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Post-Diversity & Missing the Diversity Dividend

In these days of ultra-right-wing politics and the proud bigotry of a rebranded National Front it shouldn’t be surprising to find business jargon like post-diversity in serious conversation. Post-diversity is the idea that we’re past diversity; that we are beyond paying attention to equality of pay, conditions and opportunity for groups perceived as disadvantaged.

What post-diversity means is that an organisation with post-diversity values will employ people who are a cultural fit. People with the same values, who look and speak the same language.

By a cultural fit they often mean – white, entitled and probably young. What cultural fit means is educated like us and thinks like us and comes from where we arose.

In everyday application, this post-diversity recruitment landscape dictates that non-normative prospective employees (ethnic, indigenous, female, or other group outside the cultural fit), with the same qualifications or greater, will be intentionally passed aside for a normative prospective employee who fits a predetermined cultural image that matches existing employee profiles.

Here’s the hard truth about post-diversity. OK, there may be a small benefit to having everyone in an organisation belong to a certain cultural fit. These employees like the same things and share common fundamental values. They go to the same church; or not. And they are cultural clones of each other. However, any small benefit of hiring to a cultural fit is so infinitesimally small that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Let’s say, at best, it’s not a direct negative if all the employees get along.

Now let me explain why there is a better solution. Diversity.

Understand that by default all groups push towards conformity. And group-think is an undesirable outcome of group conformity. If people think the same and feel the same about everything then there is a natural tendency toward group-think. Post-diversity intentionally hires with an eye toward those normative perspectives.

Therefore, post-diversity recruitment fails to offer anything that might be described as a diversity dividend.

The benefits of hiring outside that cultural fit are immense and the smarter organisation has a potential to capture that diversity dividend at recruitment. Diversity recruitment means the organisation gains the ideas, perspectives and connections of a wide arc of influences into the business. And it’s through this competing splash of ideas that the diversity dividend converts to competitive advantage and increased profit.

In a complex cultural environment there is no room for hiring practices that ignore the value of a prospective employee on the basis of meagre grounds like ethnicity, gender or cultural worldview. What the sane organisation does is try to correlate the skills and experience of the best prospective employees to the current and future needs of the business.

There is a diversity dividend out there worth capturing. My concern is that this shiny pile of manure some organisations are re-branding as post-diversity recruitment is not only a short hand for failing to achieve that diversity dividend for shareholders; it’s also a re-routed historical perspective on bigotry and discrimination in the workplace. This is a step backwards towards the 1970s.

“White like us” should not have any place in contemporary Human Resource Management. And we shouldn’t hire “white, light and not-so-bright” just because it makes some people in the workplace feel more comfortable. In a competitive business environment we need to hire with a mind toward competitive advantage. That advantage is found in diversity.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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