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Earlier this month, Apple pledged $50 million to non-profit organisations in a bid to encourage minority communities to join the technology industry.
And last month, Intel announced a Diversity in Technology initiative, where it invested $300 million to help build a pipeline of female and under-represented engineers and computer scientists.
Considering the profitable advantages of having a diverse workforce, these efforts aren’t surprising. The only lamentable thing here is why this focus on diverse perspectives did happen earlier earlier – before firms like LinkedIn, Amazon and Yahoo admitted their diversity figures were far from desirable.
But not all companies have the resources available to completely re-design hiring strategies, initiate campaigns encouraging minorities to join their industries or launch training programmes on how to foster an inclusive culture.
What then can such companies do to still reap the benefits of diversity of thought without embarking on luxurious projects?
If your company is structured anything like our editorial team here at Human Resources, you will know that a quota for diverse candidates is nice-to-have, but it is not the most critical item on the agenda.
Even though we are a small and closely-knit team of three members, there appears to be no dearth of a range of diverse perspectives – because it is diversity in thought, rather than in race or gender that we strive to establish.
Here are a few things I have observed which we follow daily that help us work together to bring compelling content for our readers everyday. (#selfpraise)
What does diversity mean to you?
For instance, looking out for (and glorifying) the differences between us has helped us attain the real benefits of being diverse individuals.
My editor, Aditi, and I are both Indian women, but we both grew up in different countries and hail from different backgrounds. While we constitute a single race and gender on paper, in person we are vastly different – but we speak openly and teach each other different lingo, and observe issues from vastly different lenses.
Such differences exist in every employee, regardless of similarity in race, gender or sexual orientation. Inculcating a culture which encourages the expression of each one’s views and differences can help in achieving diversity of thought in your team.
This should not, however, be used as an excuse for not hiring different types of people. Instead, it can serve as a reminder that hiring to merely fulfill diversity quotas is a waste of time and money. Isn’t it pointless to have employees of different races, if their individuality is not allowed to thrive in the company?
Ask a stock question, get a stock answer
If you do want to bring out the unique side of your employees, you have to ask them unique questions in your attempt to know them better.
Instead of asking stock questions such as, “what do you think?” at the end of a presentation, ask them questions such as “what part of the project did you like the least?” This will refrain staff from giving their bosses standard answers which they think are right, and instead force them to give their own personal view on the situation.
If you do ask unique questions, you will realise that expressing honest opinions and providing different angles will soon become second nature to staff. Sure, it may not always be what you want to hear, but it will provide your employees an opportunity to listen to and understand alternative perspectives, and help them grow as professionals.
While having diversity quotas and campaigns are useful metrics for any company, they are but means to establish diversity in thought – something which even small and financially-limited companies can achieve as easily.