nature, representation metrics excluded white men, who today still lead over 96 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

  • Diversity seemed to be driven by representation metrics. Many white men, who bore the brunt of the lack of change, didn't feel included.

  • Focusing on representation alone did not make the strong business link that was required to make diversity mission critical.

  • Diversity was seen as a U.S. phenomenon only and didn't seem relevant globally. Inclusion is a global construct—diversity was seen as a continuation of affirmative action.

While the language of diversity was a way to address a broad range of differences, the focus turned primarily to talent acquisition and development of women and people of color. It came across in comments like, "Get me a list of women or people of color. I need to make that my next hire or promotion."

That's the simple part. For years we've been hiring people through the front door and losing them out the back door. Then the commentary heard is, "They just didn't fit here." Really? It's their fault their voices weren't heads, and new ideas didn't come forward?

Let's stop right here.

If the culture isn't inclusive, you're not going to keep your best talent—especially when that talent is different from the broader population.

This phenomenon not only shows up with women and people of color, but with other aspects of diversity. For example, it shows up frequently in this scenario: "Let's get some innovative thinkers in here." Accordingly, brilliant, out-of-the-box thinkers are hired. But, then, within a few months, these individuals are pegged as problematic. "They don't know how we do things here. They're not a cultural fit." They even frequently get executive coaches assigned to them to help them better fit in! But this is the crux of the problem, isn't it?

It's the culture that must change, not the individual. The culture must change to allow those who aren't the same (those who are, by definition, diverse) to bring the totality of their brilliance into the workplace, even if their brilliance doesn't fit the moldin fact, especially if their brilliance doesn't fit the mold.

That's inclusion!

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Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion training solutions and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.

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