It’s known that diverse and inclusive workplaces drive innovative results. According to 2018 research from McKinsey, greater diversity in the workforce results in greater profitability and value creation.
But as companies start to invest in diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a business strategy, some are obtaining amazing results and some are still struggling to get anywhere. Why?
The plain and simple answer is in the approach. D&I is about more than hiring diverse people and checking boxes on KPI reports. It’s about changing culture. It’s a lifetime commitment.
Ensuring the business is taking diversity and inclusion into consideration during the recruiting process is important, of course, but what happens after your recruiting team finds the most diverse and brilliant minds? What will their experience working at your company be like? Will they truly believe they don’t have to work twice as hard as their peers?
Being strategic about D&I requires a very pragmatic, and sometimes tough, evaluation of the business and how it’s been managed. It can take time and it can definitely take loads of people, especially senior male executives, out of their comfort zones. This is why it’s important your company creates mechanisms to get everyone on board, educate staff, and promote a welcoming environment for any employee, regardless of who they are or their background.
All about the culture
When I talk to people about D&I in the workplace, I always like to suggest an exercise that I use as an indicator of how inclusive a company’s culture really is. Imagine for one second you’re a black transgender immigrant woman from a developing country starting in a senior position at your company. Do you believe you’d feel welcome, respected, and have a sense of belonging? If your answer was a firm “yes,” your company is on the right track. But if you hesitated to answer, don’t know how to answer, are not sure, or said a reluctant “no,” then there is work to be done.
To ensure each individual has the opportunity to thrive and be productive, it’s essential they grow a strong sense of belonging. To feel like you belong, ultimately you need to feel like you can be your true self. Therefore, creating a company culture that embraces and celebrates difference is essential. When you believe you’re accepted and embraced at work, you feel grateful, empowered, and engaged, and this creates a more creative and driven work environment with a greater commitment. Also, diverse teams are more likely to survive challenging periods and come up with innovative solutions to problems.
No success recipe
One key mistake many companies make when addressing diversity is to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s not the ideal route. Of course there are guidelines and best practices, but your company needs to find its own way of approaching D&I. I would suggest a reflection on what your company can do to truly celebrate the most diverse backgrounds and how you can make sure every single person feels like they belong and is sure the company is grateful for having them on board.
How can you make sure they will never feel like they can be passed over by someone else because of who they are? How can you make sure there’s nothing about them or their background they should feel like they’d better change?
Addressing D&I is a very tough, but equally rewarding road. It’s essential to stop approaching it as boxes to be ticked and start addressing it as a game changer for your business.
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