Leadership and Developing Diversity
One of the great challenges facing organizations is getting all employees, from the CEO to the hourly workers, to realize that to become the best, they have to embrace diversity.
Diversity is about empowering people. It makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. It is not EEO or Affirmative Action. These are laws and policies. While on the other hand, diversity is understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person.
Simply enforcing government regulations will not get you to the best. To obtain that competitive edge, you need to grow your work-force from groups into teams that use the full potential of every individual. Teams are much more than a group. A group is collection of individuals where each person is working towards his or her own goal, while a team is a collection of individuals working towards a common goal or vision. This helps to create a synergy effect with teams. . . that is, one plus one equals more than one. An individual, acting alone, can accomplish much; but a group of people acting together in a unified force can accomplish great wonders. This is because team members understand each other and support each other. Their main goal is to see the team accomplish its mission. Personal agendas do not get in the way of team agendas. By using the synergy effect of teams you create a competitive advantage over other organizations who are using people acting alone. You are getting more for your efforts!
One of the main failures that prevent a group from becoming a team is the failure to accept others for what they are. It is only when the group members realize that diversity is the key for turning weak areas into strong areas does the group start to grow into a team. Failing to accept the diversity of others keeps the group members from going after team goals. Goals are individual in nature, that is, they are personal agendas. . . to make them as an individual look good while ignoring the needs of the team.
Embracing diversity is the first item for building teams. Every team building theory states that to build a great team, there must be a diverse group of people on the team, that is, you must avoid choosing people who are only like you. Diversity is what builds teams a collection of individual experiences, backgrounds, and cultures that can view problems and challenges from a wide-variety of lenses.
Our bias and prejudice are deeply rooted within us. From the moment when we are born, we learn about ourselves, our environment, and the world. Families, friends, peers, books, teachers, idols, and others influence us on what is right and what is wrong. These early learnings are deeply rooted within us and shape our perceptions about how we view things and how we respond to them. What we learn and experience gives us a subjective point of view known as bias. Our biases serve as filtering lenses that allow us to make sense of new information and experiences based on what we already know. Many of our bias are good as they allow us to assume that something is true without proof. Otherwise, we would have to start learning anew on everything that we do. But, if we allow our bias to shade our perceptions of what people are capable of, then the bias is harmful. We start prejudging others on what we think that they cannot do.
Simply giving a class on diversity will not erase these bias. Indeed, even the best development programs will not erase most of these deeply rooted beliefs. Development can only help us to become aware of them so that we can make a conscious effort to change. Developing diversity is more than a two-hour class; it involves workshops, role models, one-on-ones, etc. But most of all, it involves a heavy commitment by the organization's leadership. Not only the formal leadership but also the informal leadership that can be found in almost every organization.
Embracing diversity is more than tolerating people who are different. It means actively welcoming and involving them by:
- Developing an atmosphere that is safe for all employees to ask for help. People should not be viewed as weak if they ask for help. This is what helps to build great teams joining weakness with strengths to get the goal accomplished.
- Actively seeking information from people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Also, including everyone on the problem solving and decision making process.
- Including people who different than you in informal gatherings such as lunch, coffee breaks, and spur of the moment meetings.
- Creating a team spirit where every member feels a part of.
If an organization does not take on this challenge, it will soon become extinct or left far behind. There are too many competitors who are striving to become the best. They know that customers will not tolerate lackadaisical service. Those that are the best must continue to fight to be the best or they will soon be overtaken. You need to strive to be the best in one or more areas such as the fastest, biggest, cheapest, customer oriented, etc.
Great companies who remain competitive in one or more areas do not sit around patting themselves on the back; for they know that there are dozens of others who want to take their place. They do, however, celebrate accomplishments and achievements. Although most companies will never become the best at what they aim for, they must compete to do things better than their competitors. They have to let their customers know that they are willing to go out of their way to serve them in their area of expertise.
Most problems in the work place are not that people cannot do their jobs. It is that people cannot get along with other people. People are hired on the premise that they can perform the job, or with a reasonable amount of training, be coached into performing the job. Except for some basic courses about the organization and perhaps a course or two on safety and computer networking, most training given to new hires involves on-the-job (OJT) training. Normally, this involves very little effort from HRD as OJT is conducted by supervisors, leads, peers, etc. Although they should become more involved in the OJT process, e.g. providing coaching classes for the trainers and creating training aids.
HRD needs to make greater efforts in effectively training or developing soft skills. This includes such subjects as diversity, communication, and people skills that allows people to understand each other and develop good team skills. Every team member must not only be able to understand and work with all the other team members, but they must also want to. This should be HRD's number one priority, to build real teams, not just groups of people with titles called Teams.
