August 16, 2017

The Future of Workforce Diversity & Inclusion

Does your HR policy include genetic enhancement and body hacking guidelines?

When (former) Google employee James Damore was fired earlier this month after distributing a memo charging the company with intolerance towards ideological conservatives, it was made clear — if it wasn’t already–that that diversity and inclusion policies are based on collective narratives. Narratives are our justifying accounts for why we believe what we do, and they unfold in our speech, behavior and policies.

The way Damore tells it, the uneven gender and racial distribution in technology firms comes down to ‘natural’ or biological differences–and this is the most foundational justification there is. But scientific claims don’t typically end a discussion; rather, they are part of it.

Indeed, if there is any scientific story emerging about human characteristics, it is that  we are emergent, complex and singular creatures whose patterns of behavior are the specific result of our various forms of identification, nature, nurture and experiences.

In one sense, this presents a baffling conundrum for executive leaders, human resources managers and policy makers.

On the other, we are entering an era of extreme customization. If Amazon can anticipate my consumer desires on the basis of an algorithm, can we not fashion more complex algorithms that better take into account the specific contours of our identities?

As both an analogy and an actual technology, could we extend the concept of personalization of consumer choices to personalization of people?  This would be coming around to the original humanist proposition that we are each distinct and particular, but no matter, why don’t we hire the way we market? For each potential hire, employers could consider not only who we are on the basis of existing categories of gender and race, but the indivisible ways that each of us filters and articulates our own experience of who we are and what that means.

In the meantime, the technological and environmental changes that are proving so disruptive in other facets of our lives may also impact our understanding of diversity in the not-so-distant future.  Currently, sex, ethnicity, immigrant status, disability and perhaps cognitive type are the focus of most diversity and inclusion discourse.  Yet other changes are afoot that may alter or expand our understanding of what diversity means, and which human traits require protection or inclusion in the workplace.

I have detailed six potential developments that could drive change in workforce diversity in this recent blog. They include: further demographic changes (in the United States); genetic modification; automation; technology-driven transparency and artificial intelligence/ algorithm-based marketing. You can read the entire blog here.

If you’d like to improve your organization’s narrative alignment to prevent the damaging dissonance unfolding at Google, please give me a call at +1-202-594-9236 or contact me at  A narrative assessment, whose modality can be customized to your needs, can help uncover discordant views before they result in reputational damage.


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