By Dinte
Nov. 7, 2013

As we have discussed previously in our blog, Diversity and Inclusion is an ongoing topic for discussion for our clients, across all industries and around the world. There is a new trend developing, however. Our clients are looking to us to go beyond providing a diverse shortlist of candidates. They now seek guidance and often tools to better incorporate and leverage diversity into their organizations’ “DNA.”

Featured guest and thought leader, Uzma Burki, Director, Corporate Organizational Effectiveness, Talent Acquisition, Leadership Development & Training at Amtrak contributed this compelling post to the Dinte blog that describes how Diversity and Inclusion has changed the landscape of corporate culture and leadership.

“Today’s workforce represents a rich mosaic of diversity – multiple generations, different cultures and faiths, union and non-union employees, and veterans are just a few examples of the diversity we see, sometimes under one roof.

While positive and to be encouraged, this diversity can manifest itself through individualized expression, which can challenge preconceived notions of what a ‘unified’ corporate identity should look like. Add to this the rapidly evolving use of technology in our daily communications and the rise in the number of remote employees and you have a very complex set of factors impacting the fabric of corporate culture.  Indeed, all this paves the way for creating a new definition of corporate identity and culture and acceptance of cultural non-conformity!

The diversity of today is not narrowly defined as a compliance consideration or a moral imperative; it has become a corporate necessity. Diversity in the current millennia is shaped by the richness of corporate sub-cultures within the workplace, each defining its own cultural ethos, expression, ideas and inclusivity outcomes. As a result, organizations have had to create innovative ways of managing talent. In the wake of the shifts in the diversity paradigm, the question that comes to one’s mind is: How should leaders prepare themselves to be adept at interacting, motivating, inspiring, and managing the workforce of the present and the future? Based on my experience in companies such as Citigroup, American Express, American Red Cross, and now Amtrak, I would offer up the following thoughts to develop your organization’s own approach:

Gone are the days of ‘cultural corporate conformity.’ In the current work environment, which is vastly more diverse than even 10 years ago, cultural assimilation is no longer the key to a cohesive corporate culture and identity. The traditional view of corporate culture has become obsolete and is not in tune with the demands and needs of today’s talent. Companies must revisit what defines their core values and character to adapt it to the current age of rapid communications, migration flows, and global commerce, and encourage as well as provide allowance for diverse expression and assimilation of that expression into the ‘new’ definition of corporate identity.

Leadership styles must evolve along with changes in the workforce. Leadership ‘reverse acculturation’ is becoming a business necessity. Leaders must not only acknowledge but embrace the different cultures – including national, ethnic, religious, generational, gender, gender identity  ̶  that are present in the workforce. Leaders need tools to address diverse cultural nuances, perspectives, and ideas that people bring with them to the workplace.

Total Rewards structures and programs need to be in alignment as well to attract, develop, and retain talent. Traditional Total Rewards offerings based on compensation and benefits are the new starting point. As we have all experienced, today’s talent puts significant value on flexibility and personal and professional development. For instance, some employees desire flexibility to help a family member in need, to balance a long commute, to live where they have planted roots. Others, particularly Millennials, are looking for an investment in their individual development and potential for rapid career growth and visibility. Also, women are a growing force in the workplace and they are specifically targeting organizations with a track record of selecting or promoting women into the C-suite and that have diverse Boards of Directors.

Diversity and inclusion needs to be part of the fabric of an organization’s culture. This is the clarion call for organizations across all industries, of all sizes, and public, private, or non-profit.”

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