What are diversity and inclusion?
We often hear that diversity and inclusion are important in the workplace. But what exactly does that mean for an organization?
Diversity means all the ways we differ, some of which we are born with and cannot change. Anything that makes us unique is part of this definition of diversity.
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.
Inclusion involves bringing together and harnessing these diverse forces and resources in a beneficial way. Inclusion means creating an environment of respect and connection– in which 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. This means workplace diversity and inclusion are 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 improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
1. Make a plan to include diversity in the workplace.
Building workplace diversity helps create a space where talented individuals feel safe and respected, which yields a more productive work environment. 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 a quantifiable plan and stick to it. Concrete data matters.
2. Invest in diversity strategies.
Diversity strategies in the workplace include talent development, ongoing learning, performance management, and priming employees to become future company leaders. This is a culture shift that requires commitment and patience. Leaders can own the employee engagement process by conducting focus groups to help identify ways of enhancing the employee experience throughout the organization. This can help improve employee engagement and happiness, leading to better productivity and higher employee retention. Asking employees for their input and feedback is crucial.
3. Train your team in cultural sensitivity.
Being aware of any gaps within the current team culture is critical before implementing cultural sensitivity training to improve it. Cultural sensitivity training can be ongoing and include checklists to ensure proper practices are upheld.
Here's how cultural sensitivity training helps both employers and their employees:
- encourages mutual respect of cultural differences
- ensures employees operate smoothly as a team
- builds bridges through knowledge and deeper understanding
- strengthens personal relationships to boost productivity
4. Build inclusion into the workplace.
It's important to fuse diversity and inclusion into your organization's values, mission statement, marketing plans, and public image. This begins with the commitment to building a diverse workforce that's truly inclusive and incorporates many different perspectives and outlooks. For example, create a strategic, thoughtful onboarding process with diversity and inclusion top of mind to help solidify a strong culture from the start.
5. Take responsibility in building workplace diversity.
Prioritizing diversity and inclusion may create discomfort as employees continue to open their minds and learn from each other's experiences. It is not only up to human resources: it's everyone's responsibility to play a part in creating a culture of belonging. That begins with active and visible leadership and continues with each employee across the organization.
Transparency is key. Leadership teams should make an open commitment to their diversity strategy and goals and accurately measure and report progress. Without authenticity and commitment, diversity and inclusion will be reduced to ineffective policies and traditional guidelines. Instead, diversity and inclusion should be a core part of the organization's DNA.
Takeaway: Neglecting diversity and inclusion in the workplace can cause undue stress and tension among employees, complaints and legal actions, loss of productivity and peak performance, loss of good talent, and an inability to attract high quality talent. It's important to remain open to new ways of incorporating diversity and inclusion into your company's values and systems to cultivate a culture of collaboration, open communication, and adaptability that drives success.
A version of this article was originally published on June 28, 2018.