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How to Overcome the Barriers to Diversity in Your Organization

by Mark Busine

How to Overcome the Barriers to Diversity in Your OrganizationWhen it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, most people in an organization have some understanding of its importance. The reasons you’d get for why it’s so important might be along the lines of, “It’s just the right thing to do,” or maybe even, “We have diversity quotas that we need to meet.” While these responses are reasonable, they don’t fully explain the importance or get to the root of why diversity and inclusion is so important to businesses right now. 

There’s a plethora of research that says diversity is good for the bottom line, and this could be reason enough to explain why it should be top of mind. In fact, DDI’s most recent Global Leadership Forecast revealed organizations that are ahead of the pack when it comes to gender diversity—with women comprising at least 30 percent of all leadership roles and 20 percent of senior-level roles—are 1.4 times more likely to have sustained profitable growth. Another study by McKinsey found that companies in the top-quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on their executive teams are 33 percent more likely to have industry-leading profitability. The ROI of diversity and inclusion efforts can and has been proven. 

But as I alluded to, there’s much more to the “why diversity” discussion. In today’s business environment, characterized by rapid change and transformation, organizations that don’t take it seriously are missing out on opportunities to unleash new and different perspectives on new and emerging problems and opportunities. Indeed, organizations that continue to rely on the same people with the same perspectives may find themselves at a distinct competitive disadvantage.

Companies that can quickly solve challenges and anticipate what it will take to continually transform have staying power in today’s fast-paced and complex business environment where there is a constant threat of disruption. (The Forbes list of “The World’s Most Innovative Companies” is peppered with several of these companies.) When it comes down to it, not taking diversity and inclusion seriously can certainly hinder an organization’s ability to thrive.

Two kinds of diversity 

Up until now, our view of diversity has typically been through the lens of demographic differences such as gender and race. While these are important, there are many other forms of diversity that are just as critical in today’s context. In his book, The Diversity BonusScott Page identifies two broad categories of diversity that organizations need in order to gain the business benefits discussed above.

There’s the diversity we are most familiar with—identity diversity, which includes demographics like gender, ethnicity, and age, but there’s also cognitive diversity, which encompasses perspectives and thinking that’s developed through different life, educational, and work experiences and personalities. We’ve found that considering both kinds of diversity is the key to generating results. 

Uncovering the hurdles to diversity  

It’s clear that both types of diversity are essential to an organization’s success, and while many understand the importance of both types of diversity in business today, just why have so many struggled in meeting their diversity goals?

It comes down to being able to both uncover and overcome the hurdles that hinder diversity and inclusion. In our eBook, Unleash Hidden Potential: Build Your Competitive Edge Through Diversity and Inclusion, we’ve done the hard work on your behalf. We’ve identified the following barriers that suppress an organization’s ability to find hidden potential: 

  • Barrier #1: Strategic DisconnectActivities surrounding diversity and inclusion are not connected to strategic and cultural priorities. 
  • Barrier #2: InertiaBecause people are biased in favor of preserving what’s comfortable (a.k.a. the status quo), the current quo could be disabling, not enabling, your D&I efforts.
  • Barrier #3: InterferenceAn over-reliance on the same select group of leaders to make decisions can interfere with the potential of others to contribute.
  • Barrier #4: Unconscious BiasOur brains make quick judgments and assessments of people or situations without us even realizing it’s happening.
  • Barrier #5: The Myth of the UnderdogWe think that talented people will rise to the top on their own, regardless of gender, age, or personality type.

With these barriers uncovered, you’re probably wondering how your organization can overcome them. Watch our video series on these barriers to learn how DDI can help you break them down and download the eBook to get 4 key practices to help you surface hidden potential.

Mark Busine is Vice President, Product Management, for DDI. Passionate and curious about the field of leadership, Mark is always looking for creative ways to solve client problems. This creative orientation extends outside work where he dabbles in the fine art of songwriting, convinced that a worldwide number-one hit is just around the corner. 

Posted: 10 Jul, 2019,
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