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November 14, 2017

What do Danish Elephants Have to Do with Inclusion?

3 mins read

Pick a number between 1 and 10.

Multiply it by 9.

If it’s a two-digit number, add them together.

Subtract 5.

Convert the number into a letter of the alphabet (i.e. 1=A, 2=B, etc.)

Think of a country which begins with that letter.

Add 1 to your number and convert that number into a letter of the alphabet.

Think of an animal which begins with that letter.

What color is your animal?

Some of Excella’s Human Resources and Recruiting team accepted this challenge, when we attended the 2017 SHRM Diversity and Inclusion Conference in October. The keynote speaker, Dr. Tony Byers (former Director of Global Diversity Inclusion at Starbucks) guessed my country, animal, and color exactly. I didn’t give him any clues, I was half way across the room, and yet he guessed it on his first try. Why? Because no matter what number you start with, you end up needing a country that starts with D, and an animal that starts with an E. 90% who respond to the activity above will answer Denmark, elephant, gray… including me.

But that’s actually the beginning of the story, not the end…

Organizational diversity has become progressively diversified.

Personality, race, gender, educational background, skill set, sexual orientation, and other factors influence how people see the world, politics, culture, and their work. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2044 minorities will no longer be the minority in the United States and it’s found that companies that exhibit gender diversity are 15 percent* more likely to outperform companies that don’t. Overall, diverse workforces outperform competitors by 26 percent** and are 70 percent*** more likely to capture new market growth.

So, how do we become a diverse, inclusive workforce?

Unconsciously we all have internal biases imparted by upbringing, media, and philosophies that effect our perceptions about others. Achieving a truly diverse and inclusive workplace requires a lot of hard work by everyone – and doesn’t happen overnight! Discovering the right concoction of employees to place together and finding managers who foster conditions in which freedom, trust, and challenge are practiced is key to build a successful diverse workforce. It’s equally important, as an employee of a company, to notice that education and understanding is the first step, but you must be willing to take it another step forward by turning your unconscious into your conscious, and adjusting. No training, policy, or email creates the company culture, employees do. Therefore, employees are the puzzle pieces needed to achieve the desired, and necessary, diverse culture of inclusion.

But wait, how did Dr. Byers know my answer?

Why did I answer “Danish Elephant” along with 90 percent of others? Was it because of my upbringing or the television shows I watch? Maybe. Did I answer that way because subconsciously I didn’t want to be the “odd man out” and answer differently than those around me? Possibly.

To surpass competitors, companies need more employees who will answer “eagle, emus, elks, or egrets” – those who will bring diverse views and experiences to the table. More employees who will think of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Djibouti, or the Dominican Republic.

Different views and experiences are essential to creating a diverse workforce, which will produce innovation, insightful conversations, and stimulating challenges. A diverse workforce will also retain top talent as it continues to expand organically in employee ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, education levels, personalities, skill sets, and so much more.

But companies can’t become diverse and inclusive without employees realizing that they are the puzzle pieces needed to create a true diverse culture of inclusion. As an employee, strive to be the puzzle piece who makes an impact –  stop and listen to the thoughts of the 10 percent who answered differently and don’t be afraid to be a part of the 10 percent with a different opinion. Our differences could very easily provide exceptional results to our clients, but only if you speak up, listen, and realize that we’re all in this together.

(* McKinsey & Co., **Diversity Inc, ***Center for Talent Innovation, 2013)

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