I know. It’s 2015 and there are still skeptics in the workplace who do not believe inclusion of diverse people makes a positive difference in organizational results. They just don’t think it matters. Let’s not get upset with the skeptics; they are resisting for a reason. I always advise my clients to put a skeptic on their diversity council or committee, when they are designing an initiative. Their questions keep us (D&I practitioners) focused on results. Sometimes the resistance is a result of lack of information or understanding. If we view their attitude of trust but verify as an opportunity to prove how diversity works, the results become a win-win for everyone.
Why then is there still a reluctance to invest in organizational actions that help to attract the best talent, and foster diversity of thought among all workers? Because so many of today’s workers were born after 1975, they did not experience the full force of the Civil Rights Movement or the Women’s Rights Movement, however they are experiencing the positive results of both. For many of them at least some diversity is “normal and expected”, thus it appears to them that focused efforts to make diversity work are no longer needed.
A snapshot of the leadership of large established corporations reveals that women currently hold 5.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 5.4 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. (source: Catalyst) There are six Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 1.2 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs. There are nine Asian CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 1.8 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs. There are 10 Latino CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 2 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs. (source: DiversityInc.com) Some may view these numbers and percentages as great progress, while others are wondering why it’s taking so long. It is all about perspective.
Some people—particularly those who have seen their share of strategies hailed as the “next best thing”—have seen a lot of theories come and go. So it might be especially hard for them to get excited every time new initiatives come forward. There isn’t a willful and conscious desire to not advance inclusion and diversity, or any other strategy for that matter. However, among managers that are more distant from senior leadership, there might be a belief that, unless there is a compelling payoff for them personally, “this too shall pass.”
Then there are others who, but for the twelve thousand other things they have on their plate, just can’t focus on inclusion and diversity—right now. It’s not that they don’t want to; they simply don’t have the time.
Another group of resistors are persons of great intent who can make the time but don’t have a clue as to how they should begin. Organizations have many knowledgeable and savvy business professionals who can quickly figure out almost any topic—and then take action. However, though many understand the business imperative associated with inclusion and diversity, these same skilled managers seem to need a road map to know exactly what to do and how to talk about it. When they’re given sufficient direction, they get things done with their usual efficiency and do a great job supporting these initiatives.
Though I hope this group is small in most organizations, the last category to consider are those people who have zero interest and fear no consequences or repercussions. They—as Rhett Butler told Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind—“Frankly I don’t give a damn!” For these characters we say, don’t waste your time trying to convert them, but make sure you are clear with them regarding expected work behavior.
But in cases where employees do care, what can be done to reduce resistance and increase the effectiveness of accountability measures associated with inclusion and diversity? The answer is, plenty.
Recognizing resistance, embracing the challenges it brings, investing in two-way communication regarding the challenges, and addressing needed adaptations can make a significant positive impact on a more successful implementation strategy.
One of the key ways to address skeptics is to answer their questions about the impact on results, even before they are asked. Metrics turn soft skills into hard results. As you plan your D&I strategies, processes, practices and programs be sure to define how you will measure success. The chief diversity officers featured in Trailblazers use the following measures and report the results to their board of directors, executives and others on a regular basis.
- MARKETSHARE —% increase of market share of key markets
- Productivity—Business Contributions from BRGs
- COMMUNITY RELATIONS —Supplier Diversity Usage
- RETENTION/TALENT DEVELOPMENT -Reduced # of HR issues and complaints
- CORPORATE CULTURE—Employee Engagement Survey Results
These are the levers that enable leaders to consistently realize essential progress. By attaching real cost/benefit analysis to these factors and others helps leaders acknowledge and articulate the positive impact of these measures. This combined with effective resistance management, further assures organizational success through collaboration and accountability for results.