Diversity is not only black and white, female and male, homosexual and heterosexual, Jew and Christian, young and old, etc.; but the diversity of every individual, slow learner and fast learner, introvert and extrovert, controlling type and people type, scholar and sports-person, liberal and conservative, etc. This is where HRD needs to focus its efforts. . . helping people to realize that it takes a wide variety of people to become the best and that they need to have the ability to be able to rely on everyone on their team, no matter how different another person may be. A organization needs controllers, thinkers, dreamers, doers, organizers, team builders, etc. to reach the goals that make an organization the best. It does not need people fighting and distrusting other team members!
Organizations need an extremely diverse group of people on each and every team. For example, having a group of team builders will get you nowhere, as everyone will be out trying to create a team. Likewise, having a group of doers will get you nowhere as everyone will be trying to accomplish something without a clear goal or vision to guide them. Most organizations picture diversity in very limited terms. The essence of diversity should NOT be to picture diversity as race, religion, sex, age; but to picture it as the uniqueness of every individual. Only by accepting this distinctiveness in others, will people want to help the team as a whole to succeed.
Organizations have to realize that all cultures of the world are their potential customers. Not too long ago, many business focused on the young and/or middle age white classes. This was where the money was at. Now, thanks to great efforts towards recognizing the many facets of diversity and the good that it brings us, more and more money is starting to be in the hands of people from a wide range of diverse backgrounds. In order to attract this wide variety of cultures, organizations must truly become multi-culture themselves. They can no longer just talk-the-talk, they must also walk-the-talk. Organizations that only employ “people of their kind” in leadership and high visibility positions will not be tolerated by people of other cultures. These cultures will spend their money at organizations that truly believe in diversity. Embracing diversity has several benefits for the organization:
- It is the right thing to do.
- To attract good people into their ranks, organizations must take the moral path. Good organizations attract good people, while bad organizations attract bad people.
- It helps to build teams that create synergy you get more for your efforts.
- It broadens the customer base in a very competitive environment.
There are two main goals for HRD to achieve. The first is having all leaders within an organization become visibly involved in programs affecting organizational culture change and evaluating and articulating policies that govern diversity. To do so, you must display leadership that eradicates oppression of all forms. The result is enhanced productivity, profitability, and market responsiveness by achieving a dynamic organization and work force. This is the first goal of HRD, to train the leadership.
The second is inspiring diversity into the work force. Workers want to belong to an organization that believes in them, no matter what kind of background or culture they come from. They, like their leadership, want to be productive, share in the profits, and be a totally dynamic work force. If HRD trains the leadership, this goal will be relatively easy. It is much easier to train people when they have role models to base their behaviors on. Also, you will have backing from the people who can support you in your efforts.
The development of diversity is considered a soft skill. Unlike hard skills, soft skills are relatively hard to evaluate. For example, “Using a calculator, notepad, and pencil, calculate the number of minutes it will take to produce one widget.” This hard skill is easily measured not only in the classroom, but also on the job. Now, consider a soft skill, “After the training period the learner will be able to work with others as a team.” This cannot easily be measured in the classroom. Its true measure must be taken in the workplace, and this is also very difficult to measure. This is because this type of training program falls more under development, rather than training or education. For a quick review of the three programs of Human Resource Development (Nadler, 1984):
- Training is the acquisition of technology that permits employees to perform their present job to standards. It improves human performance on the job the employee is presently doing or is being hired to do.
- Education is training people to do a different job. Unlike training, which can be fully evaluated immediately upon the learners returning to work, education can only be completely evaluated when the learners move on to their future jobs. We can test them on what they learned while in training, but we cannot be fully satisfied with the evaluation until we see how well they perform their new jobs.
- Development is training people to acquire new horizons, technologies, or viewpoints. It enables leaders to guide their organizations onto new expectations by being proactive rather than reactive. It enables workers to create better products, faster services, and more competitive organizations. It is learning for growth of the individual, but not related to a specific present or future job. Unlike training and education, which can be completely evaluated, development cannot always be fully evaluated. This does not mean that we should abandon development programs, as helping people to grow and develop is what keeps an organization in the forefront of competitive environments.
Soft skills often look as if they might fit under all three terms. Using the team training example, we see that it has these characteristics:
- Training - it will be used to increase performance on the present job, that is, being able to perform as a team member.
- Education - it will be used to increase performance in a different job, instead of being a group member, the learner will become a team member.
- Development - it will be used to acquire a new viewpoint so that the organization can become more competitive.
