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Diversity programs are out of date, says Rob Jones

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This podcast is brought to you by the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University <music>. Hi Everyone I'm Bev Jones and this is just about work where we talk about everything. That might have an impact in your career today. We're talking about the concept of diversity in the workplace years ago when we fought for equal career opportunity a lot of us assume that if a diverse mix of people were hired for entry level jobs then eventually would often you're out how to get along and would work well together together turns out. It's not that simple many organizations today include people from a broad variety of cultural backgrounds but not everyone is heard and sometimes teams can't even function our guest today Rob Jones says it's time for us to move past old and limited ideas about diversity and head toward organizational cultures that are truly able to deliver equity collaboration and the full benefits benefits of a workforce where not all people think alike rob is a leading executive coach and his Pittsburgh based firm in good company L._L._C. he helps leaders navigate business and social changes rob is also thought leader on topics related to diversity and inclusion. His writing suggests that hiring a diverse team is just one of the key steps toward real inclusion today. Rob will explain explain how the real magic happens when the culture allows people with different backgrounds and ideas to collaborate to solve problems and to create new pans pens rob. You once told me that you've had a cow. Oh Path career. It's taken you everywhere from starting out as a long haired musician to to working in marketing and government affairs which is when I met you at all kinds of ways and now you're a big time expert on organizational leadership. Can you give us a quick overview of how that evolved oft- How did you get from music to being at organizational guru the Google part of it will watch and see how that works out but yeah the the longhaired musician as a kid. I was playing guitar from the Asia Thirteen. My mother actually gave me a guitar because I just needed a few other things to think about it in my life than maybe what was going on around me and that guitar actually is the reason why we're sitting here on the podcast today that not happen. My life would have taken a very different turn. We one of the band's I was then by the time I got in my twenties had a Groupie a <hes> we can call him a fan if that sounds a little more socially appropriate but <hes> great guy and we were discussing my music career in the way the band was taken off. He showed up everywhere. We played the the <hes> Question House I do and I told him I just needed to get a bit of a job during the day because I had a growing family I I had met my wife in the course of the the music career and he tried to talk me out of it initially his his comment was you guys have great potential santeuil. You're the best band in in town. You're going to be great and I just said <hes> Craig. I can't feed my family potential so oh he reached in his pocket handed me a business card and said come and see me on Monday morning turned out he owned one of the larger employment agencies in the city. Wow no idea idea and <hes> after taking a couple of tests he sent me in for an interview and you know where that was. It was a to the company you and I worked at for years by the end of that week. I had a job offer and started on Monday morning. I had no idea that that's how you started at C and G and and in you're in the people's natural gas <hes> Hosanna business operating company Yeah Yeah while you were up at the it's all incompetent well a lot has changed since then so how did you get from well. You did a lot of things that people's as I recall for marketing into community affairs and you and I worked on other government affairs activities together and you kinda knew everybody in town but it was all a public affairs kind of outward-looking staff and along the way you've started focusing on how organizations function right absolutely the first first half of my career inside the entire organization actually was <hes> inward facing administrative computer systems information systems <hes> a lot of the information flow through the company became part of my responsibility and then about halfway through it shifted to who outward facing and that's that's where you and I intersected in the Community Affairs Economic Development Government Affairs <hes> and <hes> <hes> I had gotten involved in everything from local government municipal government all the way up to Federal Agencies Sees Like D._O._e.. American Gas Association. We got hanging around there quite a bit so I got to know everything from D._C.. On on on down to to the hometown town and the company put that to work they did fairly well within had an awful lot of fun great time doing it and in the course of the ad especially the community mutate fares just got to work with nonprofit organizations quite a few boards over the years he even national boards and so as a result the experience base was just tremendous no in how the organization worked on the inside and interacted with the general public in customer brace on the outside and we were fortunate because that was a a good company it was a company that had we'll values embedded into into the operations and my experience as a lawyer working with lots of different companies. It was a special one yeah yeah we we had. I think what what you might call a very centered operation overall we we had had <hes> Igla vertically integrated business and and we were all over the place in terms of trying to make sure it continued to work orcas well as it. Could we still had some central. I'll call family values. I found quite a few folks. <hes> over over the years. I was at the company that really cared about one another. The strength of that entire company really focused on relationships and that in the end is what I came to understand was the most important thing you can have going inside an organization not not just processes but you have to have relationships that are enduring throughout so is that when and how you started thinking about <hes> topics related to diversity and inclusion I I know we all talked about <hes> the need for <hes> a broader <hes> mix in our hiring and and in those oh stay was affirmative action and E._E._O.. It was certainly something that we discussed not only about inside the company but in terms of our outward-looking activities yes it did you is that when