Diversity Strategy: Stucture vs. Behavior 

Depending on your organizations capacity, at some point you probably already have or will  develop a ‘diversity policy’ or a ‘diversity program’ or hired a consultant to conduct a ‘diversity workshop’. While viewed within the typical framework this is a step forward, but from an organizational perspective, what does that really mean?

A useful tool, is to view diversity from the lens of structure and behavior and how they interface . Here is a roadmap to understand this better –

  • Structure impacts the infrastructure whereas behavior impacts the action
    • Organizations can tackle diversity by developing frameworks e.g. policies, programs, HR best practices, legal agreements that are inclusive and are ‘designed’ to ideally encourage diversity. But – that is only one aspect. The other aspect is behavior – behavior resulting in actual actions. Diversity in behavior is what an organization does at the grass root level, amongst the ranks on a daily basis to enable behavior which results in actions that are inclusive.
  • Structure flows top down whereas behavior moves from bottom up
    • A structured approach including frameworks, processes, policies and the like tends to originate from the leadership and executive management – it is top down. The leadership sets the parameters for dealing with diversity and develops the channels to flow down this information. Behavior on the other focusses on the dialogue and the conversations that take place within the employees cohort and NOT just the leadership team or executive management. When an organization encourages employees at large to engage with and address the ‘idea’ of diversity, behavior starts changing resulting in actions that can flow from the bottom up.
  • Structure focusses on the tangible whereas behavior consists of intangible
    • Structures designed to encourage diversity are clearly laid out. They are tangible, quantifiable and readily recognizable. They lay out a roadmap, which if followed should result in success. A change in behavior on the other hand is organic – there are no clear pathways or easily quantifiable tangibles – that is where an organizations efforts to engage and interact with their employees in various formats can yield rich dividends.

Both structure and behavior share a symbiotic relationship.  One needs the other and careful attention needs to be paid to both in order to find the right balance.

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