The Paradox of How Similarity Enhances Diversity #SHRM18



The 2018 SHRM conference is over and as usual, after this type of experience I take time to review my notes and reflect on what I learned. The entire program was fantastic, including an array of keynotes, session speakers, a SMART stage and the opportunity to learn about leading edge HR products and services at the exposition hall.

This said, my greatest point of learning that I want to apply back at work is how the 2018 blog squad was able to effectively work together as an engaged, unified team. I’ve never experienced working in such a diverse group (different nationalities, different HR specialties, different genders, different sexual orientations, different languages, different company sizes, different levels of experience, different ages…) and at the same time, am in awe of how the blog squad was an extremely cohesive group of people who provided support, encouragement and inspiration to one another. How could such a diverse group bond so quickly and work so well together? And, how could I take this experience and apply it back at work to the many groups I work within?

Then, it dawned on me! While we were a very diverse group, we were also extremely similar. The following similarities were what enabled us to capitalize on, and celebrate our diversity:

Similarity of passion and purpose: It was evident that every blogger was excited to be at the SHRM 2018 conference and wanted to share key points of learning with others. When recruiting people for the team evidence of this passion and love for HR was sought. While the skills and competencies were diverse, the mutual passion and excitement were palpable.  We were also thanked many times for our contributions and told that what we did made a difference and enhanced the conference experience for others.

Key takeaway: I need to alter our recruitment and selection practices to ensure that we are hiring people who, in addition to being competent, are passionate about what they do.  I also need to find ways to continuously remind my teams that what they do matters.

Similarity of vulnerability: Prior to the conference many of my fellow bloggers readily shared their apprehension about what the conference would hold, how they would deal with potential challenges, how they would navigate such a large venue, etc. This honesty helped me deal with my own questions and anxiety. Even as an extrovert, I could relate to what others were sharing and was grateful for the opportunity to learn from their raw and powerful posts. Also, bloggers shared some things about themselves prior to arriving in Chicago.  This required courage but in doing so, when we did meet in person to work together it was like we were greeting familiar friends and not starting a relationship from scratch.

Key takeaway: While still respecting and honoring professional boundaries, I want to encourage employees to be vulnerable and share truths with one another. I will encourage colleagues to (appropriately) share some information about themselves so that team members can get to know one another as people and not just as work colleagues. By the way – Can’t wait to hear Dr. Brené Brown address this during her key note at the SHRM 2019 conference.]

Similarity of space: The blogger lounge was a place to reconvene with others. Yes we went our separate ways each day, but at various times we could check back in and touch base with others. We shared stories, talked about lessons learned from the sessions and brainstormed ways to continue to share with others, both those attending and those not at the conference. We also got to know each other a bit better and enhance our friendships through this shared room.

Key takeaway: I’m going to create a shared space that our employees look forward to using.  While still respecting the need for privacy and individual time/location this shared space will be used to create a more engaged, creative workforce.  Oh, and yes people are food motivated so I’ll be putting snacks in this space.

My challenge to you is to think about how you can capitalize on similarities and ultimately bring people together.  What I discovered (through this lived experience) is that leveraging similarity ultimately promotes and elevates diversity.  Through shared similarities the 2018 SHRM blog squad was able to enjoy and learn from our diversity. As HR professionals, we have a critical role to play in bringing people together to engage in productive and meaningful work. As I noted during my presentation at the conference, the ultimate paradox may just be that the best way to expand your world is to first make it smaller through meaningful connections with others.


Originally published on Double M Training and Consulting blog.






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