Diversity and Inclusion: Much Discussed, Very Little PracticedBy Maite Delgadillo | Wed, 08/18/2021 - 09:02
“Wanted: Accounting Analyst, intermediate level of English, Bachelor Degree in Accounting or related, knowledge of Contpaq and current tax laws, female, 20-50 years of age, full-time availability.”
I remember a long time ago having seen an ad for an organization that was looking for personnel with these characteristics. Beyond judging the organizations and professionals that publish this type of vacancy, I would like to invite you to reflect: Is it that they are recruiting staff based on personal characteristics rather than professional competencies or an attitude that can help them develop those competencies if they do not already have them? How is it that personal characteristics can contribute to helping an organization to achieve its goals? Is it that a person over 50 or a man could not do this job and contribute to the success of the organization? (In the specific case of this publication), what message do these types of ads transmit about your employer brand and what do you want to transmit?
Throughout my professional career, what I have been able to learn the most is from people and from the diversity of ideas; the number of doors that open to you when there is diversity of thought in an organization is incredible. By diversity of ideas, I do not mean personal characteristics. I mean diversity of ideas regardless of personal characteristics and, at the risk of encroaching on a controversial issue, I do not mean professional ones either. That is, your gender, your race, your religion, your career, your years of experience, your marital status, your religion, the school in which you studied or the years of experience do not matter. What makes an organization richer and more successful is having true diversity in all these and more.
“OKAY,” someone might tell me, “I already have diversity in my organization, of many types, but still the organization is not as successful as you are saying it should be. So?”
This is where the best part of diversity comes in: inclusion. Ever heard on a podcast that diversity is not inviting different people to the party but inviting them to dance? What does it mean to invite them to dance in an organization? Well, invite them to contribute, to express their ideas openly, without fear of being judged or excluded. How many times have we been in a presentation of a project in the office in front of many people yet it seems like the room is empty? No questions. Is it that you were actually very clear in your presentation? Is it really like this or is it that people do not dare to express their ideas, their opinions? You can have a company with a lot of diversity but if you don't listen to people, you don't invite them to express their opinions; if you don’t consider them, then you are only halfway there. "I do listen to my collaborators," “I have sessions in which they express their opinions and do so without fear.” Here, the serious question, for you, is, what is listening? Are you really open to listening to what the collaborators say without passing judgment on it? Are you really open to taking their comments as valid even if you don't think the same or don't like them? Are you open to implementing them?
Let us return to the initial topic, diversity. I previously mentioned diversity in terms of experience and professional background. Some of you could say, “OK, how is it that I can have this diversity if in my company we only need personnel with a certain professional career and with many years of experience because we are very specialized?” Is it really that you only need that kind of personnel?
For example, recently graduated professionals. Often, I have heard the comment that certain years of experience are needed to be able to carry out a job, prompting then recent graduates to say, “How can they ask me for years of experience if they do not give me the opportunity to get that experience?” Perhaps a recent graduate cannot contribute to making the organization more successful? Just a person who has many years of experience? From my perspective, a recent graduate can contribute a great deal to an organization. We are talking about diversity. Just because they are a new graduate and inexperienced does not mean they can't have wonderful ideas. That they can't teach you something.
On the contrary, in my career, I have been able to count on young people who, without any experience but with attitude, with a desire to learn and do things, have contributed wonderful ideas that have led the organization to a higher level, and today they continue to do so. As a leader, the best gift I have been able to provide is to contribute to these professionals with a hunger for knowledge and experience to be better professionals and to succeed. I have a very clear example of one of the best professionals I have ever known and from whom I have learned a lot. His story is this: He joined the organization as an intern a long time ago, long before me. Now, he occupies an executive position and has been expatriated to a couple of countries, leading those business units to very good results. What if the organization had not given this individual the opportunity to contribute? We would have missed out on his incredible talent in this organization and surely another organization would have grown, and the history of my organization would undoubtedly be different.
“Very good. So, you are telling me that recently graduated and inexperienced young women and men contribute a lot.” Correct, that’s exactly what I´m saying.
I invite you to think in an open way, to be able to develop someone and to sow something in each of those people. You will see that as time passes, you will see your contribution to their growth. You may even see that person surpass you in a lot of things. You can feel proud to have been part of their training.
OK, and what happens then with the elderly? Those who are completely the opposite profile. Remember that in that ad that I showed you at the beginning, I limited the age to 50 years? Wow. Again, let us talk about diversity and inclusion. Just as there are many judgments regarding hiring inexperienced people, there are just as many regarding older people. Because older people have extensive experience and knowledge, I would just like to ask you, for what do you close the doors to their incredible knowledge? No, make no mistake, I did not mean “why?” I asked, “for what?” In other words, I am not looking for a justification but, rather, what you do it for. What are you waiting for when those doors close?
So, what is the recruiting base that I use as a human resources professional? Well, I recruit by competencies (those they have and those that have potential to develop) but above all, based on attitude. If a collaborator has the attitude and passion and is aligned with the values of the company, the rest, I assure you, comes as a consequence. Of course, I also assure you, just as having diversity and inclusion in the organization is something that will give you a more profitable company, it is a challenge for leaders. Leading a diverse team requires work. But it is very exciting and something from which as leaders we are going to learn every day.
I still have a long way to go in this regard and I am open to learning, just as I have done from those professionals who promote diversity and inclusion and who are contributing a lot to our society. To those professionals, congratulations and above all, thank you. And for those professionals who are not yet on that path, by taking it, I assure them that what awaits is a path full of challenges, learning and satisfaction. How much longer will they wait? And for what? In the end, everything starts and ends with people.