The feeling that you “belong” is one that never leaves us. As young children, we try and fit in with the family. At school, we long to make friends and blend in. As teens, we kowtow to the cool clique while searching for our own identity. And when we get to the workplace, the desire to be in a space that’s welcoming stays with us.
And while companies worldwide may be going gung-ho over diversity, it’s vital not to forget the importance of inclusion at the workplace.
In an article in Harvard Business Review, Christine M. Riordan writes: “Diversity can bring many organisational benefits, including greater customer satisfaction, better market position, successful decision-making, an enhanced ability to reach strategic goals, improved organisational outcomes, and a stronger bottom line.”
But, she adds, “diversity is useless without inclusivity.”
So how do the two differ?
Diversity vs Inclusion
HR consultant Jennifer Brown, author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace, and the Will to Change, in an article in Forbes, simplifies the difference.
“Diversity is the who and the what: who’s sitting around that table, who’s being recruited, who’s being promoted, who we’re tracking from the traditional characteristics and identities of gender and ethnicity, and sexual orientation and disability—inherent diversity characteristics that we’re born with,” she says.
“Inclusion, on the other hand, is the how. Inclusion is the behaviors that welcome and embrace diversity. If you are a great leader for inclusion, you have figured out how to embrace and galvanize diversity of voices and identities,” she adds.
So hiring a diverse team in no way translates into an inclusive workplace culture. Scenario 1 means you’ve hired a range of different people while Scenario 2 ensures that you work to make your workplace a safe and welcoming environment for those diverse people.
We list down 7 exclusive tips to determine if your company is inclusive:
#1 Do you make diversity a priority?
The foundation of inclusion is a diverse workforce. Courtney Seiter, Inclusivity Catalyst at Buffer, believes that hiring diverse talent is a must. “My top tip for early-stage startups wanting to make inclusivity a priority would be to start immediately. It may seem like team makeup and demographics isn’t the biggest concern, but this is the best time to embed diversity and inclusion into your culture.”
#2 Do all employees know what diversity actually means?
Most people tend to think of diversity only in terms of race and gender. However, diversity goes way beyond that. True diversity incudes race, gender, age, ethnic group, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organisational function, education, background, disability, sexuality, religious beliefs and more. Only a workforce that understands what diversity really means can work at creating an inclusive culture.
#3 Is the management open to change?
As you work to make your company inclusive, it’s important to realize that there are bound to be problems/shortcoming and it will be critical to remain open to change. Policies may need to be changed if they are limiting; changes may need to be made for specific employees. An inclusive workplace will go the extra mile to consider the safety and comfort of all employees. So perhaps instead of gendered bathrooms, which can make transgender employees uncomfortable, the company could decide to offer only unisex bathrooms. But this is possible only with an open mind.
#4 Is the company’s functioning transparent?
Experts believe that an inclusive workplace “starts at the top but thrives from the bottom”. An inclusive company will always be upfront with employees about company policies, values, resources, training programs – anything that is likely to affect minority employees. Miguel Castro, senior director and lead for the Culture & Identity, Global Diversity & Inclusion Office at SAP, believes that when people “are comfortable and can express themselves in an authentic way, they are more likely to perform better, which increases engagement and contributes to the organisation as a whole.”
#5 Are you constantly re-evaluating your programmes?
No company becomes inclusive on day one; it’s always a work in progress. It’s important to keep revisiting your programmes to ensure your workplace is truly inclusive. Check what the competition is doing to ensure that you stay a step ahead. In times to come, policies for sexual orientation, transgender-inclusive benefits and a commitment to the LGBTQ community may be needed.
#6 Do managers and mentors lead from the front?
Creating and encouraging a sense of belonging in the workplace begins at the leadership level. Apart from the company’s founders and executive team, managers, mentors and supervisors need to be sensitive about inclusion. Jason Beckerman, CEO of Unified, believes that a healthy business begins with “a healthy company culture.” That “starts with letting your employees know that yes, you can be exactly who you are here,” he says. If the company’s leadership is clear, the attitude will trickle down through the organisation.
#7 Is the work environment healthy and really fun?
A small joke here, a derogatory jibe there – it may not seem like much to you, but sarcastic comments of any kind can kill workplace camaraderie. Sexism and racism should not be acceptable at all; being homophobic or transphobic is also deplorable. An inclusive workplace is one where employees feel comfortable in their own skin. Educate staff on diversity and inclusion, if needed, so that no employee feels awkward or uncomfortable.
Diversity is essential for innovation, productivity and profit. The top management can ensure that a company’s workforce is diverse. But creating an inclusive company culture isn’t just a job for the top brass; it involves everyone — from the office assistant to the senior project manager.