As a seasoned Diversity and Inclusion practitioner for a Fortune 100 company, who has lived & traveled in several countries and continually engages in the marketplace with Diversity related issues, I see good inclusionary practices by many… on the surface. The end results however, indicate that all too often noble objectives fall short of leveraging the inherent contributions of most leaving a quiet brooding behind, or sub par productivity gains.

Government and Business entities both espouse Diversity and Inclusion policies to foster goodwill and equal representation. These guiding principles are meant to bring a spirit of universal unity and cooperation. Instead however, they are perceived by some as victories for their respective constituents and others view them as forced compliance measures.

What is it that we are trying to achieve?

The subtle aspiration for greater harmony, appreciation and achievement by bringing together seemingly disparate people is always at the forefront. Too often though, these policies are perceived to be no more than:

• Political correctness
• Statistical achievement
• "Faculty of Color" with color and gender representation
• Feel-good "multiculturalism" drivel and…
• “Inter-group dialogues“ to "explore, question and confront existing tensions and divisions”

So we grudgingly tolerate many of the dialogues and rules imposed.

Unfortunately, we all fail to fully reap the benefits of a truly diverse workforce with this mindset. The free flowing thoughts of people continue to silently harbor inner fears that maintain alienating behaviors; the net result impairs building bridges of trust across our human spectrum. These rickety passage ways for tempered trust limit the openness, productivity, communication and understanding that are truly possible.

Businesses today want innovation that gives them a competitive edge. Our managers want access to a greater number of people where their services and wares can be sold. To access these markets, and to find these new opportunities, an understanding of “the other side” is always very helpful. These competitive advantages are virtual secrets contained within the brain of our human capital assets. To unlock these secrets though… each of us demands respect, understanding and appreciation for what we are, what we have become and what we might be. This is true for everyone.

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

This is what is missing in most Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Superficial mixers, black & white policy documents, photo shoot opportunities and “check-the-box” activities to show that we are inclusive do not really bring out the best in all of us. The best though, is what is needed.

Medicine is seeking answers for our modern ailments from aborigines in South America; automobile manufacturers are building car avoidance technology using the brain reaction of locusts; architects are building new office buildings using air conditioning strategies of termites. If our modern society can extract such wonderful benefits from what is considered to be the lower echelons of society… how much more could we extract from each other if we truly learned to welcome the individual that looks different from our own reflection in the mirror?

All of us have a history… a history of culture, faith, family, survival and education to name a few attributes which offer unique vantage points. These differing perspectives, if properly and fully tapped, can offer a tremendous competitive advantage. Most diversity training programs however are regarded as superficial in nature conveying a basic message of “embrace diversity because it is good for us and it is the future” which fails to fully resonate with the employee base.

Get to know people at a deeper level and find the connections that bind us all. Do not settle for the labels that we so quickly spout off such as race, gender, college, degree, faith and nationality. These do not define the individual any more than they define our self. Learn about their likes, their dislikes, their traditions, their faith, their family and soon you will sense a mutually beneficial bridge of trust that will carry us into new realms of possibility.

Those who can see through the visible... can achieve the impossible!

This is a simple practice that organizations and communities of any size can undertake. As people, we are intertwined; we depend on each other locally and internationally. To expand our horizons we need to look across virtual fences of cultural division, political boundaries, gender and educational differences, or even physical limitations. Respecting others while gaining an understanding of the trials and successes of our fellow humans is a journey that breeds understanding, growth, peace and fulfillment. Given the proper nurturing, appreciation and freedom of expression, diversity is one of the most powerful leveraging tools available to mankind.

Author's Bio: 

Enrique Ruiz is a corporate diversity trainer, author and speaker. He holds a Sr. Program Manager role on a nearly $1B contract managing a nationwide operation that utilizes the resources of nearly 13,000 people. Over the years he served as a Diversity and Inclusion chairperson for a Fortune 100 company. Visit his website at