Is Diversity a Carrot or a Stick?

September 16, 2015


Demands are mounting for Apple and other tech companies to ramp up their efforts regarding workplace diversity. In a new update, CEO Tim Cook has announced that this past year included its largest number of minority hires in a 12-month period. However, before naysayers stereotype diversity as just another way to be PC, we should be clear that, at work, diversity is not about political correctness.

The problem is that too many HR teams use words like “quota” when they mean “target.” Although some government laws and regulations do come into play, true diversity is more than just common decency to those around you—although that is an important part of it.

If you still believe that diversity must be managed with “a stick,” welcome to the new world where we think diversity is really “a carrot.” Diversity involves making sure that your business reflects the markets you live in and maintaining an employee base that is as diverse as your labor market and your customer base.

Not Very 21st Century

In a 21st century global marketplace, diversity makes a great deal of business sense. Your people—men and women of all generations from all types of ethnic and racial backgrounds—should reflect the markets in which you operate and in which you sell your products and services. If you run a diverse business, you are more likely to have the respect of your customers and business partners. Some of those organizations, including government entities, evaluate levels of diversity when choosing vendors and business partners.

Millennials and Diversity

By 2020, half of the workforce will be Millennials–that means they came into the world of work in this century, not the last one. These are not only your future workforce, but your future leaders too. As they come out of college and into the workplace, they will be more sensitive than your traditional employees to your diversity. They will want a workplace that looks like their world and draw conclusions about your hiring and social practices if they do not see it.

Looking in All the Right Places

You need to make a conscious decision to support, enable and celebrate diversity. Your efforts will be visible to those around you based on what you say, how you say it and what you do. Whether you are a second-line manager or a senior executive, people notice if you review the diversity of your front-line or first-level teams. Just asking the question, “Did you consider any minority candidates for this role?” can set the right tone with your team.

Moving Forward

One of the best ways to improve diversity is through recruitment. Small changes when targeting job advertising and deciding where the company gleans applications, such as job fairs and universities, can improve diversity by providing a more diverse pool of potential hires. If you only go to one place to get new recruits, even if that is an Ivy League school, you are only ever going to hire one type of person. Carefully considering who should conduct interviews for specific positions can help to increase diversity.

A final note: diversity allows companies to gain access to the broadest skills and the widest range of employees. It also helps companies understand their customers. Therefore, while some may think of it as “the right thing to do,” it is time to visualize it as the right thing to do for your business.

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Diversity adds a new element to your workplace and can spark innovation and new thinking. Learn how to incorporate diversity with AMA's trusted resources and seminars:

About The Author

Nigel Dessau is the author of Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack. He is also the creator of the website, The 3 Minute Mentor. Learn more about him at

One Comment »

  1. avatar

    To me diversity is about bringing in new ideas and people who will challenge the norms. They bring in new ideas that cause people to rethink norms. In this perspective diversity is not dependent on race or the gender (the basis of your article), but people not hiring people with the same personality style and upbringing of themselves.

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