Following the social unrest of 2020 and moving onwards, many companies are asking how they should embrace the subjects of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in their workplace — to lead to an inclusive environment for all.
D&I initiatives can be challenging to design. Leaders and managers must establish a foundation in their companies for the desired culture to establish and flourish, but they cannot do it alone. Employees must play their part in the co-creation of this environment; enhancing engagement, well-being and performance.
Why is Diversity and Inclusion important ?
Before you start talking about D&I initiatives, you need to have a clear purpose behind your actions. Underpinning this is an understanding of why diversity and inclusion is important to your company.
Four essential steps to creating an Inclusive Workplace Environment
- First, take a step back and understand the current D&I climate of your company.
Where does your company stand with D&I initiatives — what information is currently available ? What additional information do you need to have? Collect data to help build the holistic picture of your companies current D&I position. Examples include; employee demographics, employee opinion surveys, talent management data, focus groups surveys, etc. What are the cultural norms and expectations of your organization ? Are there any known tensions ? Find out what’s going on within your organization and address those items head on.
- Second, communicate the precise inclusive criteria to help your employees understand your inclusion principles. Be transparent about what inclusion means to your entity.
- Third, lead by example. Demonstrate an inclusive behavior and show what it looks like to be inclusive.
- Fourth, continuously and consistently implement and emphasize inclusion standards by facilitating and guiding employees’ behavior. Send strong signals to employees about D&I behaviors so that they understand the importance of engaging in such actions whilst developing a clear understanding of their role in aiding inclusion in the company.
Provide Diversity and Inclusion Training or Workshops
Educate managers on the impacts their decisions have on employees across the organization, in addition to the challenges those employees face. Use real-life feedback and opinions gathered in focus groups and/or surveys from employees across the organization to fuel these conversations and build team morale.
Implement Diversity and Inclusion Activities
Help managers become aware of their own biases to help them better focus on and improve employee matters. Coach managers that when a thought concerning diversity enters their mind, they should stop and think:
- Do I know this ? Or do I think I know this about my employee ?
- If I am saying that I know it, is there evidence or data to support it ?
- Could that evidence or data be interpreted in another way ?
Individualize the Employee Experience
You don’t need to implement a full scale company wide initiative to begin making an impact on D&I. If you’re not sure where to start, begin at the individual level. Start by asking your employees questions to get to know them better. Uncover personality traits, behaviors, expectations, and experiences to understand why we aren’t all the same.
Allow Room for Mistakes
Managers often feel like they can’t make mistakes because of their position. But we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. And mistakes help us grow when we learn from them.
- Support ideas versus scolding mistakes
- Discuss and work through failures, not just praise successes
- Reward risk-takers when appropriate
Model Inclusive Behaviors from the Top Down
If top management lead by example, people are more likely to follow in their footsteps. Demonstrate inclusivity by:
- Asking employees to share their opinions, and actually listening
- Encouraging feedback from all levels of the organization
- Expressing recognition for meaningful, personal success
- Admitting to own faults and mistakes
Acknowledge that Improving D&I takes Time
Improving diversity and inclusion in your organization is not an overnight occurrence. D&I is a complex topic that impacts every individual. It may not feel like you are making immediate progress in your efforts, but it’s important to take the time to slow down and think on the topic.
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