you started or did did your involvement with diversity inclusion professionally to that come later. It was in the late nineteen eighties Bev on we we were looking at pulling a diversity initiative the operating company company the Holding Company and the rest of the organization didn't do it at that time but the president was insistent on it for a number of reasons <hes> deregulation regulation some of the wood today might be referred to his Whitewater environment continuous change in the world meant that we had to have a continuous tenuous low of good thinking and a high level of awareness of what was going on in the environment so to see it from multiple viewpoints was was very important to the president of the operating company at the time at at the at that point. I was a concluding a stanton marketing at about to move over into the <hes> the public affairs arena didn't know it at the time but when they hired the diversity consultant to come in. I had the opportunity to set up In research experiment since <hes> the majority of the company wasn't conducting that kind of intervention at the time I asked hot and I know you'll remember the V._p.. Of Marketing at the time I won't mention his name on board but but he was also in charge of strategic planning a metrics throughout the organization a phenomenally bright gentleman and he allowed me to set up an experiment to look at how all the company performed over a period of time using other business units that were not engaging in diversity interventions in actually flatly rejected them and to be able to compare them to the operating company that I was in and see how they performed overtime relative to the things as it were crucial for diversity interventions so that was my start I wasn't in in diversity wasn't in H._R.. But it turned out to be a fascinating experiment that I was able to conduct over roughly five year period of data so in those days what was the definition of diversity in the context of H._R.. And organizational activity. What what were you studying? What kind of programs well the the the specifically the program that our company engaged in was one that focused on on differences that the theme it was managing differences valuing differences embracing differences and that was wrapped into a frame of excellence so the intervention intervention itself was called excellence through diversity and it was awesome? The consultant came in and did a absolutely fabulous job the the in the broader spectrum of diversity programs. There really wasn't much of a definition at that point nothing nothing you could pin down say this is the way we were GonNa do it because it was a relatively new field so there was very little way to make relevant comparisons Harrison's to what we were doing to what other companies were doing. It was just named as an H._R.. Best practice so the H._R.. Folks around the country were engaging in it but in ways that were customized for for their own companies no standards <hes> no consistent uniform metrics so we had to go out and look look at and I in the research I was able to find some primaries and use those to gauge our company's performance relative to the way the diversity diversity programs were supposed to affect and improve the organization and what did you discover in the strata that I studied. It was a little disconcerting to a lot of folks that the diversity program didn't make a difference <hes> that's not to say that it didn't make any difference because I firmly believe that it did but where I studied were middle management teams and <hes> relevant behaviors and over a five year period <hes> the data demonstrated that there was no difference between test group and Control Group Group meaning folks who were engaged in the diversity programs and and folks who were not when it came to some very specific <hes> behaviors so it was it was a bit disconcerting. It wasn't a deal killer for diversity as it concept that it took a little bit of work to try to decipher why they're why there really was no difference since those days sometime ago you have become <unk> a prolific writer and I <hes> you and I were not connected for quite a few years but I started following you quite awhile back because you you were writing about diversity and inclusion in a smart way I just kind of stumbled onto I think on linked in <hes> and had you got a big follow and he's got like thirty thousand social media followers and you you write a lot of smart stuff and one of the things that you've pretty much said is that <hes> diversity programs are dead. I don't really think you met their dead. I don't you did you mean that it's time to rethink the whole thing. Is that what you've been saying well in part. Yes the let me respond specifically Dan part of it. The the first issue is if you look at <hes> Bob in the tent versus results and you get no results or or at least not the results that it should desire <hes> <unk> a an equally appropriate term to use would be in art in relation to the affected has what we're seeing today reflects it to a to a great extent the mistakes we made in introducing demographic diversity into organizations back in the in the late sixties early seventies ancient proverb that I made up a few years ago is that nobody Eddie runs into a forest fire to start planting new trees yeah there yeah and so after the nineteen sixty five draft legislation as as as beneficial as it was to the country overall the corporations workforce's simply weren't prepared fires of the of the late fifties and sixties were still raging inside organizations assatients just as they were in in society overall. It's just the the legislation forced us to change some behaviors so so when folks who were different came into organizations that were prepared for them. We end up. We ended up burning a lot of human acreage it over that period of time <hes> c._N._G.. was was not much different in that respect at least at the operating company skinny levels so that the challenge that a lot of organizations had was a more or less a controlled entry entry see how things went down allow a you know a few more in so in in the process <hes> <hes> diversity itself was also becoming more well defined and and so the growing up together more or less diversity. I concept growing up with corporate ability to to integrate different people in the workplace has had a very Ojo Dot E._D._U.. That's slash one of its <music>. When we're talking about diversity here we're talking about diversity programs diversity in the context of organizational management but there has been <hes> lot lots of research and anecdotal information that suggests suggests that if you