Businesses today need to value diversity and inclusion in the workplace by celebrating the valuable insights, perspectives, backgrounds and histories that employees bring to their work today.
Yet while companies frequently espouse the value of a commitment to diversity, it can be elusive to turn the words into actions. Celebrating diversity as a business strategy means training employees at all levels about what diversity means and how to practice it each day.
Diversity as a business strategy
A recent online article in the Profiles in Diversity Journal advocates taking both a top-down and bottom-up approach. While a commitment to diversity needs to be articulated and acted upon within the C-suite, there is also a need for broader employee involvement. Acting together, a commitment to diversity at many levels creates the environment where diversity can thrive.
Here are a few of the ways organizations and their employees can ensure diversity remains a strategic priority, fosters leadership developments and drives business growth.
- Eliminate unconscious bias. Training needs to address not just the rational mind’s thinking about diversity, but also the unconscious mind’s biases. We all unconsciously bring our own biases to processes such as candidate evaluation or workplace interaction
- Understand we are all diverse. Each and every person is diverse in his or her own ways. Diversity is all too often equated with race. However, diversity involves more than race, religion or gender. Diversity comes from sexual identity, socioeconomic background or current status, marital status, education, geographic location, social beliefs, political affiliations and hobbies. In short, no two of us are alike. Recognizing this rich, diverse human tapestry helps us appreciate the diversity each of us brings to the workplace.
- Become culturally competent. It’s incumbent on all of us to learn about different backgrounds, cultures, races, and religions. Whether you are in a majority or minority demographic, take the time to ask questions of colleagues and listen actively to the answers. Acknowledge that misunderstandings may occur, apologize when a mistake is made and be willing to learn.
- Be a change agent. Organizations need to make a concerted effort to identify what needs to change and follow through accordingly. This process may involve surveying employees or learning best practices. Such approaches should avoid “blame and shame” and focus instead on re-engineering processes, removing defensiveness from decision-making and providing appropriate training.
- Be patient. Change will not come immediately or fast enough for some people. Creating a workplace committed to diversity means clear, regular and persistent communication. There is a journey that organizations and their people must take. Players within an organization will complete the journey at much different paces. Embracing diversity involves being tolerant of those with different views on diversity itself.
Organizations that make a commitment to being more diverse will be more open to different views, perspectives, and insights. Embracing diverse perspectives opens up new comprehension and a richer worldview of markets, potential customers, and opportunities. Including more diverse thoughts on myriad business issues results in a much richer array of options and possibilities.