When you stop to think about it, what exactly do the words “diversity” and “inclusion” mean? What does it look like when they are implemented successfully within an organization?
In my work with companies that are actively looking for ways to embrace and integrate diversity and inclusion, I have found that everyone has their own, slightly different, definition. An executive may have one idea while an employee has another. Millennials, for example, were found in one study to have a very different understanding of diversity and inclusion when compared to Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, who established themselves professionally during an era when these topics weren’t as openly acknowledged. Diversity was a “check the box” activity done to satisfy affirmative action requirements. Conversely, Millennials are experiencing the direct connection between workplace diversity and innovation.
So, how can we get everyone on the same page so we’re working toward common business goals? Let’s take a look.
Diversity & Inclusion in Action
Creating common definitions of these terms is key to integrating diversity and inclusion into day-to-day work life. This is one of the first things I do when I work with companies because it is so crucial; the idea is to lay groundwork in this arena, so we are aligned in how we move forward.
This conversation, usually done in small groups, will ideally involve a diverse group of employees from all levels in the organization. Once we reconvene as a larger group, we work to find our common ground and discuss our differences. Ultimately, we come away with definitions we support and believe in.
Once we have established how we, as a company, define “diversity” and “inclusion,” we can get into a deeper discussion. We’ll address questions like: “Why is diversity & inclusion important? How does it affect our company, our local community, and the world at large? What are examples of actions that individuals can take to embody diversity and inclusion in their daily work activities?” What is the cost of not being a diverse and inclusive company?
I have found that it is important for all employees to feel ownership over what diversity and inclusion mean to them on a personal level so they can integrate it into their professional life. Organizations that are successful at this have a clear picture of what diversity and inclusion look like in practice. They can cite specific examples of what a leader is doing within the organization that impacts their hiring, employee development, problem-solving, retention, and more.
Here is one shift you can make this week to create a more inclusive environment: when you’re working on a project, ask yourself, “What perspective are we missing?” You may notice that the people on your team are all men, or all under 30, or all one race, or missing an important demographic that makes up your audience. Determine whose perspective is missing, and make sure that it is included in your decision-making process.
Of course, this is a huge conversation that deserves time, thought and attention. If you are ready to put boots on the ground in this area, I can help you get started with practical, actionable steps toward creating more a more diverse and inclusive place to work.
Click HERE to contact me today and set up an initial conversation.
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