We’re firmly entrenched in the 21st century, and diversity coach James Rodgers says it is high time that we start incorporating 21st century ideals in our diversity management. Too many managers, Rodgers points out, think that diversity is all about a numbers game, all while they surround themselves with people who think like they do or pretend to think like they do. This is detrimental to innovation and problem-solving. “Breakthroughs only happen when you have broader perspectives at the table,” says Rodgers.
James Rodgers has been working with clients in improving their diversity management skills since the early 90s and stresses to his clients that it’s more than just numbers that count. Author of the book, Managing Differently: Getting 100% From 100% of Your People 100% of the Time, Rodgers is a diversity coach unlike any other, because he stresses the importance of different ideas and frames of mind, rather than different colors of skin.
This idea of welcoming different perspectives encapsulates Rodgers’ theories and practices when it comes to diversity management. Rodgers points out, “You don’t just want to have more brown-skinned people on your team because it looks pretty.” Instead, he suggests that you need to have people from all sorts of backgrounds on your team, who are willing and able to bring their own personal experiences and backgrounds to the table for the betterment of the company. “You limit yourself when you have everyone thinking the same way,” Rodgers adds.
According to Rodgers’ research and experience, diversity in the workplace is a fact of nature, especially with today’s global workforce. What’s truly important is what you do with that diversity, and this is a lesson Rodgers dearly wants human resources managers and staff to learn and then pass along to line managers and other decision makers.
Unfortunately, many organizations are losing sight of how to effectively manage their diverse workforces, and as a result are beginning to lose faith in the promise of diversity and inclusion within the workforce. Much of this problem is due to a focus on identity-based diversity, counting the number of minorities hired to the team, instead of cognitive diversity. “We’ve forgotten that white is also a race and that male is also a gender,” Rodgers points out. Cognitive diversity, according to Rodgers, can include anyone who has a different point of view or perspective and is able to bring that differing perspective to the table to aid in solving problems. “People are the only competitive advantage organizations have today,” states Rodgers. Managing those people and helping them bring their own unique ideas and points of view to the table is essential to innovation.
“HR needs to wake up,” Rodgers says. HR managers and staff should train the manager in managing diversity. Perhaps they can present a demonstration project so the manager will realize the benefits that can be achieved with better diversity management. Then the managers will insist on a broader selection of human capital when the time comes to do additional hiring, according to Rodgers.