1) Variety; 2) A different kind; 3) Unlike in nature or qualities.
Recognize we have evolved into the age of the individualist. This social trend began with the “Me” generation and has accelerated as we moved into the demographic cohort often referred to as “Gen Y.” Each successive generation defines itself in its own way and integrates into existing cultural norms on its own terms. People are increasingly defining themselves as individuals rather than group members.
Accept the growing diversity of your workforce. No longer will the next generation of workers feel, think or behave in the same way as the previous one. Companies employing hundreds or thousands will find their workforce spans several generations. At a typical working lifespan of thirty to forty years, many employers could conceivably have two to three generations on their payroll at one time.
Expect a shift away from conformity. When homogeneity and conformity were the norm, managing was easier. In fact, the mere expectation of conformity gave management a certain comfort in its ability to set expectations uniformly, with little risk of interlopers “upsetting the balance.” This is no longer the case today; embracing diversity is now a competitive imperative.
Avoid falling into the “goof gap.” Younger generations’ attitudes can be dramatically different from those held dear by many senior leaders in organizations today. This dissonance has created a chasm of misunderstanding called the “goof gap” – that unsuspecting divide between leaders’ intentions and how they communicate, versus how their messages are understood.
Recognize that you are not infallible. Unlike the boss in the ever-popular syndicated cartoon, Dilbert, leaders must collect a diversity of opinion before making decisions. No longer will it be acceptable to treat individuals as “all the same” (if indeed it ever was). In soul-inspiring organizations, people are engaged at all levels – contributing their diverse skills, talents and attitudes.
Meet diversity of needs with a diversity of response. The workplace of the future will have to learn to engage its frontline leaders in real leadership by creating organizational responses that meet individual needs rather than enforcing policy or practice, as is often the case today. While a fundamental shift, it offers undeniable advantage and competitive returns in a shrinking labour market.
Think of diversity as freedom of expression. Thinking of diversity as more than simply the overall work environment, freedom of expression implies a sense of congruence between who people truly are and where they choose to work – along with the organization’s ability to recruit and retain the best employees for the work to be done. It has to do with being an employer of choice.
Questions For Reflection
Think about a time when you fell into the “goof gap”; what will you do differently in the future to avoid this problem?
Is the concept of embracing diversity and individualism a hallmark of your leadership style and practices (selfware), or a hallmark of your words but not behavior (shelfware)?
How can you design a diversity-related intervention that uses the concept of “selfware” to embed one powerful change in behavior that will be obvious to everyone in your organization?