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December 8, 2016

“Old School” Diversity Doesn’t Work; “New School” Diversity Does

new school diversity

If 2016 brought us anything, it’s the death of the status quo. If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that those of us who have a progressive vision for the workplace — and humanity in general — must change our tactics. Evolutionary leaders committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusiveness in American workplaces aren’t exempt. Nothing less than a safe, abundant and mutually prosperous future is at stake.WF_WebSite_BlogHeaders-12

One tactic that needs to change is how we think, speak, and act around diversity and inclusiveness. Voices that have been emboldened by President-elect Donald Trump, plus a series of articles published this summer in the Harvard Business Review, are the most recent jury that’s delivered a landmark verdict: “Old school” diversity approaches don’t work.

“Old School” Diversity doesn’t work because it:

  • Focuses primarily on what I call “the Skittles Approach” — increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups (especially people of color) to create a more colorful rainbow.
  • Defines no clear, meaningful goals or specific outcomes (beyond changing racial or gender demographics).
  • Conducts its main activities around compliance with various laws, regulations and industry- specific requirements.
  • Outside of compliance, is mainly motivated by social justice values, or a desire to look good or “do the right thing.”
  • Can have a “charity” feel since it’s oriented toward helping members of certain groups — usually historically marginalized groups like women, people of color, LGBT and/or people with disabilities.
  • Includes an often unspoken belief that investing in diversity and inclusion means sacrificing quality and excellence.
  • Promotes initiatives owned solely by one area or department (typically HR or a dedicated diversity office).
  • Promotes initiatives with no accountability and limited power to effect meaningful change.
  • Pays little to no attention to developing leaders or creating a great culture.
  • Involves training that provides awareness and knowledge, but no skill building or clear, actionable takeaways.
  • Explores the cultural or intercultural dynamics of human difference devoid of power relationships.

However, “New School” diversity does work, because it:

  • Focuses on attracting more members of strategic underrepresented groups plus creating an inclusive culture where everyone can bring their brilliance and excellence to work (and without which diversity alone can impede progress and diminish results).
  • Defines measurable outcomes that are mission critical.
  • Conducts its main activities around reducing the unintended effects of individual and systemic biases; developing leaders’ ability to make effective, equitable decisions; and creating an inclusive culture where brilliance and excellence thrive.
  • Finish reading the final 8 points on Workforce Magazine! #NewSchoolDandI

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