Maximise Your Potential

Amrit Sandhar

Is your workplace ready for diversity?

on April 3, 2014

There is a huge push for diversity in the workplace. It is well established that the greater the diversity, the broader the thinking and the better the results. When the workplace can mirror the make up of customers, they can better relate to their needs and wants. Many companies have taken great strides to introduce females to the workplace and into more senior positions. The next phase of diversity is focusing on the ethnic groups within the UK. But there is something that should be considered…

The reason we want diversity is to challenge our current thinking. Yet, what sort of culture do you have right now? How accepting is it of challenge and diverse views and thoughts? Before we go off and and start creating a more diverse workforce, if we currently have difficulties accepting fresh thinking and innovation, then there may be little hope that a diverse workforce will have any impact. Bringing in a more diverse workforce will not change the level of acceptance of more diverse views.

The other challenge we will have is culture. Take the eastern culture. I have been brought up with two cultures, but can relate very closely to my upbringing of the east. In the eastern culture, teachers are revered. Why? Because they possess wisdom. Wisdom is a greatness that is bestowed upon the few, for the many. There is an assumption that leaders in senior positions in organisations, have great wisdom, which is why they are in the positions they are in. Just like teachers and religious or spiritual leaders, they have reached a level of wisdom that the rest of us can learn hugely from. You can see the issue already. What if leaders then do not live up to this expectation? Just like the way the Psychological contract can be broken by leaders not upholding their end of the employee-employer contract, the same is true of not living up to the expectations of certain cultures. Yet this can be even more damaging. If senior leaders exhibit behaviours that are far from ideal, then resentment can grow as leaders can quickly be branded as ‘imposters’.

Diversity is not about gender, race or upbringing, but more about how accepting we are of diverse thinking. Unless our current workplace is ready to be challenged on current thinking, then we face a battle that the diversity agenda may not solve immediately. We should have workplace environments that facilitate diversity of thinking, that accept and encourage challenge and innovation. We also need to review our current culture, to fully appreciate whether it is it ready to accept diversity. This is much bigger than ticking boxes. This will involve a change in mindset and diversity of thinking, which will be necessary a long time before we embark upon recruiting a diverse workforce. Ultimately, we will need to start thinking differently…..before we start recruiting differently.

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