can get a diverse group of people together and I'm using the word diverse here very broadly people who think differently come from different backgrounds and <hes> different colors and genders and orientations of all sorts if you can do that and have them work well together the results can be stupendous Indus and <hes> you see it on on boards the impact of a diverse board unaccompanied can be terrific so there's there's more for understanding that looking at things pragmatically organizations will do better if you can get people in and kind of moving up the pipeline line and working well together and as far as we've gotten it feels like the initial efforts helped us get junior people in but then in a lot of places things have stalled or if they've gone on the people just aren't always being heard or you know they're not <hes> they're not not everybody is able to <hes> to grow and thrive so where we are? Is that and I'm really I'm asking this question if you if I'm saying this right where we are is that <hes> the diversity programs that we thought about which were mainly about getting people in and those are just over its yes. We've got to rethink it and so what you've been doing and what I've been so intrigued about Auden in your writing is that you've been saying okay <hes> you can either <hes> declared dead or you can declare some victories but let's start fresh and figure out what we can do to put out the fires and have people working together and have <hes> environments in which everybody nobody can participate right. You're asking that question and you have <hes> you've been working on an answer yeah so tell me about your answer. Your I know from <hes> reading your sings that you've you've copyrighted a term the the culture neutral framework and that's part of your answer can can you tell us about it. It's trademarked the the idea is centered in a recognition that the conflict isn't GonNa go away that there since we're continually bringing people into our organizations from outside who deal with things the way we traditionally do in society. We're not going to be bringing being in people who are clean slate if you will we have to be able to understand that their biases in the conflicts that come with them are part part of the package when we bring them in and to attempt to change or suppress that is kind of weird the diversity programs are falling even right down to bias mitigation programs what sometimes referred to his unconscious bias but not all the bias unconscious conscious by a long shot so one example. Is You know you you might remember we had back in two thousand eight the election action of an African American president. I we call. It seems so long ago yeah. It seems so long ago <hes> the during that period of time from two thousand is an eight before two thousand eight to two thousand sixteen the Harvard Implicit Association test has been run for millions literally millions millions of people so Harvard been able to collect data on the path of bias prior to two thousand eight all all the way up to today and what they found is that despite having an African American president along with Cabinet members who weren an administration that I had a great deal of racial diversity the bias scores haven't changed since prior to two thousand eight so that sort of validates the idea that diversity isn't working the way we're presenting it and thank goodness. It's from someone who's truly a Guru Anthony Greenwald in Mazarin Panaji so the the idea of of neutrality requires conflict. You just have to be able to find a new space in the Middle Third Space where folks can stop collector thoughts refuel refresh and revitalize inside an organization in much the same way way neutral zones are set up in illiberal conflict zones so the there's a place where good things can happen and unnecessary things can happen within that space so the framework is a third space. The framework is also one that provides very specific guidelines on behaviors just as you would within a literal neutral zone in a war and and teaches people a how to put their differences aside as opposed to trying to resolve them embrace them value and and work together inside that it's on so instead of focusing on differences which and embracing them and talking about <hes> which we did in the early days and diversity program. You're suggesting that we need to know how to put them aside and focus on on the work on focus on what on are the tasks that we need to do together. What happened neutral space ace? It's amazing that you use that focus on work. <hes> believe it or not from C.. N. G. One of the N._C._N._B.. <hes> is the parent company did not run diversity program and when specifically asked why not there for one verbatim verbatim respondents said we focus on the work so so far focused on the work as opposed to differences is one aspect of it there. There are places in side projects in work. We're having the differences is critical but you're just not focusing on the difference difference between persons. You're looking at the differences in the ways we approach problems and the expertise we can bring into so bringing expertise for example becomes the common ground bringing a very viewpoints to get to a shared cognition is is part of the process the the the sort of I won't call it a paradox but this is is is is kind of obvious when a lot of people bring different viewpoints from their vantage points to define a problem wants. Everyone in the group has shared cognition of the problem that cognition is no longer diverse. It's now homogeneous within that group and so once you've established that shared cognition that becomes the core of where you work that makes us rocker yeah that makes perfect sense to me in theory but let me ask. Let's say <hes> that we have listeners out there. I know we have a lot of listeners who run their own small businesses or they managed small teams at work and and they maybe are faced with people who aren't getting along as well as they might be or <hes> there there's conflict or maybe there's just not enough communication and they're all busy. All of these people are busy and most of the L. Yes the the budget issues. It may be true that folks don't have a strong war chest for for those kinds kinds of activities but it's absolutely amazing what you can get without having a long engagement or an expensive <hes> intervention where the consultant sometimes just calling and having a discussion for an hour to about the framework that you might I used to solve problems can be remarkably inexpensive the but but beyond that <hes> for folks who our <hes> if you WANNA call a mom and pop teams that are just