HR, Corporate Culture and the Battle of Political Correctness
The world is becoming a more global environment. Workplaces exist without walls, individuals roam through borders, and true progress is seeing a world of humanity more than individual nations.
There is a segment of the population that disagrees with this rapid expansion, who demand an old manner of life with incorrect speech and the degradation of women and minorities should still exist. It’s not just a threat to the concept of “political correctness;” it’s a threat to corporate culture…period.
As someone who has spent three decades of her career in various aspects of HR, culminating with the ultimate seat as CHRO, I have battled long and hard for respect and cooperation in the workplace. Those who would not have it argue that HR is making sure that everybody “plays nice,” dismissing diversity training as “soft skills,” something that’s nice to have. I assure you that it is far from a soft skill: discrimination lawsuits tear at the financial and public fabric of any company, and getting a reputation as a hostile work environment will sink any corporation fast.
There is no real growth in closing off a work environment until it’s so homogenous that it eventually runs out of expansion opportunities, market growth, and hiring ability. The world will continue to turn, and the companies that do not progress with it will have a very short distance to ruin.
I need not point fingers. The results speak for themselves. What seems like a great idea now, the protection of one’s identity by the degradation of another through sheer ignorance or lack of awareness, is a certain path to destruction. It truly is. HR has the mantel of owning corporate diversity training and workplace inclusion, so inevitably it’s believed that the enforcement belongs to us. But unless it is reinforced from the C-suite down through the most minute of the employee organization chart, no amount of training, no amount of individual counseling will help.
It must be ingrained in the very mettle of the making of the corporation. It must be reinforced constantly. Warnings must be issued, and fastidiously followed up. Those who will not stand for the progress of the company must stand outside. It’s not just about being good human beings; it’s good business.
I write this post because we live in quite uncertain times right now, but we cannot be at all uncertain about the effects of maintaining a culture of inclusion and respect and its impact on the financial futures of the organizations we support. Reinforce the importance of progress, continue the conversation daily, and ensure the example is shown from the top down. Act swiftly, and do not falter. The future belongs to those who see promise in the world. Face forward.
Rita Trehan, a former Chief Human Resources Officer, now serves as a global business-transformation and capacity-building expert with more than 20 years' experience. She has helped Fortune 200 companies and large corporations worldwide to improve operational efficiency, performance, consistency, and profits, successfully delivering transformation projects for global firms including Honeywell, AES Corporation, Coca-Cola and the World Bank.
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