Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords that have been used with increased frequency over the past decade or two, so much so that they have become a bit cheap as promotional slogans. Many organizations claim to be diverse and inclusive, but not all of them actually understand what they mean, why they’re important or how to properly put them into practice.
Like most things in business, the true meanings of diversity and inclusion go far deeper than the words themselves. Diversity and inclusion aren’t simply the state of employing people from a wide range of social backgrounds – in fact, diversity and inclusion are two separate qualities altogether, despite often being used interchangeably.
Defining diversity and inclusion
Most people tend to think of diversity as being defined by specific, often external social and biological traits like race, sex, religion, age and other visible differences between people. But if you want to make your organization diverse beyond physical characteristics, the important thing to keep in mind about diversity is the difference in experiences, not appearances.
Inclusion, on the other hand, can only exist in a truly diverse environment where different people bring different life experiences to the table. That’s because the word inclusion actually refers to the equal treatment of people in a diverse environment, regardless of the circumstances and experiences unique to each of them.
What can diversity and inclusion do for you?
A major stumbling block for many organizations comes in trying to understand why diversity and inclusion are actually important. Without too much thought, it’s easy to see them as little more than a moral expectation from consumers and clients, and can therefore be used visually in ad campaigns to present the organization as modern, liberal and caring.
But diversity and inclusion can bring much more to your organization than good PR. Studies and statistics have repeatedly shown that maintaining these two qualities within an organization has a direct positive impact on profits, innovation and expansion into new markets. Diversity and inclusion also result in a happier workforce of employees who feel more valued.
Why? Much of this has to do with the various perspectives and ideas that come with diversity and the inclusion of a wide range of experiences. A female employee with a college degree who spent 5 years living abroad is likely to have a completely different perspective on a given topic than a male who finished high school, got married and settled down in his hometown.
This of course isn’t meant to diminish either one of these experiences. Quite the opposite, in fact. Both are important to include in your organization to foster the growth of new ideas.
How to put it into practice
This is a broad topic that’s difficult to cover as a subsection in a larger article like this one, but here are a few tips to help put you in the right mindset to build a diverse and inclusive organization:
Be aware – Put diversity and inclusivity on your list of priorities from the very beginning during the recruitment process. Sometimes it’s better to hire someone for reasons of diversity and inclusion over their technical qualifications.
Target candidates for diversity – In some cases you can even search for and target candidates for specific traits and experiences you know are missing but are important to the development of your organization rather than just waiting to be surprised.
Be diverse about diversity – Start by admitting that your own individual experience in life is limited. Then start including other people in the recruitment process and get a range of perspectives on what diversity and inclusion should look like in your organization.
Let diversity create inclusion – A diverse workforce is likely to be more inclusive, no matter what official policies you put in place. People find to coalesce into groups where everyone has a shared experience. If the most common shared experience among your employees is the fact that they work for you, you’ll find people connecting across significant divides to work together.
Keep in mind also that diversity and inclusion should look slightly different in each organization depending on your product and audience. Your workforce doesn’t need to be diverse just for the sake of diversity, it should reflect the audience you serve and have social experiences that offer relevant but unique input to the service you provide.
We’re committed to leaving organizations and their people in a truly better place –
more changeable, more engaged and better equipped for creating a better future.