“Diversity” and “inclusion,” although perfect dance partners, describe two distinct ideas. According to Great Place to Work®, an authority on workplace culture, diversity refers to the make-up of an organization’s people whereas inclusion is about valuing and integrating both the presence and contributions of each and every subgroup. A diverse and inclusive workplace is one that makes everyone “feel equally involved” and “supported in all areas of the workplace”— regardless of “who they are or what they do for the business.”
Or, as Doanie Perry of the Developmental Disabilities Division at Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority (ImCal HSA) says with a quote from Verna Myers:
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
ImCal HSA manages and provides behavioral health and developmental disability services to citizens of five Louisiana parishes.
“In order to get to know someone, they have to be part of your group. And in order for them to be a part of your group, they have to be invited,” Perry said. An invitation allows the value of including all individuals in workplaces, schools and society to unfold.
Promoting diversity and inclusion: A win-win
Research shows there are many benefits for workplaces that embrace diversity and inclusion. A McKinsey & Company® May 2020 “Diversity Wins” report found that diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform their less diverse counterparts—those with gender-diversity by up to 25%, and those with ethnic diversity by up to 36% (PDF). And Great Place to Work found that diverse and inclusive workplaces have a 5.4 times higher retention rate—and their employees report deeper trust and commitment to their workplace.
“When you feel more part of an organization, society or group, you’re more productive,” Perry said.
Whether your organization has just dipped its toes in diverse and inclusive workplace practices or has been actively implementing them for years, these actions are a step in the right direction:
- Ensure diverse representation of talent
- Cultivate inclusive leaders
- Create an inclusive culture
- Be authentic
Ensure diverse representation of talent
Diversity encapsulates race, ethnicity and gender. “Today, the term diversity means so much more—from first-generation students to single mothers to American Sign Language speakers,” says Stephanie McGrew, MHA, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator at A.T. Still University (ATSU), Kirksville, Missouri. ATSU is a four-time winner of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, which recognizes colleges and universities for their outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“Our university works toward bringing in a more diverse population to help limit the health disparities in underrepresented groups,” says McGrew.
“You have to reflect the population you’re trying to access. And the best way to do that is by having a diverse group of people sitting at the table helping to make decisions for the subgroup you are trying to reach.”
Organizations looking to diversify their talent pool may benefit from adopting recruitment best practices. Among them: removing biased language from job descriptions and being transparent in your postings by letting candidates know you’re looking to diversify your workforce. To reach a diverse candidate pool, post opportunities in places focused on serving diverse populations, like alumni associations, networking groups, and colleges or universities that serve diverse students and provide targeted internships and scholarships to attract underrepresented students.
“ATSU has created the Graduate Health Professions Scholarship (GPS) for those historically underrepresented students whose financial disparities limit their ability to get a secondary degree,” says McGrew. “Our GPS scholars gain hands-on experience and are on the frontlines educating and promoting the vision of our University.”
Cultivate inclusive leaders
Good leadership is crucial to diversity and inclusion initiatives. And despite the old adage, a good leader is made, not born. To drive home awareness and underline the importance of inclusive leadership, some companies require every level of management to undergo unconscious bias training. Others rely on insights from diversity and inclusion teams to help train managers to better lead diverse teams. One way to accomplish this is through scenario training where leaders are presented with real-life situations. Scenarios may include providing an accommodation for a worker with a disability or supervising a single parent with childcare issues.
“Rather than perceiving what someone might need to succeed in their work environment, you need to have one-on-one conversations because everyone is different,” says Perry.
And, that extends to taking note of every opportunity. For example, ImCal HSA heeds this advice when promoting its services with branded promotional items too. “Rather than choosing a promo product that only markets our organization, we choose products that benefit the community we are serving,” Perry explained. “Click pens (those without caps) are appreciated by some of our clients with physical limitations that prevent them taking a cap off a pen.”
Create an inclusive culture
Creating an inclusive culture, where all stakeholders feel it is safe to express themselves and voice concerns in a transparent way, is paramount to attracting and retaining diverse talent. When employees know their contributions are heard and valued, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc., Great Place to Work says they are:
- 9.8x more likely to look forward to going to work
- 3.6x more likely to take pride in their work
- 5.4x more likely to want to stay at their company long-term
The McKinsey & Company “Diversity Wins” report (PDF) recommends that companies establish “norms for what constitutes open, welcoming behavior” and organizations “build a culture in which all employees feel they can bring their whole selves to work.”
Authenticity is key in building a diverse and inclusive workplace. “Building trust can be complicated and it is not always easy. People must perceive you as authentic,” McGrew said.
“Groups of diverse people who offer a diverse perspective—that’s when the fruits of your labor come back to you,” says McGrew.
ATSU takes promoting diversity to the next level. In fact, they incorporated the term diversity into their slogan: Diversity means more than HUE. The organization shows its authentic self by investing in staffing and resources, telling that story with branded promotional items.
“The items purchased from 4imprint have helped us build trust in the communities we work within, the schools we collaborate with, and at the various recruitment events in which we participate. Through promotional items, we are able to offer reflective presentation of what our university stands for and our mission of diversity and inclusiveness,” McGrew said.
Diversity and inclusion: Better together
When your company demonstrates it values the presence and contributions of every employee, regardless of who they are or what position they hold, you not only make your company better, you make your team better too. These diverse and inclusive workplace steps can help you make sure everyone feels invited and asked to dance.
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