How Well Does Your Organization Do Diversity? 

A lot of buzzwords used in business have quickly begun to lose their power and true meaning. Innovation, transparency, disruption—all of these words represent good intentions, but the persistent lack of follow-through among many companies means the words are often misunderstood or misused. Diversity has become one of these buzzwords, as many organizations fail to grasp exactly what cultivating diversity entails. Diversity is an essential component for fostering growth, boosting revenue, and creating a better organization overall. It’s easy for organizations to “commit” to diversity, but it’s much harder to follow through in maintaining the ethical behaviors that go with such commitment. Many employees aren’t convinced that their companies are doing enough to foster diversity—Glassdoor reports that 57% of their survey respondents felt their company should be doing more to create a diverse environment.

If your company is trying to become more diverse, it’s worth taking a look at what’s actually happening within your organization on a regular basis. How well does your organization actually do diversity, and what can you do to change what isn’t working? Here are some tips for evaluating true diversity—and what you can do with your newfound knowledge to help your company improve.


Take a Realistic Look

It’s easy to mistake intentions for action. Look around you. Really look. Is nearly everyone on your team white, male, and in their 20s? While this might be an unfair stereotype for startups, the stereotype does exist for a reason, and unless you make an effort to look past your own biases and perceptions to really see if a problem exists, it can persist. Teams thrive when there isn’t a clear majority and minority. Diversity isn’t always represented by race or gender, however. There are so many factors influencing diversity, including upbringing and experience, culture, age and generation, sexual orientation, and personal world views. While you may feel like your team is diverse, look around you and take a fresh look. Does everyone have the same views and fall into groupthink, or are there a range of perspectives represented?


Look to Your Leaders

Your leaders will provide an important indicator in how your organization is prioritizing diversity. Even if your teams have diverse members, are your leaders made up of diverse personalities and backgrounds? Will they advocate and entertain the ideas of different team members, and be sensitive to the needs of both the team and the organization? Cultivating strong and diverse leadership is an important step in ensuring a diverse company culture, and your current leadership roster can say a lot about how your organization is (or isn’t) accomplishing its diversity goals.


Examine Hiring Practices

There’s a myth that’s been circulating for years—the myth that there just aren’t enough qualified people to hire that will both do their jobs well and add to the diversity of an organization simultaneously. Hiring managers need to acknowledge this is a myth, and if they aren’t currently doing so, that’s one of the first factors that will need to be addressed in your diversity overhaul. Take a look at the methods your recruiting team is using to find talent. Are they always looking in the same places for candidates? Always using the same criteria? If so, they may not be getting a stream of quality applicants who will help improve the organization’s diversity. There needs to be a concerted effort to overcome bias and think differently, entertaining the idea of candidates who might not fit into the current system of evaluation.


Using Your Findings

Despite best efforts, many organizations have trouble cultivating true diversity in the workplace. Don’t be discouraged if you find out your company has a little (or a lot) of work to do. Changing company culture can be a slow process, but the rewards for persistence can be immense: think dynamic growth, happy employees, better candidates, lower turnover, and improved innovation. When you’ve finished evaluating your organization’s diversity, it’s time to come up with a written evaluation, goals, and a strategy you can implement for consistent action. Making diversity a priority means more than intending to make positive change—it means writing down and sticking to your goals, and making them central to your company’s culture and values. Everyone from the top of the organization down has the opportunity and the obligation to contribute and create a diverse, innovative, and inclusive environment.

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Paul Whiffen 3 Years Ago

Hi Ryan, good post. Another type of diversity is Cognitive Diversity, this is also well worth thinking about - ie people with different types of outlooks, eg as illustrated by Myers Briggs or Belbin. 

Teams with people all of the same type in this respect can be comfortable but have common blindspots whereas those with a diverse range of outlooks can be more uncomfortable and challenging but perform better as a team.


I recall one team I was in where of the 6 of us, 5 were much the same type. The exception was a colleague from Germany called Detlef who we noted kept us grounded and asked us the tricky detail / completer-finisher questions. The problems was Detlef was about to retire. Advice from HR having done the Myers Briggs was that for subsequent meetings those of us remaining should take turns to play Detlef's role and consciously ask the questions that he did. It was quite effective... 

Ryan Ayers 3 Years Ago

Thanks so much, Paul. That is such a great point. It seems to me that organizations eventually reach a point where they need to decide whether they want to be comfortable or expand knowing that there will be challenges, but in the end it will make the team and organization better, stronger. Thanks again Paul, that was great to read.