It was an everyday occurrence to see Mr. T. go through his routines at the office. He arrived promptly at the same time each day, followed the same route to his desk and proceeded to ‘open-up’ in an orderly fashion. At the end of the day, he simply reversed his morning course. Mr. T. was a manager who worked hard during the day, was frugal, dedicated to doing good work, showed respect for others; and would sacrifice personal benefit for the good of the company. What a strange man.
Mr. T’s work was never in question; he had excellent competencies and capabilities. It was his mannerisms that we latched on to. He was different than our generation. In reality, Mr. T. was simply a standard bearer for a generation we didn’t quite understand. Oh, did I mention, he absolutely did not understand our generation and where we were going. Looking back, it is interesting how we coexisted without either generation trying to understand the other; we didn’t have to. In the end, work was accomplished and the business continued to move forward.
In a relatively short period of time, the dynamics of the workplace has changed considerably. We have gone from a rather simple mix of a few primary groups of workers to a dynamic blend of very diverse workers. Now, you can often find three generations, multiple cultures, and unique ideologies in the workplace, each with its own set of distinctive mannerisms, and perspectives; simply a mirror image of society. These attributes were always, to some degree, present in our society but at that time we chose to maintain the status quo in the workplace, because it worked.
In generations past, market conditions seemed simpler and slower to change, so there was a limited sense of urgency to assess your workforce. Even when companies began realizing how diverse and more complex markets were becoming, many were slow to connect the need to assess the alignment of their human capital to the changing world. Businesses can no longer afford to be slow in making this connection. The game has changed; you cannot ignore the new reality of ‘the way we are.’
Business leaders, for the most part, understand the cultural, demographic, and technical changes that are taking place in the marketplace and their influence on their product offerings. They make the connection between the reality of their market and a workforce that can relate to the wants and needs of that market.
Change, however, remains difficult for many businesses. They are stuck in the way we ‘were’ instead of being part of the way we ‘are.’ Part of the problem is that the diversity of their human capital is not consistent with the diversity of their markets, which means that their internal perspective is not as aligned with the external perspective as it could be.
Workplace diversity should, to some degree, be a mirror image of the reality of a changing world that is complex and fluid. Therefore, businesses need to be constantly thinking about how they align their human capital with both current and future market opportunities, and develop a strategy to accomplish that alignment. Note that I am not talking about ignoring needed competencies and capabilities. You must always have the skill sets you need to implement your strategies. Considering diversity is an added dimension to acquiring competent individuals. It adds richness to your talent base.
Take a look at the diversity of your workforce and the diversity of your marketplace. Are they aligned? Should they be? If you need to make changes, develop a plan of action that will get you to where you need to be.
Regardless of your situation, never stop looking at the differences in people as being an opportunity for growth in perspectives, knowledge, experience, and connection to the reality of a more diverse economy. There are incredibly bright and skillful people in every nook and cranny of our society; what an opportunity for those who choose to move forward with the changing times.
This article is cross-posted at Thinkin’ Things Over.
About George James
George James is the founder of James Consulting Group, LLC, a consulting practice that helps executives and businesses develop more effective decision-making competencies (ReINVENTive Thinking!™) for improving their organization’s performance.