The majority of Americans believe
that America is currently experiencing an economic recession. Regardless of
where you stand on this issue, we all must acknowledge that our nation is
experiencing extreme economic challenges -- credit crisis, massive
foreclosures, escalating gas prices, and job layoffs, to name a few.
Challenges like these compel
organizations to make difficult, often short sided, decisions under intense
pressure. These decisions are often short- term fixes, which lead to long-term
A few reasons why economic challenges
require organizations to increase their emphasis on diversity and inclusion:
"People are Our Greatest Asset" -- Really?
"Our people are our greatest
asset", is a common mantra in practically every organization; however it
is a common practice to cut people related programs during economic challenges.
When an organization cuts such programs, like training and/or diversity
initiatives, it sends a clear message that the organization does not really
value its people. When an organization fails to invest in its people, its
people fail to invest in the organization. With our changing demographics, increasing
interdependence across cultures, and looming talent shortages, diversity and
inclusion take on a far greater role. Choosing to overlook them during economic
downturns could be catastrophic to the long term success of the organization.
A Slowing Economy = FEAR
A slowing economy and increased
layoffs leads to an atmosphere of fear, and fear is the fuel of "diversity
disasters". When people are afraid of losing their jobs the first thing
they attempt to do is differentiate
themselves from their co-workers looking for the "one up" that might
save their job. Before you know it, this can quickly spiral into an all out
organizational war of "us" -v- "them". The more afraid
people become, the nastier the division gets. The end result is a decrease in
productivity when the converse is needed. An organization with an inclusive
environment where everyone feels included and equitably valued, regardless of
their demographic grouping, is far less likely to fall into the trap of an
internal cultural war.
Lay-Offs Increase the Need for Inclusion
A layoff automatically equates to a
reduction of workers. However, a reduction of workers does NOT automatically
equate to a reduction in the mission or demand. As a result, organizations are
required to demand more productivity from fewer workers. This enormous workload
causes an increase in stress, which over a prolonged period of time has a
negative impact on productivity and profits. If you combine that with the
atmosphere of fear mentioned above, it is only a matter of time before it
impacts the organization's long-term image in the minds of their
clients/customers and investors.
Internal "Safe Haven" -v- External Chaos
People tend to become extremely loyal
to organizations that have a history of treating them well, especially during
the worst of times. An inclusive workplace where people are valued can become a
respite from the external chaos of rising prices and financial frustration.
Over the long haul, this can increase the financial coffers of the employer by reducing
turnover and retaining institutional knowledge.
Organizations that choose to cut back
on their diversity investments due to current economic woes will pay dearly
later. On the other hand, forward thinking, diversity-mature organizations
that INCREASE their diversity efforts will solidify their lead and fortify
their weapons in the war for talent.
© Copyright 2008 | Al Vivian, President & CEO, BASIC