This year the United Nation’s World Day for Cultural Diversity is focused on dialogue and development. With the ongoing worldwide pandemic as the backdrop for cancellations of cultural events and celebrations across the globe, today is a day to reflect on our cultural differences – their value, the opportunity they bring to businesses globally – and to open a dialogue on how we as leaders can truly encourage and embrace cultural diversity in our workplaces.
Recently I was asked why I do the job I do. For me, supporting the creation of a fair and equitable organisation here at Palladium and in the communities where we work is something that I am both personally and professionally invested in. More than simply the right thing to do, increasing cultural diversity in our workplaces presents an incredible opportunity to organisations. By creating intentionally inclusive environments where cultural diversity is truly valued and our differences are our strength, we have the greatest opportunity to spark innovation.
So how do we do it?
Once we accept that achieving a diverse workforce is both the right thing to do and is good for organisations, the next question becomes how do we best approach it.
As leaders, I believe that we have two distinct challenges. The first, somewhat obviously, is to increase the diversity within our workplace. Every opportunity we have to fill a role is an opportunity to increase diversity in our workplaces. In these moments, it is our responsibility to step outside of our own networks, to be intentional and proactive about connecting with individuals from a variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
Expanding our personal networks by tapping into networks outside of our typical go-to places by asking colleagues and members from various communities for their recommendations, contacts, and insights are all simple but powerful actions. That being said, it’s only useful if you’re taking the next step of developing sustainable relationships that grow and build a pipeline of diverse talent over time.
The second challenge presents itself once we welcome new employees from diverse cultures into our workplaces. How do we foster an equitable workplace that ensures the retention of diverse employees and truly values their contributions? First and foremost, appreciating the value that cultural differences bring is key to creating an equitable workplace.
Additionally, recognising that bringing a multitude of diverse cultural backgrounds into our workplace may also present challenges is something that is important for leaders. I believe that difference is good and that our strength, in fact, lies in our differences. Still, I also understand that when you have groups of individuals with different backgrounds, different cultural norms can sometimes lead to friction in teams.
Fostering Cultural Diversity
More than simply acknowledging the cultural diversity of team members, it is incredibly important that leaders also understand that diversity needs to be fostered. Sometimes, it takes additional effort to manage a diverse team and create a respectful and intentionally inclusive environment. Treating everybody the same can sometimes mean treating people inequitably, and that approach will not realise the innovation opportunities offered by diverse voices.
We need team members who feel valued, who genuinely believe that their voices, opinions, and their experiences, are appreciated, respected, and ultimately acted upon. By trying to foster an intentionally inclusive space we seek to retain diverse talent, and more than that, to support our collective team to thrive, as individuals and collectively. Understanding nuances is key, and that is something that is incumbent on each of us to commit to.
Our responsibilities are as individual as we are, and each of us has a role to play in learning, asking the right questions, and being open to difficult conversations when we see behaviour that doesn’t reflect the inclusive environment we strive to create.
When people talk about what organisations are doing to combat racism, to be more inclusive, or to drive change and innovation, it sounds as though organisations are distinct creatures and something separate from the people who work there. In reality, organisations are just groups of people. Here at Palladium, our people define us and every other organisation we seek to serve. Each one of us has a responsibility to step up, to listen, to learn, and in doing so, we will be better, and our organisations will be better too.
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