Diversity / CD&I
Setting the Right Purpose for Your Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
By Melanie Duppins
As an HR leader and an MSOD student, diversity and inclusion are words I think about all the time.
In my day-to-day work for a national nonprofit, ensuring our workplace culture is open and inclusive is a top priority – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it makes good business sense. In fact, building a culture that values the strengths a diverse team can bring is how we attract and retain top talent of all ethnicities and races, genders, ages, and walks of life.
With that said, there’s a line of reasoning I’ve often seen under-girding diversity programs that aren’t working – one that I believe runs the risk of derailing even the strongest diversity and inclusion efforts.
Evangelical Diversity and Inclusion
For many years HR professionals and others have been working feverishly to make their organizations more diverse, thinking about diversity and inclusion in an almost evangelical sense – in terms of conversion. Many asked questions like, “how might we bring more ______ workers into our organization? Or where should we look to find more _______ engineers?” Thinking of how to make their workplace culture more tolerant of a certain group and what they can do to train managers to be more sensitive, or judging success by numbers and ratios, albeit carefully given Equal Opportunity law stipulations.
This group, while well-intentioned, often misses the point of why diversity and inclusion matters to an organization’s bottom line. It is not merely bringing 10 black developers into your organization that will transform your tech team, for example, it’s creating a culture that values difference, embraces and promotes the unique perspectives those developers and others bring, and use a diverse workforce as a mechanism to bring the best ideas of the nation and the world into your business.
Syncretic Diversity and Inclusion
Another camp of my peers is working just as feverishly to create organizations that invite team members to bring all of who they are to work and in so doing, embolden others to do the same.
We too seek to bring new talent to bear to supplement the skillsets, life experiences, and perspectives already present on our team, but spend equal time recruiting that talent as we spend fostering an environment that will keep them on our team for the long-haul.
We know that it is not the sheer presence of individuals that are different that facilitates an organization’s success: it is the degree to which those individuals are involved in the key decisions of the organization and have a seat at the table at a team and organizational level. This kind of inclusion can only happen in an organization that understands that difference is a superpower, and should be celebrated – not merely tolerated.
Applications for the Organization Development Network
As a membership organization with an interest in becoming more diverse, it would be easy for OD Network to see itself as in the “conversion” business – where success would simply mean bringing more practitioners of color or younger practitioners for example, into our ranks and retaining them. The Network’s CD&I committee doesn’t think that way. Instead, we’re looking for ways to support our organization in becoming even more responsive to and celebratory of diverse voices – whether that diversity shows up in age, experience level, racial or ethnic background, nationality, sexual orientation, religion or any other factor. Attracting and retaining diverse membership is work that happens not only in the context of engagement but also a deep understanding of organizational culture. Our hope is to model an approach to diversity and inclusion that both supports our business outcomes and energizes all levels of OD Network.
If you’re interested in submitting an article on culture, diversity, and inclusion, please contact Beth Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.