It is this vagueness with soft skills that make them so hard to train. Are we training, educating, or developing? Besides being hard to fit under one of the three programs of HRD, there are two other points to consider.
First, how do you evaluate “works as a team member.” In order to prove that our training is effective, we must be able to evaluate it. We have no way of knowing if the learning objectives were met if we cannot measure the task being used on the job, hence, we have no way of knowing if our training is of any value to the company
Secondly, soft skills generally fall under the domain of attitudes. When we train a task, we are teaching a person to learn a new body of Knowledge (cognitive), perform a new Skill (psychomotor), and display a new Attitude (affective) (KSA) (Bloom, 1956). The type of task determines what percent of the KSA is devoted to each domain.
For example, training someone to operate a forklift requires about 80% skill (eye hand coordination, deftness with controls, etc.), 10% knowledge (location of controls, rules, etc.), and about 10% attitude (eagerness to learn, concentrating on precision movements, etc.).
Training someone to set up formulas in a spreadsheet might require about 20% skill (typing, using a mouse, etc.), 70% knowledge (procedures, reading and interrupting formulas, etc.), and 10% attitude (how hard they believe the task to be, will it help me do my job better, etc.).
Training a diversity topic would roughly require about 15% skill (interacting with others, soliciting input, etc.), 10% knowledge (knowing culture differences, knowing the terms, etc.), and about 75% attitude (responding to others, changing a deeply held belief, etc.)
Soft skill training is mainly changing attitudes a persisting feeling or emotion of a person that influences her choice of action and her response to stimulus. It is defined as a disposition or tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain thing (idea, object, person, situation). Attitudes have been defined in a variety of ways, but at the core is the notion of evaluation. Thus, attitudes are commonly viewed as summary evaluations of objects (e.g. oneself, other people, issues, etc.) along a dimension ranging from positive to negative. Attitudes encompass, or are closely related to, our opinions and beliefs and are based upon our experiences. Training that produces tangible results starts by changing behavior. . . that ultimately changes attitudes.
Since our attitudes are deeply rooted, they are very hard to change. Attitudes are latent constructs and are not observable in themselves we can infer that people have attitudes by what they say or do but we cannot directly measure it. And what they say or do are behaviors. The training developer must identify some sort of behavior that would seem to be representative of the display of the attitude in question. This behavior can then be measured as an index of the attitude construct. For example, if you are training diversity, you cannot be sure that you have eliminated prejudice from a learner. Therefore, you have to measure behaviors, such as showing respect for all cultures.
This does not mean you cannot go after changing attitudes. It most cases, it is a must. For example, the 1997 Texaco headlines about the racial slurs of its leaders show that attitudes must be changed. If you only rely upon the correct behaviors being displayed without attitudes being changed, then expect to see a headline like this about your organization. When we attempt to display behaviors that do not coincide with our attitudes, then expect to make big mistakes. Our behaviors are based upon our attitudes. And as stated earlier, training diversity is about 75% attitude. Attempting to change only the other 25% will not work. That 75% attitude is just too great of a number.
Another example is safety. Being able to perform safely in the work environment is not just about knowledge and skills, it also requires the correct attitude. For many tasks, doing something the safe way requires more effort or work on part of the individual. Employees must have the correct attitude towards safety or when it counts the most, they will relapse back into the faster or easier method. . . and this is not right for all the coworkers involved. They deserve a safe working environment!
Can attitudes be changed? In a experiment by social psychologists Wells and Petty (1980), students were asked to assist in testing the quality of headphones while the listener was in motion. Three groups of students put on headphones and listened to music and an editorial about tuition.
- The first group, told they were acting as controls made no movements while listening.
- The second group was instructed to move their heads up and down (nodding).
- The third group was instructed to shake their heads from side to side (denying).
Afterward, the students rated the quality of the headphones and judged the material that they had heard. The material was about tuition. Among the questions was one about tuition. Half the students had heard an editorial suggesting that tuition be raised to $750 while the other half heard that it should be drooped to $400. The editorials by themselves were persuasive; they influenced students who listened without moving their heads. However, movements made by the students as they listened had a strong effect on their opinions.
When asked what tuition would be fair, those that heard that it should be raised, thought, on the average, that it should be $582. Those that heard that it should be lowered, thought that a fair price would be on an average of $412. The involvement of body movement had a striking effect. Students who nodded their head as they heard the $750 editorial thought a fair tuition would be on an average of $646, while those that shook their heads thought it should be on an average of $467.
These motor responses that signal agreement or disagreement had a profound affect on attitudes effects that are not trivial.
