Diversity is more than outward appearance

Diversity is more than just looks.
Diversity is more than just looks.

“Business is about people intelligence.” That is a powerful sentence. If comes from an article written by Glenn Llopis. He talked about it in terms of leadership, I want to address it in terms of Human Resources.

Diversity is not how people look

Once 20 years ago I was sitting in a class on diversity. The class leaders focused on race. It was a leadership class but I thought the people teaching the class were wrong, and I told them so. I used myself as an example. I am a white male raised in a military family. The guy sitting next to me was also a white male raised in a military family. You would think we would have been very similar. You would have been wrong. I was the son of a sergeant and he was the son of an officer. He lived in different housing than did I. He shopped in different stores. He swam in a different pool. We were very diverse in our experience and since that experience molded our experience we had different outlooks.
Llopis points out that people today still tie diversity to conversations of race. Many of those conversations are uncomfortable for many. Now don’t get me wrong, race still is a significant factor. Witness the Donald Sterling debacle. But Llopis says that to get beyond those types of issues we need to focus on people intelligence. He says “…we must become more knowledgeable about the different types of people that we lead and serve – in order to make the right decisions and investments in our business.” For him people intelligence:

“… means having a purposeful intention to engage with and become more aware of the differences that are around us more and more each day. It means we must become more effective at connecting the dots of opportunity embedded within these differences – and then translating them into business outcomes.”

Do you know your people?

Llopis says there are four questions that we should all be able to answer about our employees. These include:

  1. How does their cultural upbringing (i.e., heritage) shape their mindset?
  2. How do their values and beliefs (i.e., what they stand for) affect their lifestyle choices?
  3. What are their ultimate goals and ambitions (i.e., what matters most to the individual)?
  4. What strengths and capabilities fuel their desires (i.e., their passionate pursuits)?

He points out this is not information you get off a survey. This is information you need to learn from each and every person. Do you? Do you take the time to learn this? Or do you assume that because an employee is a certain age, a certain color, dresses a certain way you know who they are and how they will react.
We make presentations focused on this. We talk about Millennial’s as if they were one standard person. Nothing could be more wrong. Llopis points out that today all workplaces are made up of fragmented groups. We have major diversity in the workplace. Our challenge is “how to serve the multiplying differences that exist amongst their employees and consumers.”
In your role in HR are you prepared to step up and take the challenge?

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