Companies of all sizes have Diversity and Inclusion as one of their core pillars. Even with that, there is a lack of understanding outside the 'Diversity and Inclusion Office' on what exactly these terms mean and how a company implements their D&I policies.
Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.
What is Diversity?
The 2018 Gallup report defines diversity as “the full spectrum of human differences.” Dimensions of diversity might include visible traits like age, gender, disability and ethnic background or invisible traits like socio-economic status, marital status and sexual orientation.
To simply put, the workplace should reflect the community or customers served by the organization's products and services.
What is Inclusion?
The 2018 Gallup report explains inclusion as the following - “Inclusion refers to a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging. It can be assessed as the extent to which employees are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organization.” Diversity doesn’t necessarily imply inclusion. The Harvard Business Review article “Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion” focuses on this distinction. For example adding women to the tech leadership team or promoting all genders are steps in the right direction, but it doesn’t necessarily change the culture of the organization or ensure that these groups feel included or valued in the organization. The author uses the analogy, “Diversity speaks to who is on the team, but inclusion focuses on who is really in the game.”
When employees who are different from their colleagues are allowed to flourish, the company benefits from their ideas, skills and engagement, according to SHRM/Economist Intelligence Unit research. The retention rate of those workers also rises with increase in diversity and inclusion.
Diversity speaks to who is on the team, but inclusion focuses on who is really in the game. You get the idea.
Why Diversity and Inclusion? Why now?
Inclusion and Diversity is NOT ONLY the right thing thing to do, this is what the consumers are demanding of companies right now.
This becomes even more critical with the movements worldwide for rights and fair treatment. Working from home during the
pandemic is drawing attention to the disparity of playing fields for various employees when they are at home.
It is also what CEO's of companies worldwide are pledging to do. Check out the pledge.
Diversity and Inclusion is not just good to do, it's also proven to be good business. Mckinsey did a study on the impacts on D&I and this is what they found.
Focusing only on Diversity causes unintended consequences.
- Tokenization: Having a 'token' diverse hire or person on the board, or in the management team does not ensure that everyone in the company feels included or valued.
- Leader blind spots: Leadership team has a false sense of security just looking at numbers that they have checked the box on diversity but really have blind spots
- Employee Trust and feeling of safety: Employees might not have trust in the leadership or feeling safe to speak up in front of others
- Missing out on business opportunities: If the employees do not look like a representation of the company's customers the company is missing out on opportunities to serve their customers better.
So how can companies implement Diversity and Inclusion well?
Another Mckinsey study explains that companies need to have a systemic, business lead approach to inclusion and diversity to have a successful and sustained approach to Inclusion and Diversity
Concrete Steps companies can take
1. Start at the TOP of the company
Training and education on topics - For example
Unconscious Bias: According to UCSF's website, Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure.
Racism and Antiracism: Anti-racism is an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism, according to " Robert J. Patterson, professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University. Check out additional resources on Anti-racism from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Privilege: "Privilege" refers to certain social advantages, benefits, or degrees of prestige and respect that an individual has by virtue of belonging to certain social identity groups.
Example: Everyone takes Buzzfeed privilege survey confidentially and sees the results across the company- it will be telling
Understanding various movements (BLM, #MeToo, etc)
Everything starts at the top. Having your executives educated and trained on what's happening in the world is a very important first step in any
organization. Keep an account of what training all the company leaders have gone through.
2. Accountability and Responsibility at the top
2a. Communication and Messaging
Leaders should demonstrate their commitment to D& I through their communication both with the larger teams and in their leadership meetings
Walking is walk is as important as talking the talk. If companies pay lip-service to diversity and inclusion, it becomes very obvious very fast to their
employees. Some of the areas of communication are the following.
