Much of my work has related to understanding how best to encourage better diversity in the workplace. The many initiatives that have been set up to tackle diversity challenges are well-meaning and are having some success in driving forward more equality. However, even if we had that equality, even if we had 'solved' the diversity issue, we would still have the issues of low employee engagement, the widening skills gap and the increased need for speed and innovation in organisations that are tanker-like in their ability to change course rapidly.
Why solve the diversity issue if the system you are trying to make it work in is broken itself? It makes no sense to force in diversity initiatives when the system doesn't work for those who it is supposed to be benefiting already.
The logistics that dominates so much of the discussions around better gender equality - offering flexible working practices and supportive management for carers of all kinds - will not solve the critical issue of how you find the right people for your organisation, to take it forward and to support its growth. As with many commercial decisions, the flexibility an organisation can offer already works well when the person is seen as so vital that the company works around them, not the other way around. And that happens when it is clear what that person will contribute to the company. If we are able to turn the focus on what is to be delivered, to what standard and what timelines, and identify the person who approaches this in a way that aligns with our company values, approach and culture, then how they deliver it becomes far less of an important issue. If WHAT needs to be done is clearly agreed between the individual and the line manager, then the HOW becomes less of a block.
This is clearly demonstrated if you look at the trend over the last decade or so of offshoring or outsourcing critical tasks. There was initially a lot of concern from line management that it would be impossible to manage a team who were physically remote and in a different time zone. Yet, because there were strong commercial reasons for doing so, organisations found a way to manage the teams, to the point we are now, where it is not even seen as an issue to have a remote team. If we can make a team perform from the other side of the world, in a different time zone, then what is the difficulty behind doing it for someone who is closer to home? The difference is in the willingness to move forward, which gets driven to a large extent by the commercial drivers.
If you are going to make a significant change to the way you work, it is prudent to look at what changes need to be made and how much would be needed to shift the needle. If you are aware that the way you recruit, manage and lead your people is not working as well as you would like, then spending money on a diversity initiative will not yield the results you are after. It is better to fix the system first, then you may even find that diversity has taken care of itself because you now have a process that is intrinsically equal for all.