What Happens When Diversity Is Prioritized? The Good, The Bad, And The Inspiring
Welcome back to part two of the DEI series. This specific post is dedicated to diversity. You can read the introduction to this series, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Why have these words become popular? What do they really mean? How is the world changing as a result?
Merriam-Webster defines diversity as, “the condition of having or being composed of different elements: variety.” When considering diversity in the workplace, this means creating a working environment that includes various categories and non-homogenous types of workers. This can mean hiring a range of experience levels, or workers from different socioeconomic statuses, race, religion, and orientations.
Whenever I talk about diversity, I make it a point to emphasize that I am not advocating diversity just for diversity’s sake. I am not recommending that we promote diversity at the expense of skills, merits, or accomplishments. A critical requirement when applying DEI principles in the workplace is to ensure that diversity does not overshadow or replace meritocracy, effort, or hard work, but rather to complement it.
Personally, when I was in college and medical school, I chose not to go to a program that promoted diversity just to reach a quota. I wanted to be in a place where my merit and hard work earned me my position. I wanted my patients to know they were getting a doctor that would give them the best care, and never doubt that I was there just in an effort to increase diversity. My patients could be assured that the quality of care I would provide would be top-notch, regardless of my race, gender, or any diversity initiatives were in place. Diversity would enhance my presence there, not hinder it.
How Diversity Can Positively Impact the Workplace
Promoting diversity standards and requirements can lead to many positive effects. At minimum, employing a diverse workforce will result in an organization that shares the experiences and perspectives of the clients that they serve. Services become more valuable, and products are developed to better meet customer needs with greater satisfaction.
A wider range of perspectives gives way to greater creativity, innovations, and employee engagement. Additionally, in regard to quantitative results, diversity has also been evidenced to improve productivity. Employees with different backgrounds bring with them different problem-solving approaches and varying skills and specialties, which supports better delegation of tasks. When tasks can be specialized and performed by the most compatible performer, results are optimized, and the strengths of each player are reinforced. There are many articles that promote the benefits of incorporating diversity policies and programs; including this Forbes piece on 8 Reasons Why Diversity And Inclusion Are Essential To Business Success.
The Unintended Consequences of Disingenuous Diversity
While generally, the impacts of DEI are intended to be positive, an un-biased evaluation of DEI programs and philosophies includes examining the unintended negative effects that could also result. The value of representing different perspectives can be compromised when the impetus of creating a diverse workforce is reduced to meeting a quota or checking a box. For example, there has been evidence that the requirement to meet “diversity hire” metrics can drive undesirable behaviors from prospective employees. Specifically, there have been stories of candidates falsely claiming the identity of an under-represented group because they believe (and may have witnessed practices that support this belief) that diversity is prioritized over merit. When diversity is not supported by complementary values and principles, morale can be diminished, turnover can become prevalent, and workplace conflict may increase.
What has proven successful is partnering diversity, with other important standards like equity and inclusion. This approach comprehensively incorporates success criteria for which a program can be developed when looking to improve culture and representation within an organization.
Thanks for reading. Join me for part three on Equity, as we continue our evaluation of DEI and answer the common question – what is equity, and how does equity differ from equality?