“The Intern,” starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway is one of the most telling movies about diversity in the workplace in our times. De Niro, a retired former executive, joins Hathaway’s furiously growing, millennial-powered eCommerce startup through a “senior internship program.”
What could go right?
After spending his early days adrift without a paddle in the tech sea, De Niro’s character slowly but surely starts impacting the new-age workplace through his experience, perceptiveness and street-smarts garnered over a lifetime.
From championing the ambitious and hardworking young mom who is his boss before a variety of judgemental individuals, to becoming a father-figure imparting advice on various life issues to the youngsters, he was just what the organisation needed.
Diversity is more than just a box to check for gender, race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, age, religion and so on. It actually has an impact on the company’s performance. A company that hires international workers, women, members of the LGBTQ community, and seniors can call itself diverse, but it doesn’t mean anything if it is not also inclusive, if these various employees do not feel welcome, safe, or fairly valued.
Throw a bunch of people together whose life experiences are as different as you can imagine. Get them focusing their energies towards a common goal. There may be initial hiccups, but over the long term, they will impart a wealth of information and experiences to one another, leading to a workplace with a more evolved worldview, full of employees who have an exceptional handle on the big picture.
Isn’t that something every company can benefit from?
Here’s how you can build a culture of diversity into hiring:
1. Be flexible about flexibility:
Certain job descriptions can be worked into a work-study or work-from-home program, which will open up opportunities for specific populations like the elderly, or new moms, or the differently abled. For instance, a person in a wheelchair can still do programming or data entry. Some jobs can be shared over shifts. Being open to revamping certain work positions gives you a lot more wiggle room to bring in a lot more talent into the organisation.
2. Assign roles according to expertise:
Older people with a lot of experience in a particular area can, for instance, be consultants to any teams still wet around the ears. Tech-savvy youngsters can, in turn, bring your older and analog-universe employees up to speed on the latest in digital technology. This is a form of “reverse mentoring.”
3. Determine pay levels by job demands and roles:
It’s important to not let ageism come into play where salaries are concerned, both for young, old, male or female employees. The demands of the job and the contribution of the individual should be the fair measuring scale.
4. Leave stereotypes at the door.
Coach employees not to discriminate by age or drag popular perceptions of “Gen X” or “millennials” into their interactions. Employees should be coached to treat every person with respect and professionalism, regardless of age, sex, gender, religion or sexuality.
5. Evolve with the times:
Companies should be a part of contemporary open dialogues and positive changes, particularly in the matter of LGBTQ rights. Hiring personnel can be a part of podcasts, forums, and discussions on sensitivity and inclusivity training conducted by LGBTQ organisations, to bring informed changes into traditionally rigid hiring structures.