The Why and How of Workplace Diversity

The Why and How of Workplace Diversity image 273236 l srgb s gl 300x200The Why and How of Workplace DiversityWorkplace diversity is a business strategy and can be magic. If you don’t believe me, let’s
take IBM as an example. In 1993 CEO Lou Gerstner took over as CEO and also took a look at who surrounded him at the top. Strangely enough (total sarcasm), they all looked like him.

How could IBM differentiate itself from their competitors if he couldn’t even tell his board apart? What Lou saw then, and what many are seeing now, is a major issue. If you don’t have a comprehensive point of view, one that captures who your true customers are, then you won’t be able to create solutions that solve their problems.

To combat, Lou and VP of Workforce Diversity Ted Childs developed a program with eight taskforces with fifteen to twenty members from varying business units. Each taskforce was overseen by two senior executives and over a span of six months they focused on four questions the business needed to have answers to truly advance and grow.

The secret to the success of IBM’s Workplace Diversity program

This is where it gets interesting and why it was so successful: the executive overseers were strategically selected to work with a team very different from their own. IBM at the time had very few women in sales so the SVP of sales worked with the women’s task force. The SVP of research and development was paired with the group focused on disabilities. The purpose was to get people out of their comfort zone and to obtain a deeper insight.

Although the IBM initiative came from the top-down, it required a shift of attitude from those working in the weeds. We don’t all work at companies who undertake massive initiatives like this, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.

But why should you?

If a $200+ stock price and one of the most well-known brands isn’t enough to convince you, how about these?

  • Higher creativity because of a stronger platform for collaboration
  • New attitudes which can lead to a newer and stronger culture, as well connect your employees on a new level
  • New and clearer processes with fresh ideas and different perspectives
  • Language barriers can be broken, thus enabling the previous two to reach their full potential

But how do you actually do it?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Hold a Diversity Day, or even a week
    • Some suggested events are holding a panel featuring a diverse team who has had experience solving problems easily because of their makeup. Or hire an external speaker to come in and discuss the ROI of Diversity.
  • Say hello to everyone you pass
  • Speak up when people are being excluded
  • Get a colleague a card for a birthday or successful project. Especially if it’s someone you don’t know that well.

People forget the power of a greeting card. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes a greeting card can really stand out and mean something deeper than a “congratulations” email. Greeting cards can help say the words you don’t know how to put down. Or they can be a medium for that communication, opening a door for a conversation later down the line.

One company, and my personal favorite greeting card company, Papyrus understands the dire need for a card that’s both beautifully designed and written. Check out how SAP helps them get the cards on the shelves so you can get back to developing your workplace diversity.

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