Leadership and Developing Diversity and Inclusion

One of the great challenges facing organizations is getting all employees, from the CEO to the hourly workers, to realize that to become the best, they have to embrace diversity.

Painting Diversity

Diversity also means to create inclusion — creating an atmosphere in which all people feel valued, respected and have the same opportunities as others.

Thus, you might say that diversity is creating opportunity, value, and respect for all, while inclusion is ensuring they actually feel it.

Why Must We Embrace Diversity?

Diversity is about empowering people. It makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. It is not EEO or Affirmative Action. These are laws and policies. While on the other hand, diversity is understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person.

Simply enforcing government regulations will not get you to the best. To obtain that competitive edge, you need to grow your work-force from groups into teams that use the full potential of every individual. Teams are much more than a group. A group is collection of individuals where each person is working towards his or her own goal, while a team is a collection of individuals working towards a common goal or vision.

This helps to create a synergy effect with teams . . . that is, one plus one equals more than one. An individual, acting alone, can accomplish a lot; but a group of people acting together in a unified force can accomplish great wonders. This is because team members understand each other and support each other in a manner that everyone feels inclusion. Their main goal is to see the team accomplish its mission. Personal agendas do not get in the way of the team's goal. By using the synergy effect of teams, you create a competitive advantage over other organizations who are using people acting alone. You are getting more for your efforts!

Diversity in Action

One of the main failures that prevent a group from becoming a team is the failure to accept others for what they are. It is only when the group members realize that diversity is the key to turning weak areas into strong areas does the group start to grow into a team. Failing to accept the diversity of others keeps the group members from going after team goals.

Embracing diversity is the first item for building teams. Every team building theory states that to build a great team, there must be a diverse group of people on the team, that is, you must avoid choosing people who are only like you. Diversity is what builds teams — a collection of individual experiences, backgrounds, and cultures that can view problems and challenges from a wide-variety of lenses.

Why Is Embracing Diversity A Challenge?

Our bias and prejudice are deeply rooted within us. From the moment when we are born, we learn our environment, the world, and ourselves. Families, friends, peers, books, teachers, idols, and others influence us on what is right and what is wrong. These early learnings are deeply rooted within us and shape our perceptions about how we view things and how we respond to them. What we learn and experience gives us a subjective point of view known as bias.

Our biases serve as filtering lenses that allow us to make sense of new information and experiences based on what we already know. Many of our bias are good as they allow us to assume that something is true without proof. Otherwise, we would have to start learning anew on everything that we do. But, if we allow our bias to shade our perceptions of what people are capable of, then the bias is harmful. We start prejudging others on what we think that they cannot do.

Simply giving a class on diversity will not erase these bias. Indeed, even the best development programs will not erase most of these deeply rooted beliefs. Development can only help us to become aware of them so that we can make a conscious effort to change. Developing diversity is more than a two-hour class; it involves workshops, role models, one-on-ones, etc. But most of all, it involves a heavy commitment by the organization's leadership; not only the formal leadership, but also the informal leadership that can be found in almost every organization.

Embracing diversity is more than tolerating people who are different. It means actively welcoming and involving them by:

Why Do We Need To Become The Best?

If an organization does not take on this challenge, it will soon become extinct or left far behind. There are too many competitors who are striving to become the best. They know that customers will not tolerate lackadaisical service. Those that are the best must continue to fight to be the best or they will soon be overtaken. You need to strive to be the best in one or more areas such as the fastest, biggest, cheapest, customer oriented, etc.

Great companies who remain competitive in one or more areas do not sit around patting themselves on the back; for they know that there are dozens of others who want to take their place. They do, however, celebrate accomplishments and achievements. Although most companies will never become the best at what they aim for, they must compete to do things better than their competitors. They have to let their customers know that they are willing to go out of their way to serve them in their area of expertise.

What Has This To Do With Human Resource Development (HRD)?

Most problems in the workplace are not that people cannot do their jobs. It is that people cannot get along with other people. People are hired on the premise that they can perform the job, or with a reasonable amount of training, be coached into performing the job.

Except for some basic courses about the organization and perhaps a course or two on safety and computer networking, most training given to new hires involves on-the-job training (OJT). Normally, this involves very little effort from HRD as OJT is conducted by supervisors, leads, peers, etc. Although they should become more involved in the OJT process, such as, providing coaching classes for the trainers and creating training aids. 

