How to Foster Diversity, Belonging and Inclusion at Work

Create a culture of belonging by learning the true meanings of diversity and inclusion andhow you can bring those concepts into the workplace.

One of the most pervasive dangers in business is the tendency to find comfort in sameness. We look for peoplesimilar to ourselves because it’s easier to understand how those people think and act.

As HR managers, business owners or other people in positions of leadership, it’s common to lean toward hiringcandidates who exhibit the same characteristics as employees who have already found success within our organization.

But with homogeneity comes exclusion, then stagnation, followed by an increased likelihood of irrelevance.

Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords. They’re concepts that can help change

• your brand
• your company culture
• your team and even yourself in some remarkably profound ways — as long as you know what those words really mean, and you make an ongoing effort to put the concepts into practice.

What does diversity and inclusion really mean?

The phrase “diversity and inclusion” is often used in its entirety, leading people to believe that diversity and inclusion are either one and the same or at the very least tethered together.

The truth is that diversity and inclusion are separate concepts that might overlap but still mean different things.

Diversity in the workplace is the practice of hiring a wide variety of people to build a team that reflects society. That often means consciously recruiting talent from varying socioeconomic backgrounds, races and genders, and that represent varying religious groups, age groups, abilities, sexual orientations, skill sets and so on.

True diversity isn’t tokenism (recruiting people just because of what they represent, as if to tick a box) but rather a manifestation of a company’s desire to create a workforce that represents that client base and population it serves.

Inclusion happens when organizations equally hear and value the input of every member of a diverse team while treating those members with respect. Inclusivity is also about access and opportunity.

For a workplace to be truly inclusive, everyone in it should have the same access to resources, training, guidance, promotional opportunities and anything else that could contribute to the success of the individual and/or the organization.

Many experts suggest thinking of diversity as the “what,” while inclusion is the “how.” Understanding the first part of the equation is how you inform the second part, but just attempting one or the other isn’t enough.

Diversity and inclusion are about creating a culture.
They can’t exist in a vacuum, and they can’t be faked.

Head’s up: These things are NOT diversity and inclusion in the workplace

One of the biggest hurdles standing between organizations and true diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a widely accepteddefinition of what those concepts mean.

Yes, there are the definitions above, but how those concepts are put into play, how plans are executed and how organizations adapt to changing ideals and unexpected situations is anything but concrete.

Another major mistake organizations make is assuming there is an end goal in mind. That somehow you can be “done” achieving diversity and inclusion, as if there’s a predetermined quota to meet.

The assumption that diversity and inclusion means hiring different people just for the sake of hiring those people is dangerous. It’s also not at all in the spirit of inclusion. Hiring someone because they make your team look diverse but then not affording them the attention and opportunity they deserve is majorly problematic.

But the mistake that’s potentially most dangerous is limiting diversity and inclusion to race. Racial diversity is crucial. However, there are other ways to discriminate against candidates too. A team that’s also diverse in terms of gender, abilities, sexuality, economic status, ethnicity, even where they grew up and went to college matters.

Crafting a team that includes a wide array of viewpoints makes your company stronger.

Tips for fostering diversity
At work

To foster diversity in theworkplace, start by educating everyone on what diversity means and addressing your own prejudices so you can set a good example for others.

Everyone sees the world through the lens of their own experience. Thatcan be both a good and a bad thing. Maybe you grew up with low incomeso you can identify with clients who are struggling financially. That couldmake you better suited to pitch that demographic or it could blind you tothe needs and preferences of groups outside your personal bubble.

• Create a company culture that establishes a sense of belonging. People who are “different” aren’t merely tolerated, they are embraced.

• Make that culture of belonging evident in every facet of the organization, including job ads, job descriptions and employee handbooks.

• Work with your HR department to redefine your hiring process.

• Learn the right language and best practices for attracting, interviewingand onboarding diverse talent.

How organizations can
Foster inclusion

Once you have a diverse workforce, you need to ensure every member feels included. Inclusion strategies are wide ranging, and the specifics can look very different from organization to organization, but the basics are actually quite simple:

• Acknowledge differences. The strength that comes with inclusivitylies in recognizing what makes each person, culture, gender, etc. uniqueand letting those differences shine.

• Equality and uniformity are not the same thing. You can treat peopleequally by giving them the same respect, attention and opportunity without treating them like they are carbon copies.

• Make your expectations clear. Also make sure the penalties for inappropriate behavior are just as clear. You can’t hold people to astandard unless they know what that standard is and that you take itvery seriously.

• Create rewards systems, training modules and mentoring opportunities that address everyone’s needs. That will likely require multiple options to address different learning styles, motivations, skill levels and so on.

• Put an open-door policy or similar system in place so all employeesknow they can safely talk about diversity and inclusion-related concerns — and more than that, they’ll actually be heard.

• Use programs created by diversity and inclusion professionals that helpstrengthen your team.

Ready to examine your own best practices and find ways to improve?

Book a demo to see how KeepWOL can foster real diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

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