I recently read a great Forbes article on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, highlighting that only 12% of the organizations they researched had true inclusivity (meaning everyone in the company saw D&I as their responsibility). I am not surprised by the stat. Let’s face it, true inclusion is hard to achieve.
However, here’s another stat from the same article that did surprise me: only 15% of the organizations surveyed had leader-owned D&I—leaders who owned and advocated for D&I.
Why such a low percentage?
The benefits of D&I for organizations have been widely proclaimed—better working environment, more innovative, stronger financial results, etc. So why are so few leaders spearheading the charge? Is it like exercise—we know it is good for us, but we choose not to?
Or is it that leaders and managers are committed to diversity and inclusion—and have hired accordingly—but now that they have this mixed group of people, they aren’t quite sure how to make the benefits of diversity and inclusion come to life?
4 Tips to Maximizing Your Organization’s Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion (Hint: It’s Takes More Than Throwing a Bunch of Different People in the Same Room)
I have had the privilege of working with many large organizations on these issues, and we know success can only be achieved when the leaders and managers are committed and involved.
If you lead people and want to create an inclusive culture, here are a few ways to get started.
1. Hire with the intention of creating a diverse team
Seems obvious, but let’s face it, our natural tendency is to hire people who are most like us. To ensure you are hiring with a diverse focus, collaborate with colleagues from different cultures and backgrounds, and invite them to join you in the interview and selection process.
2. Share the Big Picture with your team
Once you have your team assembled, share your intent to leverage their varied experiences to achieve great results. Don’t assume they understand the intention or the desired outcome—you must be deliberate in discussing your goals and objectives with them. The team needs to have the big picture and a true comprehension of why their diversity is critical to your goal. To accomplish this, we frequently engage associates with learning maps, videos or team huddles. Your people need to understand your vision of what you will achieve together.
3. Learn about the different backgrounds of each team member
Take the time to understand the cultures and backgrounds of your team members so you can bring out the strengths of each individual. How do they like to work? How do they want to be recognized and rewarded? Do they see themselves as more of an individual contributor or a member of a team? Do they prefer working with defined procedures or an informal approach?
People coming from different cultures and backgrounds are likely to have varying points of view regarding what behaviors are acceptable at work—and it is the manager’s job to ensure everyone feels comfortable. Comfort within the group is a key ingredient to harnessing the power of diverse thinking.
4. Establish ground rules that level the playing field
Leaders should consider what ground rules they need to help their diverse teams work together. For example, during a brainstorming session, some people interrupt others or take an idea and expand on it. While some might view this as acceptable behavior all in the “spirit” of the meeting, other members of the group might feel intimidated. Put simple rules in place, such as no interrupting, no evaluating ideas during brainstorming, etc. This will ensure everyone gets heard and promotes a free exchange of ideas.
Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace is a Must
Diversity and inclusion is more than just the right thing to do. It can be a powerful tool for innovation and problem solving, and can lead to better and higher levels of engagement and profitability. And although we know diversity and inclusion is best for business, we can be intimidated by assembling this diverse group of people together. Be bold, share your thoughts and vision, and start making small changes in the way your team collaborates to promote an open flow of ideas and creativity then all the benefits will follow.
What other best practices have you put in place to ensure a diverse environment is a productive one?