Diversity and Inclusion as an Organizational Practice
The world is today marking International Cultural Diversity Day, which aims to facilitate an open dialogue to increase our familiarity with the values and importance of diversity. As recruitment Manager at Strauss Israel, I would like to tell you what an organization can do in order to incorporate diverse populations within its ranks.
It is customary today to talk a lot about “acceptance of the diverse” and openness to a variety of opinions and people, but how do we actually apply it on the ground? This day provides an opportunity for us to examine the gap between “theory” and “practice”.
At Strauss, we decided to implement the perception of the diverse as an organizational practice – transforming it from a theory, from “the right thing to talk about”, to reality on the ground.
Defining our Vision and Mission (Core-Purpose)
Before we set off to find the right layout for maximum assimilation of diversity and inclusion in the organization, we started out with the definition of these basic terms:
• Diversity – Differences. Each individual or segment in society has its own uniqueness that enriches us as a company. The company must respect such differences and create from them a rich and colorful fabric.
• Inclusion – Full participation of every individual, different and unique alike, out of respect and appreciation, while exercising their right for self-fulfillment, equal opportunity and promotion.
Both these values are consistent with Strauss’s core values as regards accepting different people and creating a rich, colorful and diverse fabric. This multi-cultural approach enables each individual to have appropriate opportunities for self-fulfillment. Moreover, beyond these basic values lies a genuine business need – a company that highlights innovation, enthusiasm and ‘Creating Wonders out of Basics”, should allow proper manifestation of multiple views, people and beliefs. Diversity and inclusion form the basis of our ability to be innovative and entrepreneurial, attract talents to the organization and retain them.
From Theory to practice
Once we realized that this was the way to go about, we defined our goal and vision, and moved on to implementation: recruiting Ethiopian academics, recruiting academics of “non-Jewish” origin, and staffing senior positions with priority to women.
I must admit that as Recruitment Manager I thought that this journey would be simple, but in fact, the actual process turned out to be not as simple as it sounded…
Evidently, we all have visible and hidden barriers that prevent us from really opening up to the diverse and contain their differences. These barriers often result from prejudice, misconceptions or lack of understanding of another culture. While we cannot be free of bias altogether, becoming aware of them can enable us not to embrace them.
The frustration stemmed from the discovery of insights about the gaps between the values of diversity and scope of their application at the beginning of our journey. This resulted in an action plan that included several organizational disciplines: training, recruitment and organizational development. A top- team was set up to this effect, with various representatives under the leadership of V.P. Human Resources at Strauss Israel.
We formulated a training program for recruiting minorities/sectors in Israel, and set out to explore HR characteristics of the Arab and Ethiopian communities. We held meetings with managers, recruitment managers and their teams in various sectors, in order to understand their difficulties and needs, and provide organizational support and recognition for the willingness to contain diversity and its complexities.
By special permission from the Commission on Equal Employment, we mapped the entire population of employees and today we are able to produce data and identify trends. Using these indices, we can now control, monitor and manage the employee fabric of our company.
Fortunately, these efforts bore fruit. At the end of 2011, we managed to recruit nine academics from the non-Jewish/minorities and Ethiopian sectors, and 5 women in middle-management positions, that we hope will be promoted to senior positions over time. Just to make it more plausible, these new recruits accounted for 5% of all recruitments in 2011 at non-production levels (which, by the way, include adequate representation of the various populations).
It is important to point out that although we have a marked path to guide us through the implementation and promotion of diversity and inclusion within the organization, we must remember that this is not a one-time or annual project. We continue to implement this plan, hoping to make it a way of life, instill the concepts relating to acceptance of differences, and expand our search circles into more diverse populations.
First published at Struss’ blog: Food For Thought