It's crucial to promote diversity and inclusion while at the same time maintain cohesion among your team
By Claudia S. Herrmann
CHF Consulting Group
June 3, 2021
The prevalent buzzword now is inclusiveness. Inclusiveness in the workplace, across all industries, in fashion, in entertainment, in social media, and so on. While it is true that African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and members of the LGBTQ (and any other minority that doesn’t come to my mind as I write this) have been historically been underrepresented, by overemphasizing inclusiveness we’re fostering segregation among humans.
According to the 2020 Census, of the 331 million humans living in America, 76.3 percent are identified as white alone, 13.4 percent identified themselves as black or African American alone, 18.5 percent identified themselves as Latinos or Hispanic, 1.3 percent are identified as Native Americans and 5.9 percent identified themselves as Asian. 13.6 percent Americans are foreign born. This is considering that many Latinos identify themselves as white.
Before we classify ourselves as of one race or another, let’s start with the premise that humans are, well, human beings. When I grew up as a child in my native Mexico and Austria (my mother’s country of origin), in the seventies and then as a young adult in the eighties, making racial distinctions was very much frowned upon. There were people of different shades of skin color and ethnicities, sure, but a homogeneous ethnic or racial identification was strongly encouraged. Its origin can be traced to the 1925 book written by Mexican philosopher and secretary of education, José Vasconcelos, to express the ideology of a “cosmic race” in the Americas; an agglomeration of all the races in the world with no regard for color to erect a new civilization he identified as “Universopolis”.
It was not until the beginning of this century that the concept of racial and other distinctions also took root in Mexico and other parts of the world. Meanwhile I moved to Dallas, and over time became a Texan by choice. Here I learned about the different racial distinctions that are now so prevalent. I remember that in 2001, a Rice County police officer pulled me over for crossing the median to a service road during one of those mile-long traffic jams on I-35, and the first question he asked me what my race was. I had moved to Texas two scant weeks before, so I was genuinely flabbergasted by the question. Back then in my native Mexico “race” was a word used to refer to breeds of animals, like a Siamese cat. I told him that I was human. He took offense at my response and threw the ticket in my face. That was a wakeup call.
The beauty of America’s population is that it is truly diverse. Not only do people from different races converge, but also people of different religions, cultures, belief systems, idiosyncrasies, and sexual orientations. This is a huge plus for our society and for companies, but companies need to be careful to not allow a disassociation among its employees. How can your organization strike a balance between promoting diversity while at the same time maintain the workforce’s cohesion? In other words, how do we find our commonalities within our diversity?
Here are some thoughts:
1. Understand how diversity contributes to your main objective of maximizing your company’s performance and revenue, but at the same time promote people’s interactions and friendship across the corporate structure. Strive to help your employees find their commonalities within their diversity. Avoid allowing too many exceptions as the workplace may become unmanageable.
2. Give equal pay to equal work. Inequality in corporate compensation practices will lead to lack of loyalty, and reduced performance as employees will do the bare minimum and not go an inch over what their job description requires. Make improvements for your workforce everywhere, especially when it comes to salaries. I often hear business owners complain about not finding employees and how offering a living salary will affect their revenue. Yes, better salaries may mean less income and therefore less dividends for the shareholders or partners, but unsustainable salaries will adversely affect companies in the short and long term.
3. Promote happiness and flexibility, and accommodate your employees’ basic needs, like allowing time off to go to doctors’ appointments, paid maternity/paternity leave, offering medical insurance, non-working vacations, a flexible schedule, etc. It has been proven over and over again that a stressed out, overworked, and underpaid workforce will yield diminished productivity.
4. Mentor and find mentors for your employees. Allocate yourself some time for sitting down and talking to your employees and allow senior role employees to take time to mentor entry and mid-level employees. When they receive guidance on how to direct their work, skills and career, their performance will surely increase.
5. Promote your women and minority employees into more senior roles.
6. Hire senior workers as they can contribute a treasure trove of expertise and experience to your organization.
7. Support transparency. Allow your employees to share information with each other and across different areas of your company. That way they will acquire more empowering knowledge, and that in turn will make your company more productive and thus, more profitable.
8. Foster integration through knowledge. Encourage activities that allow employees to know one another and even to strike friendships.
8. Promote giving back. Let your workforce find out what causes or activities they are passionate about and encourage them to follow their passion and give back.