WASHINGTON, DC — Organisations are ignoring the number one issue that causes "workplace toxicity", PRovokeGlobal's Summit heard yesterday.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resources Management, said diversity isn't just about age, race, gender and sexuality, and the most divisive issue currently is political affiliation.

"We now have a diverse workforce and none of them like each other," he said. "America is as diverse as it's ever been, and as divided as it's ever been.

"We say we're committed to diversity but what we mean is, as long as I agree with you."

He cited the example of an employee objecting to a colleague attending right-wing rallies in Charlottesville. "You can't embrace diversity if you don't allow difference. People can go to Charlottesville, they can go on a Black Lives Matter march."

Taylor was speaking with global chair and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, AnnaMaria DeSalva, during a session on building better workplaces. He called for an end to virtue-signalling and warned employers "you can't programme your way out of diversity."

Instead, he said employees want their organisations to culturally embed diversity. "It's the challenge of the day and we have to shift mindsets from diversity programmes — we go to this dinner, we support this charity – and yet we still have a problem."

Taylor advised organisations begin with "extreme listening" to understand the mindset of employees. "We focus too much on external messaging and not enough on internal messaging," he said.

And he also called for employers to embrace cultural clarity, rather than labelling work cultures good or bad. "We spend a lot of time broadcasting aspirational cultures as opposed to the real culture." He said organisations should be honest about their expectations of employees and their working culture — even if it's one of long hours — in order to attract the right people. "You're going to exclude a lot of candidates in the recruitment process, but that's a good thing. There's nothing worse than bringing people in and tricking them."