Implementing Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Culture
The world is complex and interconnected by globalisation, diversity, and technological advance. Diversity in the business is about more than gender, race, and ethnicity – it now includes employees with diverse education, socioeconomic, political beliefs, religions, cultures, and disabilities. Now, more than ever, there is an overwhelming business case for diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Businesses are discovering that they are flourishing by promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Workplace inclusion is when people feel valued and accepted in their team and in the wider organisation, without having to conform. A workplace can be very diverse; however, without inclusion, companies may fail to leverage their diverse talent pool, incorporate various perspectives, and involve different approaches, which may result in failure to maximise their success.
The 2015 McKinsey report, ‘Why Diversity Matters,’ found that businesses with higher levels of diversity outperform businesses by up to 15%. By hiring a diverse range of people, an organisation is allowing itself the prospect to uncover more creative solutions and welcome an increasingly diverse customer/client base. However, to unlock this prospect, diversity must be conjoined with inclusion; employees must feel that their contributions are valued and respected.
Workplace conflict is inevitable, especially in diverse environments where opinions, ideas, and statements can be misunderstood. Today’s leaders must understand that their diverse workforces have different ways of thinking and must adapt to these differences. If leaders are accustomed to working with like-minded employees with similar backgrounds, then they will be set in their ways of communication. Communication in leadership is vital – if a leader does not pay attention to cultural differences, then the leader’s communication style can disrupt efficient collaboration. Leaders must be informed and understand the diverse range of colleagues by being good listeners and having the skill set to uncover hidden talents and place them in situations that benefit the employee and organisation. If leaders do not adapt, there will be a prevention of inclusion.
A diverse workforce is progressive. However, leaders must make that workforce inclusive to ensure that the diverse workforce is collaborating positively and progression is encouraged for each employee regardless of background. Leaders will benefit from developing an organisational culture aligned with a diversity and inclusion policy that encourages employee engagement. Building teams purposefully leads to healthy conflict that enables greater agility through change.
The workforce has changed massively. Many external factors have increased the pressure on businesses to make their workforce inclusive. Leaders may want to have constructive conversations with the intention of learning. Gone are the days when leaders avoided ‘uncomfortable’ conversations at work – in the past, leaders often told their employees to leave their thoughts and opinions at home. With the rise of social and political issues, that is becoming increasingly impossible. Leaders may benefit from preparing for conversations with their employees to understand and squash any negative perceptions to create an inclusive environment that supports diverse teams and encourages and mediates tough conversations around highly charged social issues. Leaders that exhibit a readiness to listen to different points of view, not to let someone else win, but to distinguish whether this person’s disagreement can be considered aligned with their organisation.
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