As more employers recognize the need for greater diversity of their work forces, thousands of companies, including many here in New Jersey, are trying to figure out how to create a work environment that embraces the differences people bring to the office. Implementing policies and protocols that appeal to an eclectic mix of people from different generations, countries, races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds is what motivational speaker Tayo Rockson is all about. “Nowadays, people don’t want to understand or listen to what others have to say,” he says. “People react to changes out of fear and anger and not love and understanding.”
Rockson will bring his advice on how to effectively communicate across cultures and become an inclusive leader to the Human Resources Management Association of Princeton Dinner. The event will be held at the Princeton Hyatt Regency in Princeton on Monday, June 11, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Visit hrma-nj.shrm.org to register.
Rockson is a native of Nigeria. His father was a diplomat and traveled extensively.
“As the son of a diplomat, I found myself always in between cultures having to find different ways to fit in,” he says in a biography on his website. “I essentially had an identity crisis but along the way, I learned how to turn my identity crisis into a gift for understanding people who come from different backgrounds and the motivations behind their actions.”
By the time he was a college freshman, Rockson had lived in five countries on four continents — Sweden, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, and the U.S. He earned an undergraduate degree in business from Liberty University in Virginia and an MBA from Fordham University in New York. He says a “near death experience” at age 22 made him quit his job and move to New York to pursue a media career. His ambition was to be the next Oprah Winfrey, at the head of a communications empire.
Today he is the president and CEO of UYD Management, a company he started in 2017. Among other things, the company provides strategic consulting services to corporations with a niche focus on effectively incorporating diversity initiatives and social justice innovations among the workforce.
Rockson says he has always been curious about how individuals can tailor personal idiosyncrasies to lead a diverse and broad-based work environment. As the author of numerous business and diversity based articles and the host of a popular podcast — As Told by Nomads with Tayo Rockson — Rockson was named as one of the up and coming leaders to watch in 2018 by a leading millennial lifestyles magazine. Global panache and having an international flair is the key to becoming an effective and inclusive leader. Rockson adds that the intersections of markets, customers, ideas, and worldviews are shifting and influencing priorities. “Migration patterns influence how we do business and with whom,” he says. “Inclusive leaders must articulate their mission so other aspire to be included in that mission.”
According to a survey conducted in 2011 for the Society for Human Resource Management, more than half of senior executives said they expected workers to have more diverse backgrounds and experience in the future. Fast forward to 2016 and the nation’s major workplaces comprised about 35 percent women and people of color combined, created by an upward trend in diversity and inclusion efforts, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, 97 percent of U.S. companies currently fail to have senior leadership teams that reflect the country’s ethnic labor pool.
In October, New Jersey bucked the national trend of colorless senior administrators at major corporations when Dennis Pullin became the only African-American CEO at a major corporation in South Jersey. Pullin was named CEO of Virtua Healthcare Systems based in Marlton.
“Diversity is about learning from others and about creating environments and practices that maximize personal and organizational performance,” Rockson says. For example, when trying to resolve an issue and take action and dealing with viewpoints from employees with varied backgrounds, different strategies apply to different situations. “A common strategy is to have a philosophy with employees that when you’re at work, it’s the work culture that matters,” he says.
A Millennial Influence. By 2020 the millennial generation will comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce, according to various statistics. Born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, Rockson says these young leaders and progressive professionals have little tolerance for a staid and colorless work culture. “Millennials are drawn to organizations that are leaders in diversity and foster an inclusive environment,” he says.
He concludes, “Embrace the differences around you and be in a constant state of learning,” he says. “The less you understand, the more you fear.”