In today’s globalized and interconnected world, the spotlight on diversity in the workplace has never been brighter, and for good reason.A cultural shift has happened. The workplace is now not only a place where different viewpoints and diverse perspectives are collected, mixed, and channeled into excellence; the new modern company culture is a melting pot containing a range of nationalities, ethnicities, gender identities and even generations. As Generation Z enters the workforce, new ideas surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion are being developed in companies around the world.And it’s easy to see why this is:up to 48% of Generation Z identifies as non-white, making the newest additions to our thriving workplace cultures one of the most diverse in history. I firmly believe that progress is only made if we set the next generation up to succeed, and I’m encouraged that many business leaders, collaborators, and professionals in my network feel the same.So in short: companies understand the inherent value of a diverse workforce, and that’s great progress.But, diversity alone doesn’t guarantee success; only focusing on diversity and then expecting all issues of equity to be solved immediately is a common misconception that many leaders, experienced or otherwise, seem to develop if they are not careful.In fact, only focusing on diversity can be a detriment if fostering an inclusive culture isn’t part of the picture. The true magic happens when diversity is nurtured by inclusivity.Let’s explore why diverse companies might not always be inclusive and the pivotal steps needed to foster a genuinely diverse workforce and inclusive culture.
The crucial link between diversity and inclusion
I’ve spoken about the similarities and differences between diversity and inclusion in my last few blog posts, but just to recap:
Diversity refers to the representation of various demographic characteristics and differences within a workforce, such as race, gender, ethnicity, age, abilities, and more. It’s about the mix.For example, a diverse workforce may boast a roster of diverse employees who differ based on race, sexual orientation, or gender identity on paper. Workplace diversity can be achieved through hiring practices that recruit diverse talent, and internal policies and resources that retain these employees.
Inclusivity, on the other hand, delves deeper into creating an environment where each individual feels respected, valued, and empowered. An inclusive workplace culture ensures that every voice is not only heard but also considered and embraced.Inclusive cultures go beyond focusing on only diversity by ensuring that marginalized groups and underrepresented minorities are given equal opportunity to voice their opinions, and feel that they are able to be their authentic selves at work. Inclusion efforts ensure that an employee’s day to day experience is not negatively impacted by differences in culture, race, gender, or sexual orientation.While a company may boast a diverse workforce on paper, this diverse environment doesn’t always translate into an inclusive environment. Inclusivity is about more than just numbers, or the yearly diversity training; it’s about cultivating an organizational culture that actively engages and supports diverse perspectives on a consistent basis.For instance, do you have diverse practices in your recruitment, all of your departments, and in your leadership? Do you find that your leaders are all representative of the diverse demographics of your employees? Do you have a yearly training on unconscious biases, or do you have an ongoing diversity and inclusion strategy that champions continued education for leaders and employees alike?These are only some of the questions we as leaders should be asking ourselves as we uncover the areas of diversity and inclusion in our own backyards that are in need of support, change, and reappraisal.
How do we create a diverse workplace culture that starts with inclusion efforts?
Diversity in the workplace is a powerful asset, but it’s the inclusivity that truly unlocks its potential. Creating an environment where every individual feels heard, respected, and valued is not just a goal—it’s a journey that requires commitment, ongoing effort, and a willingness to embrace change.
A commitment from leaders and management
Leadership plays a pivotal role in setting the tone for inclusivity, and the employee experience is often reflective of the amount of support leaders provide. Commitment from the top is crucial to driving cultural change and fostering an inclusive mindset across the organization.Whether it means we should train managers during onboarding on aspects of an inclusive culture, or revisit our leadership team and discuss areas amendable to change, getting leaders at the company on the same page is crucial.
Continued education and awareness
Promote education and awareness programs that highlight the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace. This could involve workshops, training sessions, and open discussions that encourage empathy and understanding — through raising awareness of the problem of inequality in the workplace, we improve employee engagement and understanding.
Dismantle unconscious biases and stereotypes
Address unconscious biases by implementing strategies to dismantle stereotypes within the workplace, especially as they pertain to employees coming from diverse backgrounds. Encourage employees from all walks of life to challenge their assumptions and embrace new perspectives.As diverse teams become more commonplace, it is imperative to challenge unconscious bias and other hidden barriers to cohesion and understanding within the workplace culture.
Foster inclusive policies and practices
Implement inclusive policies that accommodate diverse needs, such as flexible work arrangements, accessible facilities, and measures to prevent discrimination and bias. For instance, it may be worthwhile to re-examine existing dress code policies that may unduly punish individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
Promote an environment of open communication
Create an environment that encourages open dialogue and communication with senior leadership. Actively listen to diverse voices and perspectives, fostering a culture where all opinions are valued and respected.
An inclusive work culture is the new normal for many of us, and it doesn’t have to be a difficult change. By taking deliberate steps to foster inclusivity, companies can transform their diverse workforce into a unified, collaborative, and thriving community where everyone can contribute their best. It’s not just about being diverse; it’s about being inclusive in every sense of the word.
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