- Staff meetings
- Town halls
- Written communication
- Company-wide initiatives
Example: Keep communication visible, transparent, and accessible
2b. Inclusion Goals and Outcomes
To make any company level goals concrete they need to have goals assigned with financial outcomes for the leaders. Create SMART goals
based on specific results as well as employee feedback on their experience with Inclusion and Diversity in the company
- Results like diversity percentage at each level in the company
- Number of inclusion and diversity initiatives sponsored/attended by leaders
- Confidential feedback from employees
- Focus groups and action plans implemented
- Communicate the goals, progress, and outcomes at all levels
Example: A company-wide visible Diversity and Inclusion dashboard and workspace
3. A Diverse Inclusion working Group
Jennifer Brown, author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change (Purpose Driven Publishing, 2017) and president and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting in New York City suggests creating an inclusion council as a “a channel for communication” between the rank and file and the C-suite, and that includes advocating for inclusiveness in discussions with top executives when necessary. These councils could do the following
- Be super diverse, include multiple levels in the organization
- Involved in goal setting, hiring, retention, address issues etc
- Has the ability to make decisions and has the 'ear' of the exec team
- Involved in making recommendations on new and emerging needs of underrepresented employees
4. ERG's and BRG's
The official definition from Catalyst for an Employee Resource Group is “a voluntary, employee-led group that serves as a resource for members and organizations by fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, practices, and objectives.” ERG's can help with the following
- Celebrating employee's differences
- Help with attracting and recruiting diverse talent
- Talent engagement and development
- Market or business development to new customer segments
Example: Sharing employees differences through fun directories
6. Voice of the Employees
The best way to know what your employees feel is to get it directly from the horse's mouth. Ask them. Having periodic confidential surveys will
help you understand how your employees feel. These are survey questions with special focus on diversity and inclusion. Leaders can use these
surveys to assess the employee D& I experience and modify their culture as needed.
Example: Diversity and Inclusion poll from SHRM
7. Celebrate Employee Differences daily
Companies can get everyone involved in celebrating diversity in the workplace. These could be through special events and celebrations organized
by ERG or HR. It is important to make these events inclusive and also ensure leader participation in them. It should all about focusing on the human aspect and less on a checklist.
Example: 'Day of the Year' inclusive events and capturing feedback
8. Leveraging your diversity for business growth
Create diverse teams for new product launches, new market expansion, and more. Use your ERG teams and your diverse workforce to get unique perspectives and celebrate the wins.
Engage your employees to be part of the solution. Celebrate successes and share learning with everyone in the company.
9. Sharing experiences with each other
Consider doing a group for employees to share their experiences with each other. So this could be like a 'Humans of the company' where you
highlight a different employee a week from a diverse background so everyone in the company gets to know others and appreciates their life
10. Share out goal and progress with the company
It is important for leadership to share out the goals, the results, the progress, and even the mistakes or missteps to the employees and make the
employees are part of the problem-solving.
11. Meetings and daily interactions
Daily interactions of employees determine their inclusion experience in any organization
This includes the following
- Preparation for the meeting
- The ability for everyone to participate
- Meeting time zones
- Meeting minutes
- Communication styles, materials before and minutes after, courtesy to ensure that everyone gets to participate, addressing bad behavior etc are all part of that
Creating an inclusive mindset is not a linear process, Guillory says. It will take time and a consistent effort. “There will be stops and starts” along the way, he says.
“Cultivating inclusion is an evolving process with constantly moving targets. You’re never done,” Thomas points out. “A company’s goals and tactics must evolve along with the needs of current and potential talent.
12. Team Roles
This is an area where even well-intentioned teams fall prey to boxing the team members in stereotypical roles, functions, and expected behaviors.
Managers should be trained to pay attention to these 'autopilot moves and they have to constantly be interrupting the biases.
Conduct a full audit of your people processes—from recruiting and hiring to developing and retaining employees. Couple the data with engagement and other workforce survey data to gain a full measure of your climate.
13. Create visibility and process around the tangible results of inclusion
Create visibility in your company, an open-door policy, open processes that are followed - take the mystery out of how employees can rise in the
organization. Be open and explicit about inclusion in all aspects of the company culture.