COVID Learning #5: Key Learnings for Fostering More Inclusion and Diversity
By Bradley Wilson MBA & Valentina Obafunwa MBA - June 03, 2021
With over 7.7 billion people in the world representing unique nationalities, languages, personalities, ages and abilities, our workplaces are inherently diverse. No two people are the same, and each person provides a distinct perspective and contribution to the world around them. This diversity benefits not only societies and individuals, but also organizations.
As part of our blog series reviewing the five classic “rules that 2020 broke,” we'll explore what the previous year taught us about diversity and how organizations can apply those learnings to create a workplace where all employees feel accepted and respected.
Why We Need Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I)
A successful workplace is one in which peoples’ differences are viewed as an advantage and effort is made to draw out, understand and include those disparate perspectives as core to an organizational culture that sustains a competitive advantage over time.
Studies show that, “Diverse organizations with inclusive cultures are eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, three times more likely to be high-performing, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets than diverse organizations without inclusive cultures.”
Perceptyx Blog: How To Build An Inclusive Culture That Can Support Diversity
Why DE&I Efforts Fail?
Despite our knowledge of these facts, why do diversity, equity and inclusion efforts fail?
- They’re not inclusive - Many organizations begin by dividing employees into groups that reduce them to a single element of their experience/identity (for example, race and ethnicity). The result of that narrowed focus is diversity-driven initiatives that are seen as only benefiting those who identify with under-represented groups.
- They’re disconnected from the regular work experience - If there is a disconnect from the core work experience, no long-term improvements will be seen. It will be an initiative spoken that only one group or committee is aware of.
- Leaders and managers misunderstand the purpose - The ultimate purpose of any DE&I initiative is not to check boxes, but to enable people to anticipate success and unlock their potential.
- The issue has become politicized - In order to be effective with DE&I, we can disassociate some of the potentially divisive messages from the important elements of respecting individuals and developing relationships within the workplace.
Key Learnings from 2020 for Fostering More DE&I
Effective DE&I benefits everyone. It comes down to enabling everyone to contribute and add value in meaningful ways. “Employees perform better when they feel accepted and respected, and when they see their co-workers treated with respect.” (The Connection Between Diversity In The Workplace & Employee Retention).
Throughout the journey, it is also important to ensure that dimensions of difference do not get in the way of a team developing and identifying, and elevating the unique contributions employees can make to their workplace.
Effective DE&I requires empathy and involvement. The solutions cannot be things that companies do to their employees, but a culture it creates with employees. Managers/HR teams may not understand the barriers to individuals feeling involved and respected, so we cannot assume we will know how to address those challenges. The fear of awkward conversations can push leaders to action before the situation is fully understood.
This is why a survey is a great way to gather feedback from employees and also an important way for leaders to communicate that these initiatives are important to them. See COVID Learning #2: Employees Want To Be Heard for more on why listening is critical.
DE&I management is management. It is every manager’s responsibility to develop their people which means effective DE&I happens within the context of the employee/manager/team environment. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be helpful, but they will not replace or make up for the daily experiences and regular exchanges employees have with those in their work environment. See [Re]Think Diversity Webinar: A 10-Point Framework For Excellence in DE&I for more on how executive focus drives results.
See the Way Forward to Greater Inclusion and Diversity
As we apply these lessons learned to survey strategies in the future, it’s important to remember there is never a better time than a crisis to listen.
The Perceptyx platform will help you develop a listening strategy that fits the needs of your organization—and keeps your finger on the pulse of your people’s perceptions. Get in touch to see how our platform can help your organization foster greater inclusion and diversity.