What is D&I?
Diversity and Inclusion. Chances are you’ve heard this pairing floating around your workplace. By their basic definitions neither seem too intimidating, however, they both require action and intention if one hopes to create a workplace with healthy D & I culture. Intentionality could be considered one of the most crucial foundational characteristics of a functional diversity and inclusion program.
Workplace diversity looks at the extensive range of differences (or similarities) of individual employees. It means uncovering, recognizing, and reducing barriers for underrepresented groups in your organization. Workplace inclusion is ensuring all employees have a safe and respectful environment where they are encouraged to be themselves. From an organizational perspective it takes looking at those marginalized groups and acting to reduce barriers and provide equal opportunities. D & I looks at the people in an organization and ensures equity among them. No matter who they are, what they do, or where they are from – they are equally included, supported, and valued.
Why Implement D & I?
Other than it being the moral or ethical thing to do, D & I can be used as a competitive advantage to propel your organization to the next level. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that everyone is like a snowflake, never completely identical. Well, inclusion and diversity in the workplace build off that exact concept. A diverse organization utilizes the various experiences, backgrounds, knowledge, and viewpoints to develop a competitive edge through innovation. Now, this is where the inclusion aspect is crucial. To be able to embrace and utilize the diversity in an organization, all individuals – no matter who they are, or what they do - must feel comfortable, respected, and included enough to come forward with their perspectives and ideas. Looking at this from strictly a business perspective, it is valuable. Not only is it the “right” thing to do, but also the most profitable. The influence this has on employee morale will also provide a positive return on investment. It will empower employees through the building of trust between employees and their leaders. By investing in each of your employees, you will be rewarded with the unrestricted value they add to the organization. Most importantly, they will feel more engaged if their perspectives and ideas are being heard – ultimately leading to higher performing employees.
Looking to take action in your workplace here are a couple practical resources:
Review your policies and practices with a diversity and inclusion mindset.
Commit to actions that are relevant to our communities. Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 92 specifically has actions for businesses, details are here
Prepare for difficult conversations, lean into the discomfort for awareness and growth from your team.
The BRIDGE framework, introduced in Ruchika Tulshyan’s book “Inclusion on Purpose,” are exceptional steps in bridge(ing) the gap for underrepresented and marginalized groups in the workplace.
(B)e Uncomfortable – The book also touches on the fact that it is hard to be uncomfortable. Some of the first steps of looking to be diverse and inclusive require some intense reflection. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable, and in these situations, it is easy to default to who and what you’re used to. However, the most growth comes from situations when you are forced to leave your comfort zone. An inclusion mindset demands you to constantly be challenging yourself, whether that be your views, your experiences, or your actions. It forces you to dive deep into your past and acknowledge your own shortcomings. Taking the road less traveled is uncomfortable, until you make it the road most frequently travelled. This could mean looking at your own biases, privilege, etc. As much as we want to suppress wrong turns in the past – it is important to embrace them and build positively for the future.
(R)eflect on what you don’t know– most often individuals identify a certain way and do not look to understand what they do not identify as. That is because this takes effort – but effort that will prove useful. It is especially important in the workplace when looking to determine underrepresented groups in your organization. From here, it will be easier to expose some of the barriers that are holding your company back from success. For example, you reflect on your recruitment practices and discover that most of your employees come from word-of-mouth recruitment. This means that your current employees are telling their friends and acquaintances to work for you. Because they are friends, it is likely that they will be more similar than not (similar ideologies, backgrounds, beliefs, etc.) This could be a reason why your workforce is not as diverse as it could be. Since it is unintentional, it might go unnoticed without some reflection.
(I)nvite Honest Feedback– This is almost always uncomfortable, especially when it exposes weakness or gaps. However, without open and honest feedback how would we know where our deficiencies lie? To some, we can be so blinded by the successes or unaware of the obstacles to others that we are in a constant state of oblivion. The most effective way to fix this is to ask meaningful questions and solicit raw, honest, and candid feedback. An article posted by Tulshyan “An Inclusion Mindset Takes Work. Here’s How to Develop One,” gives some examples of probing questions to establish the lines of communication:
Do you feel like you belong here? Why or why not?
What can I do differently now and in the future?
Was there a time I made you feel included? Was there a time I could have done better at making you feel included?
How can we foster the culture of inclusion in the workplace?
(D)on’t get defensive – It can be difficult to hear workers are unhappy with some of your decisions or actions, however it is important to remain approachable and open-minded. This feedback is needed to ensure energy is focused on the right areas. In addition, employees will feel more comfortable coming to you in the future, the way you act when receiving the feedback lays the groundwork for a trusting employee-employer relationship.
(G)row from your mistakes– this means that all the questioning and listening has to actually impact you and encourage growth, personally or as an organization in general. It is important to remember that to be the best, means a constant state of evolving and developing new skills, and the only way to evolve is to look at your past and improve. A growth mindset is an open mindset.
(E)xpect that change takes time – This does not develop overnight; it is built through intentionality, practice, and reflection. People’s mindsets might not shift instantaneously. People will make mistakes, people may resist at first, but others will embrace it – be confident, trusting, open, and appreciative. However, the longer the journey, the more rewarding the victory of achieving a workplace with diversity and inclusion at the forefront.
Tulshyan addresses the fact that humans are not born with the trait of diversity and inclusion in her book, “Inclusion on Purpose.” That is why a strong culture of diversity and inclusion does not happen overnight.
The book also touches on the fact that it is hard to be uncomfortable. Some of the first steps of looking to be diverse and inclusive require some intense reflection. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable, and in these situations, it is easy to default to who and what you're used to – which will impede on the D & I progress and ultimate achievement.
How we can help:
Lakeland HR Solutions offers hands-on support during these challenging, but crucial times.
Currently we offer custom training on topics including leadership and conflict resolution to build diverse and engaged teams. We also offer policy review to ensure that your policies align with the organization’s values and vision as well as making sure that they are updated to reflect your organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. In addition to this, we offer direct support through conflict resolution and crucial conversations.
Redesign your work culture – work with us.
Indigenous Works. (n.d). TRC call to action. https://indigenousworks.ca/en/partnership/what-does-intersection-mean/trc-call-action
Tulshyan, R. (2022) An inclusion mindset takes work. Here’s how to develop one. The Muse. https://www.themuse.com/amp/advice/inclusion-mindset-bridge-framework-ruchika-tulshyan
Tulshyan, R. (2022). Inclusion on purpose: An intersectional approach to creating a culture of belonging at work. MIT Press.