It’s not in my nature to wax philosophical or poetic about the world’s problems, but a recent article on Fortune concerning Google’s attempts to change the lack of diversity in their culture got me thinking: can corporate diversity change the world?
In one aspect, it can. Google’s evolution as a global powerhouse is the stuff of business legend. The name of the company is now a recognized noun and verb in the dictionary, which is the power of branding and consumer experience most of us long for desperately in our corporate souls. But when they realized that, even though they represent the world at large, that the world at large was not represented within their ranks, they did something about it.
They launched numerous programs to create safe spaces within their campuses for their current employees, they launched the Diversity Core program which teaches diversity and inclusion to their staff and helps make them an active participant in bringing more diverse talent into the workplace. There are separate groups for any number of subcultures within Google, and they’re working fastidiously to ensure that what happens outside the office can create understanding, compassion, and power within their workforce. It is a model of diversity and inclusion that is awe-inspiring, and something for which we should all strive.
I asked the question of whether diversity programs like this can change the world. As borders start to close and companies are taking a strong stance on nationalism as well as inclusion, we seem wholly divided on how we handle the vast differences of opinion. One faction would like to only be surrounded by like kind, some don’t see it as a problem at all, and still others see it as an incredible disservice to both the people in the communities and to the workforce to simply not care that the world out there is different than the world within our walls.
I’d like to err on the side of change. I believe strongly that the world is getting larger and more diverse by the day, and that our businesses must reflect our communities to foster a brighter future for both our current employees and the world in which we operate. We cannot say it doesn’t matter. It does. Consumers want to feel connected. Employees no longer feel connected to businesses that do not value them as an individual.
In the rapidly-advancing world in which we live, we cannot afford to close our doors, eyes, and practices to the needs of our people. We must evolve. We must change the world, and it starts right where we are with the employees we have and the ones we wish to hire. The war for talent is a long one, and if it does not appeal to you from a personal perspective, it must on a sheer financial fact: we cannot win the war for the best talent without fostering an environment in which that talent can thrive. We cannot play the business game of the future with last millennium’s playbook.
Diversity is the answer.It changes the world for us, for our business, and inevitably, the global world at large. Where opportunity and understanding exist for one of us, the door opens for many more. That is how diversity will change the world, and it is the journey of many, many decades. But it starts with a single step. I look forward to helping companies who feel passionately about their future take the right one.
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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