Instant gratification is holding your diversity efforts back

Allies stay in the diversity game long-term

Diversity and inclusion is a long game. It’s not a check the box. It’s not a one-and-done. It’s not a sprint. It really is a marathon, meaning the work never ends. Diversity and inclusion efforts will go long beyond our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes for generations to come.

With that said, there does need to be a starting point. And it’s never too late to start. Once you’re on the journey it’s about staying on the journey and encouraging others to join.

Amidst the surge in diversity, equity, and inclusion work, with the added challenge of talent retention in a hybrid work environment and long-overdue social and racial justice movements, organizations are wrestling with what the correct starting point is for them. The temptation to increase recruiting and hiring efforts for diverse talent is real. 

Diversity does not work without inclusion.

Despite having really good intentions, simply going out and trying to find diverse talent will not generally lead to better outcomes for an organization. Perhaps the short-term representation numbers increase, but if there’s not a deeper commitment to an inclusive work environment where everyone wants to work, then focusing on diverse talent recruiting and hiring can actually make the problem worse. 

There is a tempo problem with diversity

Because results often are long-term with diversity, people lose focus. We live in a society and culture where short-term results are rewarded. Look at the stock market quarterly gains focus, the short tenure of CEOs, and the focus on ‘what are you doing for me now’ versus ‘where we are going together’ in relationships. 

Look at the famous marshmallow test. The study has been replicated over time, and generally speaking finds that children struggle to delay gratification even with incentives to wait for short periods of time. It suggests that human beings like what’s in front of them and will choose the short-term results over the long-term results even if they’re significantly better.  Our brain focuses on what is certain, not what is less certain long-term.

Because the latest diversity and inclusion forecasts show that we are centuries away from equality, organizations are tempted to focus on what can get them the short-term business results. And to be honest, despite my dismay with the current situation, organizations can get more out of their people by maintaining the status quo and appealing to what works in the short-term. The runway for that behavior is limited though. Because demographics are shifting in our country and the risk of irrelevance is very high long-term, there’s likely to be a wake-up moment sooner rather than later for organizations that aren’t focused long-term on diversity and inclusion. 

“We Can’t Find Diverse Talent”

Have you heard this before? It’s all too often the excuse for not being able to recruit and hire diverse talent. It’s more likely to be said by the majority group (white, straight, male, cisgender, able-bodied folks). At its core, this is problematic because if we believe that it’s hard to find diverse talent we will most certainly look for evidence to confirm that that’s true. This is called confirmation bias. 

However, if we shift that belief to think finding diverse talent is possible, perhaps we have to do things differently to get more diversity, then we look for possibilities rather than limitations. This shift in mindset might increase our willingness to try different approaches like recruit from different colleges and universities, post in different job boards, ask our diverse talent for referrals and reward that, change our language in job descriptions and in interview guides to truly be inclusive. 

If you fish in the same pond and don’t catch fish, do you blame the fish or do you look to change your technique on how you attract the fish?  Similarly, if you’re a gardener and you plant a flower, you don’t blame the flower for not growing, you think about what you could do differently to improve soil of which the flower can grow. The same goes for diverse talent.  We do not need to blame the talent that’s not attracted to us, but rather shift the focus to us and looking at what we can do to create an environment where diverse talent wants to work.

Decisions take longer

I have searched long and hard for evidence that diversity has negative outcomes. The good news is I have yet to find any except for one. Decisions can take longer, especially in the short-term. And those decisions are 87% better in general when made by a diverse team.

Think about the most diverse team you’ve been a part of. There was probably a lot more storming than norming. There were probably a lot more diverse, varied perspectives shared than groupthink. There was probably more divergent thinking than convergent thinking. All of these factors come into play to enhance the richness of the conversation and the generation of potential solutions before all too often shortcutting decisions with our gut instincts, relying on similarity bias. We risk being out of sync with our customers’ needs when we make quick decisions.

If your team is wrestling with increasing diversity and inclusion, consider some of these proven techniques from our partners at The Diversity Movement:

  • Chase the innovation and the skills that you are missing on your team versus practicing risk aversion
  • Hiring inclusively isn’t about quotas.  It needs to be a disciplined approach to focus on the skill sets and ensure your sourcing is disciplined. Get rid of any subjective criteria to eliminate bias in the process.
  • Ask your current employees what resources they need for their well-being and make sure they feel included before trying to make others feel included.
  • Use your About Us page on your website to show diversity transparently – what you’re working to improve, what you’re currently proud of.  Do not use stock photos to pretend you are something you are not.

 What’s next

Want to do better, and not sure where to start?  That is why we developed the Lead Like an Ally virtual self-paced training program, perfect for organizations struggling with accountability for diversity.  If you want to be intentional with diversity, contact us for a guest pass here.  You can try out the content for free for a few weeks and get your team to try it out too.