There's been a big push towards diversity policies in recent years. How successful do you think they are?
It feels like everyone needs to have a diversity policy these days, but I'm not sure how successful they actually are. As a supplier to a number of corporates, I've had to read and adhere to a variety of diversity policies, and some of them read like a tick-box exercise.
It's important to acknowledge that the early adopters of company diverse workforces reported greater creativity and productivity, but more recent studies are inconclusive and the long-term success of implementing a diversity policy remains uncertain.
What often goes unexplored is the underlying motivation for embracing diversity policies. While moral and social implications play a significant role, there was also a substantial business driver showing that diverse companies tend to be more innovative and successful.
Over the last 20 years, the big tech companies were held up as setting the standards, it was said the diversity of their workforces meant different perspectives were being considered and better ideas were being formulated. But most of those workforces from the early to mid 2000’s grew naturally, they didn’t have or need diversity policies. This leads to an unasked question: how did these companies become diverse in the first place? It happened naturally in many of them, again particularly in the tech industry, because they were founded or led by individuals who had experience of studying and working in diverse cultural settings (studying Computer Science at Stanford or MIT for example…) and in some cases the individuals came from a diverse background themselves. From the outset they were comfortable working in a diverse cultural setting because they had an open mindset and they had the experience
Implementing diversity policies without cultivating the right management and organisational culture or mentality will be a major pitfall. Bringing in diverse talent becomes problematic when the existing workforce lacks experience in collaborating with diverse groups, and it can result in friction.
How can companies foster a culture that's more open minded and inclusive, without the need for rigid diversity policies?
Creating an open-minded and inclusive company culture involves prioritising hands-on experience. While diversity policies have their place in promoting diverse hiring, the essential factor lies in management's willingness to embrace this change.
Many organisations concentrate on diverse hiring but underestimate the importance of diverse management teams. Training courses for managing diverse teams, although available, often focus on what is appropriate behaviour and what is inappropriate, rather than how to get the best out of the team.
Successful diversity policies demand an open-minded approach to cultural transformation from both the leadership and the workforce. Without this alignment, such policies could exacerbate existing problems. In cases where management resists cultural change, it may be best for the organisation and the individuals involved to part ways.
So rather than solely focusing on strict diversity policies, organisations should prioritise nurturing a culture that naturally embraces diversity. This requires a top-down commitment and a change in mindset, with a lasting impact on the company's inclusivity and culture.
How can companies cultivate a natural culture of diversity and inclusion?
It's important to remember that many highly successful tech companies, often cited as examples of diversity, didn't rely on formal diversity policies. Their success stemmed from a natural, open-minded culture that they cultivated. These companies didn't need policies to encourage diversity, because it was an inherent part of their DNA. From the outset they were open-minded and ready to challenge the status quo; they didn't burden themselves with negative stereo types or prejudice. Diversity policies are a regulatory tool aimed at growing a diverse workforce but does it really foster the right type of culture?
It's vital to grasp that these tech giants began in an era where cultural diversity was a natural phenomenon. In contrast, older, more established companies can become somewhat insular, lacking immediate exposure to diversity. It's not merely a matter of age; it's about the environments they were immersed in.
How do you see the future of diversity and inclusion evolving within organisations in the next 10 years?
I envision the future of diversity and inclusion in organisations evolving to a point where we no longer need explicit policies or targets. The ultimate goal is to naturally embrace diversity as a standard practice rather than tick-boxes showing how many diverse hires you made this month. As the global workforce continues to diversify, organisations must acknowledge its significance to remain relevant.