HRD needs to make greater efforts in effectively training or developing soft skills. This includes such subjects as diversity, communication, and people skills that allows people to understand each other and develop good team skills. Every team member must not only be able to understand and work with all the other team members, but they must also want to. This should be HRD's number one priority, to build real teams, not just groups of people with titles called Teams.

What Exactly Does Diversity Include?

The Bridge Diversity is not only black and white, female and male, gay and straight, Jewish and Christian, young and old, etc.; but the diversity of every individual, slow learner and fast learner, introvert and extrovert, controlling type and people type, scholar and sports-person, liberal and conservative, etc. This is where HRD needs to focus its efforts . . . helping people to realize that it takes a wide variety of people to become the best and that they need to have the ability to be able to rely on everyone on their team, no matter how different another person may be.

An organization needs controllers, thinkers, dreamers, doers, organizers, team builders, etc. to reach the goals that make an organization the best. It does not need people fighting and distrusting other team members!

Organizations need an extremely diverse group of people on each and every team. For example, having a group of team builders will get you nowhere, as everyone will be out trying to create a team. Likewise, having a group of doers will get you nowhere as everyone will be trying to accomplish something without a clear goal or vision to guide them.

Most organizations picture diversity in very limited terms. The essence of diversity should NOT be to picture diversity as race, religion, sex, age; but to picture it as the uniqueness of every individual. Only by accepting this distinctiveness in others, will people want to help the team as a whole to succeed.

Why Does Culture Matter?

Organizations have to realize that all cultures of the world are their potential customers. Not too long ago, many business focused on the young and/or middle age white classes. This was where the money was at. Now, thanks to great efforts towards recognizing the many facets of diversity and the good that it brings us, more and more money is starting to be in the hands of people from a wide range of diverse backgrounds. In order to attract this wide variety of cultures, organizations must truly become multi-culture themselves. They can no longer just talk-the-talk, they must also walk-the-talk.

Organizations that only employ “people of their kind” in leadership and high visibility positions will not be tolerated by people of other cultures. These cultures will spend their money at organizations that truly believe in diversity. Embracing diversity has several benefits for the organization:

What Goals Does HRD Need?

There are two main goals for HRD to achieve. The first is having all leaders within an organization become visibly involved in programs affecting organizational culture change and evaluating and articulating policies that govern diversity. To do so, you must display leadership that eradicates oppression of all forms. The result is enhanced productivity, profitability, and market responsiveness by achieving a dynamic organization and work force. This is the first goal of HRD, to train the leadership.

The second is inspiring diversity into the work force. Workers want to belong to an organization that believes in them, no matter what kind of background or culture they come from. They, like their leadership, want to be productive, share in the profits, and be a totally dynamic work force. If HRD trains the leadership, this goal will be relatively easy. It is much easier to train people when they have role models to base their behaviors on. Also, you will have backing from the people who can support you in your efforts.

How Does One Go About Developing Diversity?

The development of diversity is considered a soft skill. Unlike hard skills, soft skills are relatively hard to evaluate. For example, “Using a calculator, notepad, and pencil, calculate the number of minutes it will take to produce one widget.” This hard skill is easily measured, not only in the classroom, but also on the job.

Now, consider a soft skill, “After the training period the learner will be able to work with others as a team.” This cannot easily be measured in the classroom. Its true measure must be taken in the workplace, which is also very difficult to measure. This is because this type of training program falls more under development, rather than training or education. For a quick review of the three programs of Human Resource Development (Nadler, 1984):

First, how do you evaluate “works as a team member”? In order to prove that our training is effective, we must be able to evaluate it. We have no way of knowing if the learning objectives were met if we cannot measure the task being used on the job, hence, we have no way of knowing if our training is of any value to the company

Secondly, soft skills generally fall under the domain of attitudes. When we train a task, we are teaching a person to (Bloom, 1956):

The type of task determines what percent of the KSA is devoted to each domain.

For example, training someone to operate a forklift requires about 80% skill (eye hand coordination, deftness with controls, etc.), 10% knowledge (location of controls, rules, etc.), and about 10% attitude (eagerness to learn, concentrating on safety, etc.).

Training someone to set up formulas in a spreadsheet might require about 20% skill (typing, using a mouse, etc.), 70% knowledge (procedures, reading and interrupting formulas, etc.), and 10% attitude (how hard they believe the task to be, will it help me do my job better, etc.).

