Figuring out the diversity equation

Three SCNetwork members delve into Renée Bazile-Jones’ presentation
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/25/2018
Canadian HR Reporter

Jan van der Hoop: As the head of the Canadian Centre for Inclusion and Diversity, Renée Bazile-Jones speaks with passion and first-hand knowledge — knowledge of the challenges faced by the 80 per cent of the workforce who are not straight white able-bodied males (SWAMs, the people who built the systems and structures that exist today) — and knowledge of the value and importance of “getting diversity and inclusion right” in our communities and organizations.

Common themes overlapping with many of the other presentations we’ve heard recently… most notably, the value to the bottom line of simply DTRT (doing the right thing).

Predictably, high diversity (HD) plus high inclusion (HI) equals high engagement (HE). And that (usually) translates into noticeably improved financial and other outcomes.

There was an interesting distinction I learned from the presentation. Bazile-Jones defines diversity as being about the “mix” — a collection of differences (gender, ethnicity, values, backgrounds, perspectives) present in the organization. “Inclusion” is about getting that mix to work together.

So, going back to the previous formula (HD+HI=HE), both HD and HI need to be present in the right balance for it to work. Cultivating diversity without investing in inclusion can lead to chaos and friction in the business and, ultimately, diversity will leave if it’s in an inhospitable setting.

Which leaves you back at the beginning, stuck with the limits of homogeneity.

This was an informative presentation; I only wish there had been more detail on metrics and success stories.

Paul Pittman: SCNetwork is first and foremost a group of employers, and I make that point because its primary goal is commercial which may conflict with community objectives.

Canada’s population of necessity is diverse — by orientation, ethnicity, language, religion, race, homeland, age, ability, gender and so on. We have to engage and harness the incredible talent represented by all of the characteristics available when building a workforce. Has leadership ever been anything else?

If the workforce is left alone, will an acceptable culture emerge if left unchecked? Is that the euphemistic United States melting pot or the version assumed in the United Kingdom?

That is not the outcome Bazile-Jones is proposing. Besides, it takes generations. But Canada also expects new arrivals to respect and honour its values and culture (adjusted from time to time to reflect growing diversity).

To say we can accelerate the best outcomes by “responding to backgrounds, profiles and orientation with dignity and respect” sounds mildly disingenuous when you say it out loud — what else would you do?

We are only starting to understand the management of diversity and the consequences of over-engineering in pursuit of commercial results.

Diversity alone as a means to financial outcomes will not work and will threaten engagement; it feels like a solution looking for a problem.

The more diverse the input, the better the decision-making, and to achieve that, we need the involvement of all stakeholders — more than that, at this point, I am not prepared to endorse but, like Jan, a deep dive into the numbers might be insightful.

My mother told me when I was growing up that I was different... just like everyone else. It has always been important that leaders keep that in mind and are prepared to include, accommodate, change and adapt to gain the best from all the individuals within their sphere.

Go ask someone who has taken a leadership assignment in another country or an expatriate community what phenomenal, accelerated learning it can be.

As a practical matter, organizations will not survive the shrinking labour pool if leaders do not grasp the importance of diversity. Doing so will certainly prove financially beneficial for employers and society, too.

The presentation was excellent, with lots of “aha” moments, but I worry that carving out diversity and inclusion as a discreet initiative might divert leadership focus.

Including all employees equally is critical. It’s also territory ripe for encouraging consulting and solution peddling and jargon.

But, then again, I am fully conscious that Jan and I — the first two lead-off rants for this article — are SWAMs.

Sandi Channing: Bazile-Jones is passionate and knowledgeable on this topic. She defines “representation” as the tip of the diversity iceberg, focusing only on the visible differences, whereas diversity is much broader in scope. 

She expands the general notion of diversity to include personality plus four dimensions of diversity — primary, secondary, organizational and global. These dimensions take the meaning of diversity to well beyond the traditional definitions and really become inclusive of everyone. 

Bazile-Jones explains that to value diversity, we need to recognize and acknowledge all differences — not just the visible ones.

Her premise that “diversity is the mix and inclusion is getting the mix to work well together” simply refers to good leadership.

Effective leaders recognize and use the strengths of their team so members feel valued, important, safe and accepted. They acknowledge and use the differences in each team member, resulting in improved communication, motivation, inspiration and overall company performance.

While there may not have been a plethora of data presented, I liked the presentation. 

Bazile-Jones provided compelling statistics on the impact of diversity and inclusion on engagement and financial performance, and brought home the impact on the success of organizations.

Those that capitalize on the multiple perspectives, ideas, skills and passions of employees are maximizing their people investment and are rewarded financially — sounds like a great ecosystem.

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