When it comes to diversity and inclusion (D&I), having an aligned strategy is of critical importance. D&I are essentially standalone concepts. Is it possible to have diversity without inclusion? Yes. Is it possible to have inclusion without diversity? Not likely.
Diversity is the collective mixture of differences that includes individual and organizational characteristics such as values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds and behaviors. Many workforces today are diverse simply as a reflection of society. However, inclusion is the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. Most companies today are not very inclusive, and without an aligned strategy, the two concepts will not integrate.
Many organizations have created a new executive position, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), with the sole responsibility of promoting workforce diversity. Just a decade ago, this position was almost unheard of, but today, approximately one in five Fortune 1000 companies have diversity leaders. These CDOs are implementing comprehensive programs to help their company boost diverse recruitment, help those employees advance, implement diversity training, and even forge relationships with diverse vendors.
These types of diversity efforts are what’s known as diversity management – the voluntary organizational actions designed to create greater inclusion of employees from various backgrounds into the formal and informal organizational structures through deliberate policies and programs. It’s important to remember that diversity representation in the workforce is only the initial step toward workplace inclusion. Inclusion reflects the extent to which employees perceive that they are part of the communication systems, informal networks and decision-making processes. Therefore, increasing diversity representation and achieving inclusion is a two-stage process with each stage affecting the other in a circular way. The first stage is reactive: Organizations are recruiting and employing a more diverse workforce. The second stage is proactive: Organizations are investing efforts in active diversity management with the aim of enhancing inclusion and fostering organization effectiveness.
Questions organizations should ask themselves are, “Is our organizational culture inclusive and culturally competent?”; and, “To what extent are employees from different identity groups participating in formal and informal networks and actively involved in the decision-making process?” For organizations to become truly inclusive, it is not enough that they have policies and guidelines in place; there needs to be a deep conviction in the importance of inclusion. This level of commitment to D&I can only come from the very top of the organization.
Here are some inclusive workplace practices that companies can apply to their own workforces.
- Leadership involvement: Assign a top executive to lead and sponsor the diversity program, and create a diversity council or committee of employees from various departments and levels within the organization.
- Performance and accountability: Establish diversity goals, quotas and metrics. Develop action plans to meet the goals of specific business units and the organization. Hold managers accountable to these goals by linking diversity performance to compensation.
- Policies and procedures: Create a diversity mission statement, anti-discrimination policies, corporate values, and behavioral standards that reflect D&I. Create HR policies that offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate diverse needs and lifestyles of employees.
- Employee networks: Create affinity or employee resource groups and mentoring programs to empower employees of diverse backgrounds, and to provide opportunities and visibility.
- Education and training: Offer unconscious bias or sensitivity training workshops to increase diversity awareness and skill building, and to help employees understand the need for, and meaning of, valuing diversity.
These practices provide opportunities for the future of work, and for training professionals, this is good news. More programs and a focus on reaching broader, more diverse audiences means more training opportunities. And training will continue to be an important component in helping organizations become more inclusive.