Before the Great Recession, there was a willingness to do things differently in the workplace. There was an interest to try employee engagement. Workplace teams started cropping up. Self-directed teams were given some autonomy to make improvements to the workplace system. Also, diversity was encouraged and it improved. According to a 2005 report from the Society of Human Resources, more than three-fourths of the companies responding to a survey were working on diversity.
Today, though, we have a different story. A few weeks ago we reported a recent Deloitte survey saying lack of employee engagement is a huge problem. We also reported another survey identified millenials are not happy with the workplace and, now, we’re reporting diversity within organizations is a problem. The number of organizations working on diversity dropped 12 % in 2010 from the number working on it in 2005.
It was interesting reading this week on PBS Newshour’s website, Ellen Pao, Reddit interim CEO and techie from Silicon Valley who recently lost a lawsuit on discrimination, decided there would be no more salary negotiations for new hires at Reddit. This decision was based on her desire to improve gender equality in the tech world and increase diversity in the workplace. Other females in the tech industry applauded her.
I’m not here to judge Ellen Pao as to whether she is right or wrong about salary but I do admire her for trying to create a more diverse workplace and to create change in the workplace. Comments following the article didn’t agree with her and their perceptions were there wasn’t any problem in the workplace. While they may be right, they also represent the status quo to me, and not the lack of progressive attitude that is occurring in the workplace today whether that be in the tech industry or any other industry.
A year after reporting major diversity problems, Google says they’re still having problems with a predominately white male culture. Earlier this month, CNN reported Google had over three times as many white males as they did females.
Lack of diversity in the workplace creates its own set of problems not just about the workforce but for customers, too. If you don’t have a diverse workforce that represents customers of different genders, ages, cultural backgrounds and so on, how can organizations appeal to customers all over the world? How can organizations compete in a globally economy if only one gender and one race is represented. Innovative ideas eventually become lost. Different perceptions are not available to evaluate new products or services or, again, ideas that can help develop new products, ideas or solutions to problems.
Workplace culture must change! We are now seeing a willingness by some workplaces to raise wages, which is good, but culture change must take place, too. Without a diverse and engaged workforce how can any company expect to thrive and adapt to a changing environment if they don’t have new and different ideas that come with diversity? How can workplaces expect to survive if they don’t engage employees which can help with retention, workplace continuity and reduce costs associated with turnover. We already know workplaces see the lack of employee engagement as critical. It sounds like the diversity issue is also critical.