Last updated: January 7, 2022 Reaching equal: Inclusion and diversity now, or innovation loss later

Reaching equal: Inclusion and diversity now, or innovation loss later

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If the buzzwords are true, strategies like inclusion and diversity are leading priorities for companies in 2022 – and with good reason. A recent Glassdoor study found that 67 percent of job seekers look for diversity when considering employment.

And even before this mainstream push for more diverse and inclusive work policies, studies show that ethnically and racially diverse organizations reported 43 percent higher profits than the national average.

Diversity encompasses a range of demographics, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and physical disabilities. Adding inclusive policies that provide equal opportunities for employees ensures that employees from all backgrounds can be confident that they’re supported within their workplace. 

It’s a win-win situation. 

There’s been an increased pressure for businesses to improve their bottom line, and the data doesn’t lie, so why hasn’t inclusion and diversity taken off within organizations?

How can companies place serious efforts on inclusion in the workplace while also keeping pace with target goals?  

Finding a balance between expanding diversity and inclusion comes down to three things:

  1. Establishing an unwavering value system
  2. Reinforcing clear business goals and the team’s role in meeting those goals
  3. Developing a deeper understanding of inclusion

Let’s discuss each point and how it pertains to blending diversity and inclusion with the company’s focus.  

Think equal: Inclusion is a choice, and must become a requirement

I relate to how Dr. Anita Sands, an international business leader and speaker, distinguished the impact of belonging versus inclusion when she said,

“Put another way, diversity is a fact (the numbers are what they are), inclusion is a choice (you decide whether to include someone or not), but belonging is a feeling that can be enforced by a culture that you can purposefully create.”

For example, successful onboarding isn’t limited to HR. Instead, every team member must take part to ensure a coworker feels like everything they hoped this job — this company — would be is how it is. 

“If there is a misalignment between your organization’s values and the behaviors your employees exhibit, then your accountability structure is likely misaligned and needs to be rethought,” added Harvard Business Review contributors Paige Cohen and Gretchen Gavett

“When your staff feels a sense of belonging – which means they feel comfortable speaking up, asking for help, sharing new ideas, and respectfully disagreeing and examining differing opinions without penalty – it shows in their job performance, company loyalty, staff morale, engagement, productivity, and professional growth within the organization. 

As a leader, if you polled your organization, would people feel included?

If you have some doubts, then it’s time to re-examine your work culture and discuss how your employees see their role in facilitating it. 

Leadership means leading: Maintaining a well-defined, unifying value system starts at the top

Most employees would agree that there are boundaries we just shouldn’t cross – and we have no tolerance policies for those things. But as a member of your organization, you can take more action. Ask yourself: are you living your values?

Specifically, if you say you care about gender balance or working parent balance, do your current work schedules and meeting times reflect the alignment to that, or are you leaving people out unintentionally?

Finding a balance between incorporating inclusion while reinforcing clear boundaries takes some thought and preparation, but supporting an authentic, employee-centric value system isn’t complicated. For instance, enacting a no-tolerance policy against hostile, discriminatory behavior that targets coworkers based on gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, etc., is something employees can all agree is a good thing. 

As business leaders, we’re responsible for integrating policies that strengthen and move the company forward. And that change begins with the behaviors of C-suite right on down the managerial line. 

Establishing clear goals to drive a more equitable – and profitable – tomorrow

From onboarding to day-to-day operations, your company’s purpose and strategy should be integral to your work culture. “To obtain meaningful results that matter without causing more problems than it solves, inclusion must be strategic, rooted in your existing organizational identity, values, and business goals,” explains Susana Rinderle.

As industries across the board witness a drastic change in how their company must adapt to survive, the need for innovation is evident – and the data makes clear that by creating a culture of inclusion, innovation skyrockets.

A Deloitte study found that cognitive diversity can enhance team innovation by up to 20 percent. Finding innovative ways to uphold core corporate goals rests mainly on the shoulders of leadership – and if the core of your organization doesn’t believe equity is crucial, then as a leader, it’s time to tear down the systems that don’t support what’s right.

“Organizations need to take every opportunity to communicate what is expected of their leaders,” explains Dr. Melissa Thomas-Hunt, Airbnb’s head of global diversity and belonging. 

“It’s not the organization’s job to change attitudes. But it is their job to weave their values into the processes and practices that reinforce company culture, making sure that everyone — from individual contributors to those in leadership roles — is demonstrating behaviors that align with them.”

Transforming work environments to harbor diverse thought, differing life experiences, demographics, and professional backgrounds reinforces a company’s united commitment to growth. And that paves the way for a positive, supportive, and profitable future.

Equality for all:
Go from messaging about inclusion to making it a reality.

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Jen Bailin

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