The Role of Grit in Nurturing Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

The role of grit in any successful enterprise has been taking center stage recently. Some might call the new-found focus on grit a passing fad. There are many ways grit can be measured and defined. In the literal sense, it is strength of character, courage and resolve. Angela Duckworth, a recipient of MacArthur fellowship or the “Genius Grant” in 2013, tweaked the definition of grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

The importance of grit starts to show through when all other external factors like talent, intelligence and experience begin to wane. These external factors are very important to be successful in the gig economy that we are seeing now. But grit is the perseverance that shows up in the face of adversities.

My view of grit and its true effects come from the personal interactions that I have had with industry leaders and influencers in my sphere of work.

Quite a few organizations, including fortune 500 companies, have intensified efforts to make diversity and inclusion in the workplace their primary goal. Grint plays a more important role in their mission than it does in the traditional hiring process.

Working with individuals with disabilities in the spheres of education, life-skills training, and now employment, I have come to see and experience the grit of people on both sides, i.e. those who are differently-abled, and those who assist them. This unique perspective has helped me to identify some underlying qualities that define grit within an organization.

Five characteristics of a grit-driven organizational culture

  1. Getting out of comfort zones (Employees)
  2. Embracing failures (Leadership team)
  3. Empathy (Recruiters)
  4. Emotional intelligence (Hiring managers)
  5. Communication (HR)

Getting out of comfort zones. Dealing with people with disabilities requires employees to get out of their comfort zones. It forces them to think out of the box not only in talking to the candidates but also when considering how they are sourced, trained, and coached to do better. This marks a major shift in the pace of work and makes them uncomfortable to even start. Those who make it to the other side are the ones who have displayed grit adaptability.

PREMIUM CONTENT: US Diversity Staffing Firms

Embracing failures. For the recruitment industry, the number of placements is often the main barometer of success. This, unfortunately, has created an environment that discourages failure. Failures and the ability to embrace failures give leaders a learning opportunity. They can use the lessons to become better at their job. Also, embracing failures displays resilience at a very personal level. It is the responsibility of a leader to promote the culture of resilience at the organizational level by encouraging an attitude of accepting failures, learning from them, and getting better every day. This is what is needed the most when leaders are trying to be a part of the diversity inclusion process. Multiple learning opportunities are presented once they start talking to differently abled people. They may gradually realize that some of the processes they once thought to be the tenets of recruitment need to be discarded in favor of new ones. Once members of the leadership team are comfortable with the prospect of failure and start looking at it as a new lesson, they start displaying the grit they are made of.

Empathy. Being empathetic when dealing with candidates with disabilities is imperative for recruiters. Everyone has an innate capacity to empathize, but to empathize at various levels with different people is a skill that comes with practice and a lot of training.

Emotional quotient. The time to look at the IQ of a hiring manager is truly passé. In an innovation and gig-based environment, emotional quotient (EQ) is going to be the deciding factor. When hiring managers stop basking in the glory of their past achievements and start revealing their authentic self to the people they interact with, they take a step toward being a leader with a high EQ. It shows that they have the character and willingness to build and rebuild over and over again without agonizing on what was.

Communication. Better communication across the board makes a business more resilient. It does not mean everyone has to become friends with each other; what it means is that human resource managers should create networks of communication wherein ideas and information are exchanged freely. This is where grit plays a major role. Egos need to be set aside for everyone to get on the same page and function as a team instead of islands of knowledge. This culture of communication manifests itself when talking to employees, candidates, and clients. Diversity and inclusion programs require free and open communication at all times and across all levels to achieve their fundamental goals of providing more opportunities to individuals with disabilities.

MORE: Seeking neurodiverse talent

Hetal Parikh

Hetal Parikh
Hetal Parikh is co-founder and president of Rangam Consultants Inc.

Hetal Parikh

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