Lothery & Associates

Diversity and Inclusion: A PR or HR Issue?

Look on most company websites and you’ll see the diversity officer or department has some direct or dotted reporting line to the Human Resources Department. I’ve often criticized diversity initiatives because they focus on estrogen and color and fail to make the business development connection. That’s why Lothery & Associates provides diversity and inclusion training along with our communication sessions. Diversity and inclusion are as much about recruiting and retaining top talent from all demographics, as it is about being able to communicate with a diverse consumer base and effectively manage your diverse workforce.

So let’s break this down. On the human resources side, it’s no secret that women and minorities are underrepresented in the workplace. It’s still legal to fire someone for admitting they’re gay in almost 30 states, so having a full understanding of how many LGBT staff you actually have is hard to tell. Most businesses operate on the Christian calendar, leaving those from other religions to maneuver vacation time to observe their own celebrations. All of these statements are grounds for some awareness training to help all employees learn more about those who are different from themselves. Furthermore, it opens the door to diversity recruitment and retention plans to find talent and create an environment that is both welcoming and conducive to all having an equal opportunity for advancement.

On the public relations or communication side, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that people who grow up with little or no exposure to a particular demographic group probably don’t understand that group’s cultural norms, what drives them to work hard, what makes them buy a product or service, or even why they play or follow a sport. One thing you can do is simply guess that what works for others will work for them. Or, if you’d like work smarter and spend less money, you can do your own homework on what messages, communication styles and behaviors are normal and/or appealing to your target audience, and start from an informed position.

Here’s where the challenge comes in. Every year companies engage in diversity training where participants learn how to recognize and respect differences, and tell people to “do diversity!” However, they rarely have a To Do List that explains exactly what it means to “do diversity.” This results in most  saying one of the following incorrect statements to themselves:

  • I am not a member of a hate group so I’m clearly open to everyone and don’t have biases against anyone.
  • I am a minority so “they” need to learn more about me. I know how “they” are.
  • I’m a female and I’ve always received worse or less, so they need to do more to reach me.
  • I’ve never used hateful language so I’m clearly already diverse.
  • They’re the “different” ones so they just need to learn how to fit into our culture, and everything will be fine.

With these statements playing in the back of the mind, behaviors, assumptions, and disparities will remain the same, and progress never comes. Or even worse, a company may go through a lawsuit or other legal activity, and then decide they’re going to just focus on hiring “estrogen and color” and think that will solve the issue! Big Mistake!

Our failure, as individuals to acknowledge that we ALL have biases against some group(s), is the first strike in trying to create an inclusive environment at work or any other setting.  Assuming that as a member of a, so-called, “diverse group” that you have nothing to learn to help advance a diversity or inclusion initiative, is the next. Think about how much you get to know the straight, white, Christian male’s history, cultural norms, or personal history, so you can connect with him better?

Next, it doesn’t take a hate group or even hateful words to be exclusive. In fact inclusion requires deliberate action, and is almost never a natural progression. And finally, with the demographics of the country changing daily, baby boomers staying in the workforce longer than expected, and same-sex marriage considered acceptable by more than 50% of Americans, and legal in 9 states;  it really will take some conscious deliberate acts to learn more about others and what makes them tick, and how to best communicate them, so you get what you need from them as an employee, supervisor, volunteer, customer, or other stakeholder.

When Lothery & Associates conducts a diversity and inclusion workshop it always has a balance between awareness building and business application so our clients walk out of the room with clear, tangible action steps to help strengthen the inclusive work environment and boost customer relationships. We recognize most people have been raised to avoid talking about issues based on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, and age, so for a workshop to be successful there must be a safe atmosphere where individuals are confident they can participate openly without fear of being made the public target, victim, or offender.

In 2006 Harvard Business School released a report proving that traditional diversity training, that is the type that focuses on compliance, avoiding litigation, a re-tell of history, and the how to be nice to each other stuff doesn’t work. In most cases those workshops make work conditions worse, in-office jokes increase, and offensive behaviors occur at a higher rate. The report talks about the importance of including clear and specific action steps in the training to give participants something they can do right away.

Lothery & Associates is introducing 101 Ways to “Do” Diversity: The quick and easy how-to guide for those who like to check the box! A great workbook filled with specific, tangible activities to improve inclusion within the workplace so you can compete better in the marketplace. Even if you’re a non-profit, you still have interaction with stakeholders in some way, and these activities still apply. We look at each business function including the messaging for your marketing and public relations efforts, sales, finance, and procurement.

Re-examine your diversity and inclusion plan and see if you have goals and actions both in your recruitment and retention plans, but also in your external messaging strategy, so you really can communicate and connect, as best you can!  And if we can help, all you have to do is ask!

You can get started with 101 Ways to “Do” Diversity: The easy how-to guide for those who like to check the box!

Visit the Communication Corner Store for your copy of the “101 Ways to Do Diversity! Click Here!


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