These days, it feels like everywhere you look, you can find an article on diversity and inclusion. As the workforce becomes more diverse, companies are realizing that they need to make diversity and inclusion a part of the conversation. Failure to recognize and celebrate individual differences is no longer an option if companies want to thrive. That being said, the topic of diversity and inclusion is still a sensitive topic, leading many companies to let the actual actions needed to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace fall to the wayside.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a journey, not a destination. It is not as simple as filling a quota or checking off boxes. It is not a one-and-done initiative or a responsibility that can be pushed on to others. It doesn’t just organically happen and isn’t the sole job of leadership or a handful of people in your office — it is everyone’s responsibility. It takes commitment at all levels. And in order for this commitment to take hold, people need to know what to talk about, and what to do to make diversity and inclusion a part of the company culture.
Let’s break it down.
Diversity = the being
Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs. It is the being, the myriad differences in identity that exist between us.
Inclusion = the doing
Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive workplace promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members. It is the doing, the actions that we take to recognize and celebrate these differences.
Just as diversity and inclusion are the being and doing, fully incorporating these values into the workplace culture requires both conversation and action.
How to start the diversity and inclusion conversation:
Encouraging open dialogue is a crucial first step. Here are some tips.
- Foster self-awareness. Before we can engage with and understand others, we need to first have a deep understanding of ourselves. Employees should be encouraged to reflect inwards and consider their own experiences, perspectives, biases, and triggers.
- Allow room for discomfort. These conversations can be uncomfortable, and it should be normalized to admit that. Instead of shying away from discomfort, we should encourage employees to be vulnerable, to ask difficult questions, and to learn from one another.
- Understand bias and how it affects actions. Most of us believe we are, and truly aspire to be, ethical and unbiased in our decision making. But many of us fall short in this area due to unconscious bias. In order to combat this, we must make the unconscious conscious. By acknowledging bias, we can start to address it.
- Understand micro-messages and their impact. Micro-messages are small, but not trivial, instances of positive reinforcement or subtle criticism. They are quick, verbal or nonverbal, unintentional or deliberate behaviors, actions or messages. Micro-messages that leave people feeling excluded, unimportant, or disliked are called micro-inequities. We must be aware of micro-messages in the workplace and work to address micro-inequities. Once we’re comfortable identifying them when they happen, we can learn how to challenge a micro-inequity and address the sender of the message.
How to put words into action:
Fostering a conversation around diversity is only the first step. Here are some tips for turning words into a reality.
- Start from the top. The leadership team must embrace a holistic approach to continuously supporting representation, cultural competency, honest and respectful dialogue, and inclusion measures. Team leaders and executives should understand the importance of having these uncomfortable conversations. Then, they need the skills and support to facilitate those conversations. And going forward, leaders can hold each other and their teams accountable for upholding their objectives around diversity.
- Set diversity goals and metrics. Look at current metrics and set goals based on areas that need improvement. Areas to focus on include pay, recruitment, retention, advancement, and representation.
- Provide accessible and consistent learning around diversity and inclusion. Fostering diversity and inclusion should be built into the fabric of workplace culture, and that means giving employees ways to engage with these topics continuously. Provide employees with the tools and resources that they need to learn about diversity on a regular basis, and give them opportunities to put what they’ve learned into practice.
Verb: putting diversity and inclusion in motion.
Here at Verb, we know that when an organization is dedicated to fostering and celebrating diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the whole team thrives. That’s why we are dedicated to helping organizations truly incorporate diversity and inclusion into the organizational culture. We offer an online whole person development platform for adult learners with bite-sized content that enforces retention and makes learning a habit. Our collection on inclusion and diversity helps employees learn practical strategies and techniques for building a lasting culture of inclusion.
Want to learn more about how Verb can help you make diversity and inclusion part of the fabric of your company culture? Schedule a demo today.