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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Diversity Today

The idea of diversity in the corporate sector has shifted dramatically over the past several decades. In the early 1960s, legislative initiatives focused on ensuring women and individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds could find a place in the workforce. Then, in the mid-1990s diversity was a hot topic again. During that time I represented a company that sold Corporate Mentoring Programs to Fortune 500 companies in North America, and the focus on diversity dramatically increased our sales.

A recent Forbes article said this about diversity management: “Diversity management is the key to growth in today’s fiercely competitive global marketplace. No longer can America’s corporations hide behind their lack of cultural intelligence. Organizations that seek global market relevancy must embrace diversity—in how they think, act and innovate.”* So, smart companies recognize that diversifying in the workforce means more than simply placing people in positions.

Today, developing a diverse set of skills, talents and voices within your organization is as important as attracting all other forms of diversity. Building such an organization today means taking into account these factors:
  • Is your company developing culturally intelligent leaders?
  • Does your team have the experience and insight to understand and represent your target audience or customer?
  • Is your team made up of individuals with assorted work styles, personalities, talents and skills?

In an increasingly global world, companies whose leaders cannot communicate in today’s diverse environment are floundering. What initiatives is your organization taking to ensure you have culturally intelligent leaders?

Ask yourself: do your leaders and teams understand and represent the views and habits of your target audience or customer? I worked as part of Best Buy’s Women’s Leadership Forum (WOLF Program). Best Buy understood that women represented more than 80 percent of their customer base—influencing most buying decisions. So for Best Buy it was important they attract, develop and retain women leaders; that decision was critical to business success. When this was de-emphasized during CEO transitions, so was Best Buy’s success. A correlation, perhaps?

What about the other skills and talents that can give your organization a competitive edge? Is your team truly diverse? Do your employees have the skills to keep your company innovating? Or are you experiencing gaps in skills and training?

Diversity is much more than just multicultural quotas. Diversity is about embracing many different types of people who represent different cultures, generations, ideas, styles and thinking. Developing a diverse employee and leadership base means creating a collaborative environment where every voice is heard.

What is your company doing today to maximize its diversity of thought, style and people? What training programs do you offer to increase communication and collaboration so that all the diverse voices can be heard? What else can you do to enhance that culture and embrace all types of diverse talent?

JD Coaching and Consulting are experts at improving an organization’s performance and helping diverse teams enhance collaboration and communication. Let’s keep the conversation going.

*Llopis, Glenn. "Diversity Management Is the Key to Growth: Make it Authentic."Forbes, June 13, 2011.

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