The Paradox of Workforce Diversity & Inclusion

By Jeanne Achille 

Congratulations, your organization has made a commitment to workforce diversity. Your talent acquisition teams have been trained on what words not to use in job posts; investments have been made in the latest “bias-free” sourcing and interviewing solutions. Recruitment marketing programs are reaching the right candidates in the right places. By mid-year, you’re able to report improved percentages of diverse populations across your workforce.

Except – what’s that? These new hires are leaving the organization as quickly as they join it? Exit interviews uncover unsavory trends of exclusion: racial and gender profiling; hostility and harassment; and overt discrimination. The Hispanic CRO recruited away from the competition boomerangs back to his previous employer; the women engineers consider a class action suit against the company. News of these catastrophes leaks out to the national press, sullying the employer and consumer brands and increasing flight risks.

Philosophers have argued the beginning of the cosmos for centuries. After all, as the saying goes, “nothing comes from nothing.” Such a greenfield doesn’t exist in an established business; however, the inevitable “chicken and egg” syndrome does. Is diversity the chicken and inclusion the egg? I would contend that without a formal inclusion program in place, workforce diversity – which starts with recruiting – is a lost cause.

Let’s look at the evidence contained in several real-life incidents. A woman is aggressively recruited to join the leadership team of a publicly held entity. The team is all male, as is the company CEO. While this isn’t unusual terrain for the woman, the new dynamic is totally new to her male colleagues. Her decisions are constantly questioned; important meetings take place without her involvement. A daily land grab for her assigned budget is the norm plus she learns her compensation is 25 percent less than other executives. She leaves after six months.

In another part of that same company, a well-qualified LGBT candidate joins the procurement team. From the start, his manager doesn’t welcome him with the traditional onboarding luncheon. The manager tells inappropriate jokes within earshot, forgoes scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings and “forgets” to tell him about the company’s mandatory performance management program. With little incentive to remain engaged, the employee quits. And pursues litigation.

Did talent acquisition do their jobs here? They did. They sourced diverse candidates – perhaps from the competition, through campus recruiting or using programmatic advertising. These are the candidates who made it through the door. Imagine how many people they told about their experiences: family, friends, future colleagues. In turn, other talented, qualified individuals never joined the company because inclusion isn’t a pervasive in the organization’s DNA?

So, where do we assign blame? With HR? Leadership? The company’s board of directors? If you go back to our chicken and egg enigma, you can’t have diversity without inclusion. Fixing what’s broken or nonexistent ensures the success of trying something new. Elevate inclusion to a daily mantra. Communicate enterprise-wide that nothing less than full inclusion will be tolerated. Create awareness for this issue by training all employees, especially managers. This is the definition of a cohesive corporate culture in its purest sense.

For more on this important topic, join us Thursday, June 14th for a webinar on diversity and inclusion. Register for this FREE webinar here: lrp.webex.com