Training a diversity topic would roughly require about 15% skill (interacting with others, soliciting input, etc.), 10% knowledge (knowing culture differences, knowing the terms, etc.), and about 75% attitude (responding to others, changing a deeply held belief, etc.)


Soft skill training is mainly changing attitudes—a persisting feeling or emotion of a person that influences her choice of action and her response to stimulus. It is defined as a disposition or tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation.

Attitudes have been defined in a variety of ways, but at the core is the notion of evaluation. Thus, attitudes are commonly viewed as summary evaluations of objects (e.g. oneself, other people, issues, etc.) along a dimension ranging from positive to negative. Attitudes encompass, or are closely related to, our opinions and beliefs and are based upon our experiences. Training that produces tangible results start by changing behavior, which ultimately changes attitudes.

Since our attitudes are deeply rooted, they are very hard to change. Attitudes are latent constructs and are not observable in themselves — we can infer that people have attitudes by what they say or do but we cannot directly measure it. And what they say or do are behaviors.

The instructional designer must identify some sort of behavior that would seem to be representative of the display of the attitude in question. This behavior can then be measured as an index of the attitude construct. For example, if you are training diversity, you cannot be sure that you have eliminated prejudice from a learner. Therefore, you have to measure behaviors, such as showing respect for all cultures.

This does not mean you cannot go after changing attitudes. It most cases, it is a must. For example, the 1997 Texaco headlines about the racial slurs of its leaders show that attitudes must be changed. If you only rely upon the correct behaviors being displayed without attitudes being changed, then expect to see a headline like this about your organization. When we attempt to display behaviors that do not coincide with our attitudes, then expect to make big mistakes. Our behaviors are based upon our attitudes. And as stated earlier, training diversity is about 75% attitude. Attempting to change only the other 25% will not work. That 75% attitude is just too great of a number.

Another example is safety. Being able to perform safely in the work environment is not just about knowledge and skills, it also requires the correct attitude. For many tasks, doing something the safe way requires more effort or work of the individual. Employees must have the correct attitude towards safety or when it counts the most they will relapse back into the faster or easier method . . . and this is not right for all the coworkers involved. They deserve a safe working environment!

Can attitudes be changed? In a experiment by social psychologists Wells and Petty (1980), students were asked to assist in testing the quality of headphones while the listener was in motion. Three groups of students put on headphones and listened to music and an editorial about tuition. 

Afterward, the students rated the quality of the headphones and judged the material that they had heard. The material was about tuition. Among the questions was one about tuition. Half the students listened to an editorial suggesting that tuition be raised to $750 while the other half heard that it should be drooped to $400. The editorials by themselves were persuasive; they influenced students who listened without moving their heads. However, movements made by the students as they listened had a strong effect on their opinions.

When asked what tuition would be fair, those that heard that it should be raised, thought, on the average, that it should be $582. Those that heard that it should be lowered, thought that a fair price would be on an average of $412.

However, the involvement of body movement had a striking effect. Students who nodded their head as they heard the $750 editorial thought a fair tuition would be on an average of $646, while those that shook their heads thought it should be on an average of $467.

The motor responses (nodding or shaking) that signal agreement or disagreement had a profound effect on attitudes — effects that are not trivial.

To train soft skills, HRD practitioners must picture themselves not only as trainers, but also as educators and developers. To do so, requires a different sort of mindset. With our greater preoccupation with human relations, the affective domain (attitudes) cannot be ignored, regardless of the difficulties encountered.

Training Techniques

Go beyond the role of a trainer in diversity development by being a:

Facilitating Diversity Techniques:

Evaluating Diversity Training

There are five major approaches to collecting attitude data:

Steps for evaluating:

  1. Determine from the learning objectives what specific attitude (desired behavior) is being trained.
  2. Determine the behavior (construct) that will best exhibit this attitude. Concentrate on one or two specific behaviors during any given evaluation period.
  3. Decide on the most appropriate way to get the information.
  4. Select or develop an instrument for collecting the information. Collect only the information that will provide evidence of the desired behavior.
  5. Decide who will be observed and when. Obtain as many observations as possible and review patterns of change.
  6. Confer with the learners to provide feedback.

Precautions In Attitude Measurement:

Next Steps

Next Chapter: Diversity Continuum

Learning Activities:

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Bloom B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: Addison Wesley Publishing Company

Nadler, Leonard (1984). The Handbook of Human Resource Development. New York: John Wiley & Sons