Why are businesses still ‘exclusive’ when it comes to talent?

Sixteen years ago, a young girl had been making waves as an excellent swimmer in her school year. She had been so successful that they included her in an ‘all boys’ team. As the only girl on the team, she endured some taunting by the other kids due to her different swimsuit or when she would punctually miss practice once a month. Soon enough, she felt singled out and at a disadvantage due to the missed training sessions. Despite her aptitude in the pool, the young girl slowly stopped swimming and dropped out of the team. The coach and team members asked no questions and the decision was never challenged. Any talent or opportunities that could have been were never explored further.

Historically, when companies hired an executive or board member to join their team, more often than not, they would have searched for a candidate that had “our industry expertise”, “our culture’, “our goals” and “our similar mindset”. However – today – leading organisations are challenging this by sourcing people with ‘diverse’ backgrounds and experiences. At times, this choice is purely to hit their diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals. Encouragingly, more often this is pursued because the organisation recognises the overwhelmingly positive effects that cognitive diversity can have on team and business performance.

Whatever the case, it has been widely recognised that we can no longer have ‘group think’ in order to remain agile in the current ever-changing global business climate. What remains to be established is whether organisations, that consciously engage on the topic of ‘diversity & inclusion’, have enough checks and balances in place to ensure that they do not lose that difference in thinking by closing themselves off to colleagues and employees that are hastily deemed a ‘poor fit’.

Commonly, companies are frequently seeing talent loss blamed on “ineffective leadership”, “inability to listen to the individual”, “lack of career engagement and development”, “burdening bureaucracy”, “failure to spot conflict” and “poor communication” (particularly when defining company vision and goals). Strategy& recently reported that 18% of CEOS (from a survey of the world’s 2,500 largest publicly-listed companies) were replaced in the past year, showing that executives may not even surpass the one-year mark to fully establish themselves and make an impact. This number has increased from 12% in 2010. It is possible to conclude that these companies want ‘diverse’ mindsets to drive growth, instead of remaining in stale-mate, but are unable to ensure an inclusive environment to sustain the change.

According to the CIPD, the track-record shows that when an organisation can manage their talent strategically (from an identification, development, engagement and retention perspective), they will be able to build an inclusive high-performance workplace: one that is conducive for sharing ‘best practices’ and adds value to their brand and diversity management. Therefore, an inclusive work ethic in any company is essential to ensure that we capture the right people and enable them to grow and drive the business.

To this day, I still enjoy swimming regularly. However, I will never know whether I was destined for gold medals.

Author: Dharlynnie Neelamagam 

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