“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Verna Myers, Diversity and Inclusivity Expert
Inclusivity goes well beyond diversity.
Inclusivity means having voices from various cultures, genders, races, equitably represented at all levels of your organisational structure.
This means that BBEEE or affirmative action strategies need to go beyond window dressing to ensure that diverse voices are not only hired – vertically, across departments, and horizontally, in all levels of your organisational culture – but heard, and acted on when it comes to agreeing organisational structure, and direction.
However, even 3D distribution of diversity is not enough.
It is also critical to understand the difference between optical diversity i.e. demographic box-ticking diversity, and 3D diversity i.e. true diversity of ideas, mindset and backgrounds.
Even if your team has gender, cultural and racial diversity on paper that satisfies the corporate and governmental bureaucrats, that is no guarantee that you have achieved the benefits of true inclusivity.
If you have achieved optical diversity that looks wonderful in your company photoshoots and press releases, but all those diverse looking faces have gone to the same private school, in the same community, and studied the same degree programmes as each other, although you might have unlocked the economic privileges that come from complying with hiring laws and norms; by selecting individuals with homogenous world views, you are missing out on the real potential truly diverse thought can bring to your organisation’s future-resilience, innovation, and creativity.
In order to build a deep 3D diverse team you may need to look outside your comfort zone to find people who not only look different, but who think differently too.
This may mean hiring across industries and geographies to find people who have have very different lived experiences to your existing team.
A good example is Roivant pharmaceuticals and its “Justice League of Pharma Veterans”, comprised of a special team of non-pharmacists recruited from finance, consulting, tech, academic and political campaign backgrounds. Roivant inserted this team into drug-development roles with a mandate to come up with fresh ideas for making the notoriously expensive and time-consuming drug-development process more efficient- with significant success.
And dint forget: Deep diversity also includes including people of different age groups in mixed-generational teams. Every age group has something valuable to learn from another.
Don’t trust the machines
When it comes to building diverse teams, it also pays to retain the human touch in the recruitment process. A team is made up of individuals who need to communicate and work together and that requires a certain degree of serendipity and intuition when hiring. You may not be able to replicate this with artificially intelligent (or machine learning) enabled automated recruitment programmes and processes that, by definition, “flatten” interactions into binary parameters, and place people into yes/no boxes based on inferences and statistical probabilities that tell you very little about the actual individual in question.
As such, relying on algorithms to make hiring, promotion and firing decisions can lead to a perpetuation of bias (such as, for example, gender or racial discrimination) – and homogeneity (the opposite of the kind of deep 3D diversity that innovative teams thrive on) – if the algorithm itself contains any intended or accidental bias.
As such, if you want to build a deep, 3D diverse team, you need to connect with humans on a personal level, and embrace individuality as a benefit, rather than see difference as a problem to be flattened into a homogenous organisational culture.