Thursday, April 21, 2011

What does diversity mean to you?

Seems like a simple question doesn't it? But I think the answer can tell a lot about where an organization is on the diversity scale.

It starts with the "big four" groups inherited from the legal/equity perspective, visible minorities, aboriginal, women and persons with disabilities but in most cases diversity in a company means more than that. Other groups that are often part of it may include new immigrants, LGBT and older workers. But there are even more than that.

I recently came across a definition of diversity that included occupation types! The general idea is that when we talk about “uniting in diversity” we need to be including all the different groups that make up our organization, including groups that are not obvious at first glance. And when you think about it, the concept of inclusion does mean that different business function areas in your company should be working together just as different ages, races or genders are inside each one.

So is diversity really just another word for teamwork?

Someone once said that diversity isn't about the differences between us but about the uniqueness we all share. Isn't that also a good definition of good teamwork?

Successful teamwork takes the unique skills and strengths of individual members and uses them to achieve shared objectives that wouldn't otherwise be reachable on their own. I think you can say the same for successful diversity workforce initiatives. As an organization we source from a number of alternate sources, tapping unique skills and experience in order to best achieve the goal of hiring the best possible candidate.

I have said it before and I'll say it again, diversity isn't about accommodation or promoting the inferior, it's about the best talent you can find. The only way you can have the best talent is if you can find and hire it, and you can't do that unless you are looking at everyone. So I guess you might say that for me, diversity, in the employment sense is as simple as this, "look at everyone". I'm not sure it needs to be any more complicated really.

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