The Downside Of Diversity.

For me diversity is not an option, it’s something that I have known all my life, in fact it’s a way of life for me. The first school that I can really remember attending 35% of class was Afro-Caribbean or Asian. I attended a youth club where I was the only non reggae loving member and I played for a cricket team called the Caribbean Kings.

When I played rugby for the school team and we made the cup final, the big story was not that we were in the final, but that we were a team of all nations.

Anyone who can spot which player is me will get a free e-copy of my book, it’s not difficult I haven’t changed much 🙂

But in some areas, countries and companies this is not the case. Certainly not in the last company which I worked in which had been predominately a white male german company, with very few non germans or woman in the company, let alone in leadership positions.

However, over the past 6-7 years there has been a big drive to increase diversity, the composition of the board has changed to include serval nationalities and a woman, and it’s been reasonably successful.

The downside to all this though is that how do you handle a predominately German, white, male organisation who are now hearing and seeing that diversity is one of the key objectives. Something which means that their chances for promotion could become limited.

I know colleagues who lived through the early years of this, and they said that they felt like second class citizens, and some of them had been with the company for 10, 15 or 20 years, only to be told that diversity was now a key strategy, and this made them feel undervalued and demotivated them.

Now as I say I am a big fan of diversity, but we need to be sensitive in how we communicate this, so that we do not alienate the majority of our workforce.

There are many ways of doing this: you can tell your staff that the best candidate will be selected irrespective of the gender, sex or race; by not having quotas; and by explaining that as the company grows there will always be more opportunities, so whilst diversity is a key component of strategy, there will still be plenty of opportunities available to everyone.

One way not to do it, which I saw at one company were I worked, was to tell someone who had applied for the job that although they were the best candidate we decided to go with the minority candidate instead of them.

This is very demotivating, because if you are the best candidate and yet you still don’t get the position what can you do to get promoted next time.

The joke in the company was the only way yo get a promotion was via a sex change.

Diversity is good for companies, it allows them to get in new ideas, the best available talents but it needs to be done in a way that is motivating to all the people that work within the company, whatever their demographic.

If we promote diversity, but alienate the majority of the workforce, then performance of company will be impacted negatively, which is the opposite of the goal we are looking to achieve.

Gordon Tredgold

#Leadership Principles 

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