Do these myths apply to your organisation?

Do you believe that, perhaps your organisation might not need more Diversity or Inclusion?  Maybe it’s already successful and profitable – and it also seems harmonious.  Maybe not everyone in the organisation agrees, but won’t that always be the case?  If the organisation is successful and not showing any outward signs of conflict or dissent, should you embark on a whole lot of initiatives that might affect the success you’ve been enjoying so far?

We believe that Diversity and Inclusion is a business imperative, regardless of how well your organisation is doing today.  The thinking that an organisation doesn’t need to embark on its Diversity journey is predicated on several myths.

Here are two of the more common ones:

Myth #1:  Our business – and that of our customers – is doing great without D&I efforts!

Despite (and perhaps because of) the global pandemic, there are organisations out there that are thriving.  Perhaps yours is one of them.

And yet, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels.  Complacency is the enemy of success.

Change is looming – as the pandemic has shown us – and no one organisation can shield itself from it.

Things are already shifting.  Talent pools are shrinking, and at least fifty percent of those entering the workforce don’t want to work for an organisation that doesn’t believe in Diversity.

How will your company fare if it cannot attract the quality people it needs, with the up-to-date skills and awareness of changing technology?

Product solutions and services are also changing.  They are becoming more complex and nuanced, as are the demands of tech-savvy customers.  Are the people designing your products and services tuned into those complexities and nuances?

The message is clear: an organisation that is doing well today and isn’t working on becoming more diverse and inclusive is unlikely to continue to do well in a matter of only a few years.

Myth #2:  If we promote people purely on their ‘Diversity’, we are lowering our bar for promotion.

A recent commentary on LinkedIn about this very myth, fuelled by a letter published in the the FT, shows that this sentiment continues to thwart efforts in progressing Diversity.  The FT discussion centred around the opposing pressures of appointing Board Members to improve Board Diversity and ensuring those appointed are suitably qualified.

This kind of thinking is usually based on the erroneous belief that the organisation is a true meritocracy and that  in a true meritocracy, those who are qualified naturally progress to the top.  Consequently, those who are not promoted – including people different from those already at the top – must not be good enough.

Of course, we know that’s not the case.  True meritocracy is the myth.

We know that people are very often promoted because they fit a certain type that we hold in high regard.  For instance, we  (men and women) often mistake confidence for competence, promoting those who appear confident as if they are competent, and holding back those who appear less confident because they also appear to us less competent.

There is no evidence to support that women or people of ethnic minorities (or any other person who differs in identity and experience from the current leadership mould) perform any worse as leaders.  In fact, there is ample evidence to the contrary, including extensive research to show that diverse teams and leaders improve financial performance.

A fear of somehow ‘lowering the bar’ is therefore more likely to be an unsubstantiated worry based on the mistaken assumption that those who are capable would have already been identified.  In a system that is heavily flawed by unconscious bias, that is simply not the case.

To tell the truth, we don’t see many organisations that don’t believe in Diversity as a business imperative.  In most cases, people understand that the business case exists.  That said, not everyone believes it’s the right thing for them right now or that the ‘sacrifice’ of embarking on the D&I journey is warranted.

If you work for an organisation that is still grappling with its commitment to D&I, we can help you move across that threshold.  Let us know if you need our help.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy Take Five: Important Considerations in Preparing the Business case for D&I