Workplace Diversity Isn’t Enough – Let’s Ramp Up Inclusion

Do you have employees of certain ethnicities that only seem to commune with one another at work? Maybe it’s not out of comfort, but out of necessity and fear.

Ever wonder why only certain demographics don’t respond to surveys or speak up in meetings? Maybe it’s not that they have no opinions, but that they feel as if their thoughts aren’t valued.

Ever wonder why you’re able to hire certain types of people but you can’t keep them? Maybe it’s not that the job wasn’t what they expected, but…wait, maybe your environment was what they expected and that was the problem. They were hoping that this time things would be different and they weren’t.

People have fought and died in this country to afford people of all backgrounds the opportunity to work in purpose anywhere they please. This month, we celebrate many of those pioneers that did not have the opportunity to see the fruits of their sacrifices. When I look around and come in contact with professionals of all different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities, I rest a little easier seeing that the message of diversity is resonating in our workforces.

Now, taking off my rose colored glasses, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there is much more to do. Remember, much of the diversity we see is the result of mandates and legislation, not out of truly trying to represent our communities and client bases. Hiring managers are forced advised all of the time to diversify candidate pools and search committees to ensure that quotas are being met, showing progress in diversity initiatives and avoiding sanctions.

Create InclusionWhat really concerns me though is what happens when we have met the basic expectations, fulfilled our obligations, and shown that we are “progressive” and “diverse”? While the snapshot of our organizations looks good and rainbowy, are we treating everyone with respect once they are in the door…or behind closed doors? Are we creating environments “where talents and skills of different groups are valued and where productivity and customer service improves because the workforce is happier, more motivated and more aware of the benefits that inclusion can bring”? (Employer’s Guide To Creating An Inclusive Workplace) Are we being Inclusive?

While we struggle sometimes to find candidates of certain demographics, creating an inclusive workplace culture actually becomes your strongest recruiting and retention tool. Staff stay not just because they are comfortable in their abilities, but when they feel valued and respected. Staff stay when they feel as if they have opportunities and are being listened to…not just heard. Staff stay when they can stand with employers and share their demonstrated values of human rights and equality…not just boast about a policy statement or a disclaimer.

Changing a culture is a long and strenuous undertaking, but here is a quick and dirty way to begin moving from just being Diverse to being Inclusive:

Get Opinions and Develop a Plan
We don’t know what area we are lacking in until we ask someone that is suffering because of our deficiency. Climate surveys are critical in identifying issues our employees are having and what they are feeling about our processes (complaints, grievances, etc.), activities or lack of, and culture. Once the data has been gathered, something must be done with it. Something in the form of a direct and actionable Mission Statement that clearly defines what Inclusion should look like at the company. When opinions are solicited and then no changes are made, employees know we’re blowing smoke and we lose our credibility and we’ll never get them to participate again.

Be Flexible and Make Adjustments When Something Doesn’t Work
Leaders are prideful creatures, and hate to admit that something isn’t working. Just because a plan has been put on paper doesn’t mean it can’t change if something new or better is suggested. As times and our populations change, adjustments must be made to adapt and change with them.

Have A Table Where Everyone Has a Seat
All groups within an organization need advocates and must be represented when plans are being discussed. Too often there are rooms full of people making decisions about employees that they know nothing about. By choosing a true cross-section of representatives to communicate employees’ needs and issues, the chance of implementing misguided and off-based policies and initiatives decreases.

As we create policies that protect organizations and institutions, we cannot afford to forget the protection of employee human and statutory rights. Allowing flexibility and amplifying employee’s voices increase the chances of employees reciprocating and acting in the best interest of the company. By giving employees what they need, they will freely give employers what they want; productivity, civility, a better talent pool and increased visibility in our communities, which is what businesses truly need in order to be successful.

One comment

  1. I had a manager once (a white man, for what its worth) that told me, “Chris, when I look around this boardroom, I do not want to see a bunch of white me like me. I want to see variety…” I have never forgotten that. When I look at groups of people in any capacity I look for diversity. Group pictures at conferences, dinner meetings, strategic planning sessions, business development meetings, even blog contributors. There is a serious lack of diversity – still – today. Keep blogging, we need you on that wall.

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