The human resources team plays a key role in promoting diversity within an organization. After all, it’s HR that works to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds. And it’s up to HR to communicate—not just to executives but to the rank and file as well—just why diversity is important. But how does HR sometimes end up being the problem rather than the solution? And when that happens, how can it be overcome?
On April 26, Price will present a Business and Legal Resources webinar titled “Diversity and Inclusion: How to Build and Maintain a Strong Culture that Fosters Innovation and Boosts Your Bottom Line.” Among other things, she will offer information on how HR can sometimes aggravate the problem of non-inclusiveness, and she will present ideas on how to handle roadblocks and manage cultural conflicts and misunderstandings.
HR mistakes to avoid
“One area where HR professionals exacerbate the problem of non-inclusiveness is in recruiting,” Price says. “First we deny that difference presents its own set of challenges. We say things like ‘this is one big family,’ or ‘we treat everyone the same.’ The truth is that difference, even in families, is hard.”
Price says it doesn’t pay to ignore challenges. “Outcomes might be better on diverse teams. However, initial misunderstandings can be impossible to navigate if we deny this reality,” she says.
It’s also a mistake to recruit diverse talent without sharing the overarching goal with others in the organization. “We should be clear about what we are trying to accomplish,” Price says. “If we want a creative person to join a largely technical team in order to add creativity to the final products, we have to be explicit about that” since it will take “resilience and grit for a non-technical person to navigate the simple humanness of exclusivity.”
People know they benefit from varying perspectives, Price says, but they don’t always act on what they know. “Understanding the larger goal will help with patience when that happens,” she says.
Training and communication
Training can be an important part of an organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts but only if employees are receptive to it. “One of my emphatic suggestions is to allow people to do the hard work privately,” Price says. “If I am privileged, shaming me in a workshop is not the best way to get my buy-in. Conversely, if I am in a disadvantaged group, I won’t feel great about a spotlight being shone on that either.”
HR can promote understanding of the benefits of diversity and inclusion if they “avoid the lying, crying, and denying and help people embrace some universal truths about the nature of human beings first,” Price says. “Then go from there.”
Besides training, communication is necessary to promote understanding, Price says. Sometimes HR gets pushback against diversity efforts because people think “lowering the bar” is necessary. But it’s not about lowering standards. Instead, it’s about getting a broader perspective by recruiting a diverse team.
Pushback also can come in the form of complaints that an organization places too much emphasis on getting certain numbers of people who represent various groups. But “in organizations, we get what we measure,” Price says. Looking at numbers helps employers tell where they are, and the more diversity they have, the broader their perspective will be.
Consequences of a lack of diversity
Getting that broad perspective pays off in important ways, Price says. “Recently, Pepsi launched a commercial that was well-intended. They thought they were expressing togetherness and unity. However, I am not sure how many perspectives were at the table when the marketing group hit the ‘go’ button,” she said.
In early April, Pepsi pulled the ad, which shows reality TV star Kendall Jenner noticing a protest in the street as she’s appearing in a modeling shoot. Then she’s shown leaving the set to join the protest. The scene portrays tension between the protesters and police until Jenner hands a police officer a can of Pepsi. Then the crowd and the police are all smiles. The ad was criticized as trivializing the societal issues leading people to take to the streets in protests.
“Including diverse viewpoints can help to avoid these types of issues,” Price says. “In a spirit of positivity, the presence of diverse points of view results in better outcomes. This is especially true for client-facing organizations. Products and services are more relevant when the varying views of the external customer are also represented internally.”
Managing conflicts, misunderstandings
Price offers ideas for managing cultural conflicts and misunderstandings in the workplace, including encouraging HR professionals to educate themselves, find commonalities, respect differences, and build trust through personality instruments.
Also, HR can learn from academia, Price says. “In academia, educators learn to be culturally responsive leaders, teachers, and coaches. While training is not the answer to everything, a little bit of training could help us in this area.”
Need to learn more? In addition to hosting the live webinar “Diversity and Inclusion: How to Build and Maintain a Strong Culture that Fosters Innovation and Boosts Your Bottom Line” on April 26, Price will be presenting at the THRIVE 2017 conference. There, she will present Mastering Micro-Inequities: How Unnoticed Biases Interfere with Diverse Team’s Success. In that session, she will discuss the reality of micro-ineqities and how to spot them, how to determine whether you are guilty of micro-inequities, specific strategies for compensating with micro-affirmations, ways to deliver feedback on diverse teams, what leaders can do to eliminate micro-inequities in their workplaces, and how to craft, communicate, and conform to a top-down message of respect at work. To learn more, click here.