a small group of people again you hit on the right where you said communication station establishing solid communication between folks kind of overcomes the problem have of time constraints. It really doesn't take very long often to ask somebody how they're doing or if you think you see a problem just to explore what may be going on with him for one or two minutes just to clear the air for dealing with a specific issue at a moment in time the investment in doing that as well worth it. Even when you're moving up on deadlines communication becomes even more important so part of the framework teaches how we can ask that question and get quick answers by understanding that the pieces that that you have to put together in order to get an answer in a very short period of time one that'll help you and the other person or you in the team move forward forward the one thing we often don't do just ask the right questions at the right time when we see behaviors that are a bit dissonant than many of us just Kinda clam up because we're not open to having that conversation at the moment we need to just the the opposite and the culture neutral framework helps you to understand how to do that that makes sense to be at it reminds me of some research <hes> using communication mapping looking having people wear badges so that you can <hes> tell when members of teams are talking to whom and and by what means you don't know the content and and the my recollection is the communication mapping indicates that when they're lots and lots of person to person horizontal colleague to colleague not necessarily up and down the chain of command when they're lots of lines of communication things work out much better that that just in creating an environment in which people talk to people and and the the channels are open <hes> <hes> is is something to to work on. If you're trying to have your team move past conflict right correct the the the culture neutral framework in engages technology but relatively inexpensive technology <hes> for the Hitachi Group Group for example in your is working with a project called humanize human is with a Y and axel as opposed to an eye and they're doing very much what you described the technology borders on intrusive but it's a security badge that they actually strap on <hes> that eventually will be everyone's security badge in that company when the pilots over if it works but they can detect everything from very small movements that may indicate some discomfort tonal quality in the voice <hes> the sort of the volume nature of interactional common through your security bad <hes> they may even get into biometrics in the near term. Those kinds of technologies are not generally available. They're very expensive. Lancia there are other things that we can use with existing tack that make almost as easy to collect real time data on what's going on with with teams hi in diet inside the organization and get a good feel not just for how well human interaction's going but how well people respond and work together as teams and how they move and interact inside the organization. It's it's not hard to do. We just need to take a an approach different from that of differences and focus on how people are working together and discovering what works so it's a whole new world when it comes to approaches to diversity and inclusion collusion. It sounds like things are much more based on research on how people work together and it it feels like there's a a lot of of new thinking what if some of our listeners WANNA learn more about the state of diversity and inclusion programs and <hes> maybe they want want to find out more about <hes> how to manage conflicts that flow from cultural differences can you <hes> point them <hes> beyond year lengthened page and the and your link will is on the summary for our podcast but beyond your linked in page. Can you point them to a a resource that might help get him started. I can't I'm I'm very privileged to be a board member of a group called the new diversity summit and it's online for for those in your listeners who would like to get the inside scoop on diversity professionals. You're doing thinking teaching. We're offering an extremely low pricing. When I say extremely low price that really mean conference with conference grade materials materials global expert speakers seventeen in fact about fifteen to sixteen hours of instruction available online you can download load the content study at research it with an individual licence and offer companies? There's a group license so that if multiple people WANNA take it for example a diversity council we can range that the the summit specifically weekly shows what some of the contemporary approaches are all the way from building very simple diversity awareness all the way up to more complex things like <hes> dealing with implicit or unconscious bias and what that means world class speakers and also a bit on on transition what the transition to a new game might involve all right that sounds so we can be good starting plying so we'll put a link on the <hes> summary that our listeners will be clicking in order to find you and <hes> I think again <hes> <hes> Your Lincoln <hes> profile is full of good information and <hes> and you. Are you writing a book. Do I recall that too to him. I am the that's that's coming hotel by the end of the year but maybe sooner we'll see what happens with that and anybody who wants the look me up even if they're not Lincoln members confined Robert De Jones Dot com and that will take them to appeak my links at profile and then we can go from there terrific well rob it has been fabulous reconnecting with you and I'm so pleased to see all all after good work. You've done it. I'm so happy to be back in touch after all this time. Thanks so much for joining me today. It's been a privilege bath. Thank you so much shroff great work you have done and what you're continuing to do today. We've been talking with leadership. Consultant Rob Jones Jones about how is probably time to rethink many of our assumptions about organizational diversity and inclusion. Today's career tip is that when you're on a team project it's wise to keep refocusing folks on the Cup Cup and don't let yourself be distracted by the way your colleagues. I don't speak or think or act like you. If you've enjoyed our show please tell your friends and if you love this podcast I I would so appreciate a five star rating. This podcast is produced by W O._U._B. Public Media Adam rich is our audio audio engineer. I'm your host Bev Jones author of think like an entrepreneur act like a C._e._o..

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