Organisations have dominant cultures – ways of working and relating that are most comfortable for the majority of the workforce. The individuals who most represent these dominant cultures can often excel if they have true talent and the ambition. This is because they communicate in the same way, support similar extra-curricular activities e.g. sports teams and may have had similar educational backgrounds.
This becomes an issue however, if greater diversity is required, perhaps to deliver a particular strategy or improved financial results. As the demographics of your clients change or when you want to enter a new market, having the right talent within your business creates a competitive advantage. Some organisations I have worked with find they hire diverse talent to meet a business need then struggle to recognise and reward that talent because they are not the same as the dominant culture. The dominant culture values a different set of behaviours, attitudes and expertise so a diverse talented person’s contribution can be valued less.
So how do we create a level playing field so diverse talent can be valued within a dominant culture?
Here are my four top tips:
1. Give team members equal access to you – plan activities that include everyone on the team rather than individually e.g. individual lunch invites that not all members can accommodate, or picking a team activity which resonates with you and some of the group, but not everyone
2. Recognise people have been brought up with different cultural norms – ask, listen and be aware. Who is speaking more than listening? How do you give feedback to someone who is different to you as well as those who are like you?
3. Allow fair and equal access to knowledge and feedback – provide the same level of information and knowledge across your teams to avoid those you see more often having an advantage over others. Some people are more comfortable than others to talk about their progress and accomplishments. To overcome this, you can ask your team members to regularly share their top three accomplishments and regularly give each feedback on what they need to improve.
4. Draw out diverse talent – for those who are less culturally comfortable with speaking out in groups and to mitigate those who like to take up a lot of airtime, allow time for everyone to talk. Consider mentoring programmes to pair very different people together.
What do you or your organisations actively do to create a level playing field?