For organizations to thrive, they must create cultures where individuals are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work. Claire Raines Associates are experts on the generations and help organizations understand and engage the diverse mix of people: people with differing values, people from other cultures, and people with different technological backgrounds.
Every week, we hear of people working in rigid organizational cultures that don’t support their natural work styles. Individuals are forced to adapt to the mainstream, at great cost to themselves and their organizations.
- A woman working in the executive suite at a male-dominated company adopts a command-and-control leadership style, although her preferred and more natural style is involvement.
- A millennial working in a Gen X-dominated culture is forced to get by with only an annual performance review, although he learns and improves when he gets constant, even daily, feedback.
- A Gen Xer working in a big, friendly open-floor-plan office feels forced to wear a white-noise headset to accommodate his fiercely independent work style.
- A highly creative type working in a quiet, buttoned-down culture must change her wardrobe, curb her enthusiasm, and adapt her entire approach just to get through the day.
When employees are forced to operate outside of their natural strengths and behave like the mainstream in order to succeed, they can’t deliver their best. They become frustrated and exhausted. And they exit. Organizations pay high prices for loss of knowledge, increased recruitment and training costs, and an endlessly leaky talent pipeline.
How Core-strength-friendly Is Your Organization?
Diagnose the effectiveness of your work group, team, department, or organization at creating a culture where unique individuals can thrive. Consider, for example:
- There is no one successful “type” in this organization: managers, leaders, and those in the most desirable jobs are a mix of ages, sexes, ethnicities, personalities, and styles.
- When a project team is put together, employees with different backgrounds, experiences, skills, and viewpoints are consciously included.
- There are lots of conversations — even some humor — about differing viewpoints and perspectives.
- We take time to talk openly about what individuals want from their job: What makes work rewarding? Which environment is most productive? What workload and schedule serves best?
- Our atmosphere and policies are based on the work being done, the customers being served, and the preferences of the people who work here.
- There is a minimum of bureaucracy and “red tape.”
- We assume the best of and from our people; we treat everyone — from the newest recruit to the most seasoned employee — as if they have great things to offer and will succeed.
Diversity is critical — not to even the score, hit quotas, or create balance for balance’s sake. Diversity is critical because it benefits the bottom line. By identifying and implementing strategies for working across differences, organizations become more productive and effective. Current research shows that diverse teams are more productive and generate higher profits than homogeneous teams. But increased productivity can only happen when organizations shape work cultures that support and even encourage individual differences. Instead of struggling with differences, they capitalize on them.