To train soft skills, HRD practitioners must picture themselves not only as trainers, but also as educators and developers. To do so, requires a different sort of mind set. With our greater preoccupation with human relations, the affective domain (attitudes) cannot be ignored, regardless of the difficulties encountered.
As stated before, developing attitudes is extremely difficult. At times we want to change attitudes, at others, the best we can hope for or want to, is to change displayed behaviors. The chart below shows attitude as running along the vertical axis and behavior running along the horizontal axis:
| 9 A | 8 t | 7 t | 6 i | 5 t | 4 u | 3 d | 2 e | 1 | 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ______________________________ Behavior
For each degree that you want to change the attitude (vertical axis) of the learner, you must come up with a training method that changes the behavior an equal amount of degrees (horizontal axis). Methods will also have to be devised to measure the behavior an equal amount. When developing diversity, you are going to want an attitude change along the scale of 8 or 9. This means you need to make a heavy commitment to training because the behaviors you want displayed will also be at the end of the scale.
Some attitude changes do not require such a drastic change. For example, when people are outside on break and they put their cigarette butts out on the ground instead of the ash receptacle calls for less drastic behavioral change. The effort (and the amount of effort that you would want to expend towards the problem) to change their behavior would be on the scale of 1 or 2.
Go beyond the role of a trainer in diversity development by being a:
- Leader - sets the example and becomes a role model
- Technical Expert - on training and diversity.
- Team Builder - pulls people into a unified team.
- Peace Keeper - acts as a mediator.
- Pot Stirrer - brings controversy out in the open.
- Devil's Advocate - raises issues for better understanding.
- Cheerleader - praises people for doing great.
- Counselor - provides intimate feedback.
Facilitating Diversity Techniques:
- Drawing people out:
- “What do others think?” or “What do you think?”
- “I've heard from (name) so far...are there any other thoughts?”
- “And what else?”
- Silence (20-30 seconds) gives the learners a chance to think. Longer periods of silence can be used to force people to talk due to the uncomforting nature of the silence is a group.
- “You look like you have something to say...”
- Interpreting comments:
- words vs. tune/tone (most questions are not really questions)
- intent vs. wording
- past experiences and personality
- use of intuition
- paradigms and filters
- Clarifying thoughts / comments
- use of models and experience
- looking for multiple points
- looking for similarities / differences among people
- facilitator bias
- Sensing group energy
- sparking the group
- taking breaks / timing
- Balancing the group
- Handling objections
- try not to personalize (the learners will become defensive)
- reflect / deflect
- encourage conversation
- remember to breath
- How we treat each other:
- accepting each other into the group
- individual responsibility
- being right verses being successful
- influence verses dominance (pull rank)
- confidentiality / trust
- supporting each other
- active listening
- conflict resolution
There are five major approaches to collecting attitude data:
- Records - These include observed behavior such as attendance records, anecdotal records, incidents, and interviews.
- Self Reports - Such as inventories of employees reporting directly about their own attitudes.
- Report of Others - These include information, rating scales, and interview results of others reporting about the attitude of an employee or team.
- Sociometric Techniques - Such as sociograms and social distance scales were members of a group report about their attitudes towards one another.
- Projective Technique - Picture presentations and sentence completion in where the learner supplies a response to the stimulus.
Steps for evaluating:
- Determine from the learning objectives what specific attitude (desired behavior) is being trained.
- Determine the behavior (construct) that will best exhibit this attitude. Concentrate on one or two specific behaviors during any given evaluation period.
- Decide on the most appropriate way to get the information.
- Select or develop an instrument for collecting the information. Collect only the information that will provide evidence of the desired behavior.
- Decide who will be observed and when. Obtain as many observations as possible and review patterns of change.
- Confer with the learners to provide feedback.
Precautions In Attitude Measurement:
- Attitudes are impossible to measure directly. The evaluator is relying on inference.
- Behaviors, beliefs, and feelings, are not consistent, even when we assume they reflect a single attitude. The pattern of behavior may be very complex and be a manifestation of more that one attitude.
- Attitudes do not stand still long enough for a one time snap shot measurement. Frequent measurements at selected intervals will reflect a more accurate representation of a consistent attitude.
- Certain attitudes do not have a universal agreement on their nature or what the correct behavioral display is.
- Collection of certain types of personal data about learners may lead to legal complications involving their rights to privacy.
Also see the Diversity Continuum
- (Self Survey) Working With Others
- Looksism and Diversity
- Typical Family
- ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Reasonable Accommodations
- Various Diversity Activities and Ice-Breakers
Next chapter: Leadership and Time Management
Bloom B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: Addison Wesley Publishing Company
Nadler, Leonard (1984). The Handbook of Human Resource Development. New York: John Wiley & Sons