Walking your diversity talk: will your workplace diversity mindset help or hurt your company?


Walking your diversity talk: will your workplace diversity mindset help or hurt your company?

By Jon Hansen

Many years ago – okay, decades ago – a senior IBM executive mentor told me that “if two people agree on everything, one of them is redundant”. Believe it or not, that was one of my first lessons in diversity in the workplace – the diversity of thinking and ideas.

The following excerpt from Roger Blumberg’s recent post “5 benefits of workplace diversity – and how to promote and manage it” reminded me of my mentor’s advice:

“A diverse workplace offers both companies and employees many advantages, including increased creativity and innovation and better financial performance.” – Roger Blumberg (January 20, 2023)

In a global marketplace where extended supply chains transcend countries, both geographically and culturally, diversity is not an optional program but an operational reality. In other words, when in Rome, you must be able to do more than speak the language. You must move beyond a transactional interaction to a collaborative relationship in which you adopt a collective experience mindset to achieve results. Roger emphasizes this last point regarding results when he mentions “better financial performance”.

But financial performance isn’t the only benefit. Regarding procurement, diversity will ultimately break the traditional hiring mold of our profession, and that is the focus of this article. 

Breaking the mold? 

In a recent “Procurement in 5 Minutes” segment, host Iain Campbell McKenna asked the Head of Operations at Banijay Group, Paul Williams, what he meant when he said, “homogenizing the hiring process is the end of the procurement profession.”

While I encourage you to “take 5” to hear what Paul had to say for yourself, my takeaway is that hiring based solely on the traditional and ubiquitous roles and responsibilities that defined the profession in the past limits our overall effectiveness going forward.  

In his comments regarding the segment, Jason Busch also speaks about skills diversity. Here’s what he had to say:

“My red herring here is the role of skills diversity in hiring going forward. The past 30 days have blown me away on the evolution of AI. I think knowing how to harness and direct systems (regardless of background) will be so key.”

Jason then added, “I continue to believe that groupthink is the enemy of results. Hire people who can look at data and change their opinions. Look beyond superficial demographic identifiers and get inside the brain of candidates.”

You may think this sounds great, but are these observations – besides AI – new? An article I wrote back in August 2007 suggests that breaking the “homogenized hiring mold” has been a priority for some time. 

For example, a CPO Agenda roundtable with senior executives from several global brands acknowledged “there is going to be a continuing need for ‘low-level’ buyers”.  However, the same individuals concluded that “one strategic business thinker with the right skills and capabilities is worth 10 or 12 of your normal, run-of-the-mill purchasing people.”

Do you equate strategic thinking with greater diversity in thought and approach? Have organizations transitioned from hiring talent based on traditional “purchasing” objectives, e.g., low cost, to a way that recognizes the strategic impact procurement professionals can have on the enterprise (and beyond)? How can today’s expanding view of diversity, both within and external to the organization, “break the hiring mold” of the past? 

Diversity begins with the job description

As I mentioned in the first part of this article, breaking the traditional hiring mold of our profession begins with reimagining the role of procurement within the enterprise and seeing its impact on the greater world.

If an organization’s view of procurement’s “bigger role” in the overall scheme of things doesn’t change, they will never realize the full benefits of diversity. They will, in essence, be doing little more than diversifying their people’s demographics to do the same thing procurement has always done.

Is your organization really ready to diversify?