Diversity means all the ways we differ. Some of these differences we are born with and cannot change. Anything that makes us unique is part of this definition of diversity. Inclusion involves bringing together and harnessing these diverse forces and resources in a way that is beneficial. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are harnessed to create business value.
As the founder and CEO of CoachDiversity, I've discovered that organizational performance is strengthened when there is a proactive diversity and inclusion management strategy, specifically, when diversity and inclusion is valued, leadership is actively involved and initiatives are incorporated into the organization's mission, policies, practices and procedures.
Here are five strategies that employers can use to help implement diversity and inclusion in their workforce.
1. Make a Plan
According to Delivering Through Diversity, a 2018 report from McKinsey & Company by Vivian Hunt, Sara Prince, Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle and Lareina Yee, based on publicly available data from 1,007 companies across 12 countries, diversity and inclusion can boost financial performance and innovation over time. Therefore, there should be a long-term plan to include diversity at all levels of the organization. It's critical to develop and execute a long-term, quantifiable plan and stick to it.
2. Invest in Diversity Strategies
The investment in diversity strategies includes talent development, learning, performance management and retention of top talent to be future leaders in the organization. This is a culture shift that requires commitment and patience. For instance, to ensure a high-performance culture, leaders can own the employee engagement process by leading focus groups to identify ways of enhancing the employees' experience throughout the organization. This can help raise performance standards and identify and promote top potential talent.
3. Train Your Team
Understand the existing organizational culture and examine the level of receptiveness to potential training and coaching programs. Knowing the current culture for acceptance is critical to successfully implementing cultural sensitivity training. Cultural sensitivity skills training is important for both employers and their employees because it helps to:
- produce mutual respect of cultural differences
- keep employees operating as a team
- build bridges through knowledge and understanding
- strengthen relationships and boost productivity
4. Build in Inclusion
Weave in diversity and inclusion in your organization's values, mission statement, vision, marketing plans and public image. This begins with the commitment to building a diverse workforce that's inclusive of others. A strong diverse culture incorporates many different perspectives and outlooks. For example, begin with a strategic onboarding process that's thoughtfully and excellently administered with developmental opportunities that contribute to a strong culture.
5. Take Responsibility
Diversity and inclusion may create discomfort. Therefore, establishing and developing an inclusive culture is not solely the responsibility of human resources. It is everyone's responsibility to play a part in creating a culture of belonging. First, it starts with active and visible leadership and continues through each employee across the organization. A critical prerequisite is the need for transparency. The leadership should make an open commitment to their diversity strategy and goals, and exhibit accountability by measuring and reporting on the progress. Without authenticity and commitment, diversity and inclusion will be reduced to ineffective policies, traditional guidelines and won't be culturally-coded into the organization's DNA.
Finally, be aware of some potential negative outcomes that could impede an organization's overall health by neglecting diversity and inclusion in the workforce, such as stress and tension among employees, complaints and legal actions, loss of productivity and peak performance, loss of good talent and stable retention and an inability to attract high quality talent. Whether or not your company has existing diversity and inclusion practices, remain open to ways to assess, enhance and integrate what is currently in place to cultivate a culture of collaboration, open communication and adaptability that drives results for your company.