Diversity and Inclusion

Much has been made of this HR catch phrase or its acronym D & I, the HR buzz words of the moment. However, the words are not mutually exclusive and belong together - more importantly; without the latter, the former will never be successful.

It is pointless hiring someone to add to the business's Diversity, only for them to fail. In fact, the business was better off doing nothing at all, as the person, having left the business confused, bitter and potentially traumatized will go back to their community and report that the business did not understand their needs.

Consider for a moment:

• Businesses and Recruiters speak of "Culture Fit", as being a major consideration of any hire. Typically this means that you are going to recruit more of the same, or selecting someone who will be compliant within your organization. Recruiting with Diversity in mind should mean that you are challenging and changing the status quo.

• Businesses can have all the HR anti-discrimination policies, but that does not necessarily translate into a proactive approach to Diversity recruiting. Be honest, which is the likely outcome here: a Line Manager has been presented with a shortlist of two similar candidates, one disabled and one "normal" person. Which one does he/she likely take? Be honest, I said.

• Many businesses also focus on "Alpha Males" as role models, valuing their drive and commitment, and they are often earmarked and groomed to be a future leader. However in many cultures, aggressive self-promotion is not welcomed, and you wait to be invited to take on more responsibility by your elders. Indeed, in some cultures, the behavior of Alpha Males would be considered to be bullying, and not acceptable. A case in point would be the current gender pay disparity, which is often depicted as a situation where men negotiate harder for an increase, whereas a female is more likely to wait to be appreciated, and then rewarded with remuneration commensurate with their ability.

• Recruiters often take the path of least resistance, or choose a low risk option rather than either stretching the boundaries, or taking a high risk gamble on someone who "looks wrong, but is right."

I was once advised by a senior HR person, with whom I shared my mission that I was going to find better employment outcomes for people with disabilities to "come back and see them when I had a database." It does not work like that. It is not a case of "build it and they will come", or in this instance, build a database, and then we'll see what jobs we have got for them.

No. Businesses and the disability community have to build trust together, finding out about each other and the nuances each brings, to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome; one that is inclusive. It will not happen overnight, as there is a lot of learning and understanding to be done together. It will require investment of time and money to be made before utopia is found, because in effect, you are making a serious organizational and cultural change to your business.

To bring yourself quickly up to speed about D & I, I would urge you to read a series of LinkedIn posts written by Becky Bearse-Esqueda titled "Why Diversity Recruiting Efforts Fail to Make Progress." In it, Becky points out that the number one biggest problem is Lack of Leadership Commitment. I agree with this statement 100%, and would go further and say that without it, you are doomed to failure.

This commitment should be absolute, and backed up by providing adequate resources to make it happen. Senior Leadership needs to encourage their line managers to work through their unconscious bias and embrace change. This will need training and support, and they must understand the business case for the need to change. Bearse-Esqueda also makes the point that "what gets measured, gets done", so you have to develop specific, measurable goals to be accountable.

This is uncharted for most businesses, requiring careful navigation. In my last blog I referred to a process called He Waka Taura, which I was going to discuss as part of this blog however the brevity of the above information was not as I had hoped, so will defer it until next time. Apologies.