Building an Inclusive Organisation & Why It Matters
Date Published: Feb 28, 2023
Diversity, equality and inclusion - also called DEI - is a phrase that has entered the global lexicon. Despite its recent prevalence of use, not everyone is on the same page as to what it means and why it is important.
Below we review the characteristics of diversity, equality and inclusion and how each of its aspects lends meaning to the overall concept. We then focus on inclusivity and why building an inclusive organization is mission-critical for any enterprise in the 21st Century.
What Is DEI?
A quick definition of terms is warranted as a starting point in our conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion.
DEI is a term to describe the conceptual framework that promotes the complete participation, full representation and fair treatment of all people within an organization, including populations that have been historically under-represented or subject to discrimination due to their background or identity.
Each specific part of DEI can be understood as:
Diversity is the presence of differences in a population that may include gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, nationality, language, political beliefs or (dis)ability. Diversity can also include differences in perspectives and values.
Equity is promoting fairness, justice and impartiality within the procedures, processes and distribution of resources and opportunities by an institution. Tackling equity issues requires identifying and removing the barriers that have prevented some groups from fully participating in and benefiting from systems and institutions.
Inclusion is the creation of a culture where everyone feels welcome. Inclusion embraces differences within a population and is respectful of all individuals and groups. An inclusive organization is supportive and collaborative, encouraging all workers to fully participate in the decision-making processes and development opportunities. Furthermore, an inclusive environment endeavours to remove all barriers, discrimination and intolerance.
Why DEI in the Workplace?
Countless converging cultural phenomena are pushing institutions to establish DEI programs. The primary factors driving DEI adoption that most affect businesses are:
The heightened competition for attracting and retaining top talent due to labour shortages and skills gaps.
The massive exposure companies with toxic cultures face.
The increasingly diverse workforce.
The boost in employee engagement and productivity among workers who feel they can be themselves in the workplace.
Learn More: Responding to Changes in the Employment Market
How to Make DEI Work (Focus on Inclusivity)
Although workplace diversity programs may be well-meaning, they can be ineffective or unsustainable. It is not simply a matter of hiring a diverse workforce but ensuring that every individual feels included - hence the focus on the term inclusivity.
An invaluable asset of a diverse workforce are the fresh ideas brought to the table. A synergy is ignited when people with varying experiences and perspectives unite and magnify and balance out each other’s designs and perspectives.
But being in the building is not the same as being at the table.
A diverse work group sitting in an office is not delivering on DEI principles. Inclusiveness is about embracing employees, valuing their strengths and encouraging them to make meaningful contributions. Inclusivity is having representation at all levels. In short, it’s about offering a seat at the table.
When understood that inclusivity does the heavy lifting - that it takes the ideals of diversity and equality and elevates them to real-world outcomes - then DEI programs can thrive.
Three Principles for Building an Inclusive Organization
Consider these three guiding principles when successfully building an inclusive organization:
1. Treated all employees with respect.
Respect may seem like a given. This basic behaviour should be extended to everyone in and out of the workplace, but all too often it is not. Recent reports show that a majority of employees around the globe feel they are not regularly treated with respect.
The foundation of employee respect will be laid out in an organization’s values and mission statements, and followed through at every level. Managers play a large part in establishing an inclusive environment predicated on mutual respect. When mutual respect is expected, team members feel comfortable being their authentic selves and speaking up and sharing ideas.
2. Value all employees for their strengths.
When building an inclusive organization, consider this fascinating human trait discovered by social psychologists: stable relationships and a sense of belonging is predicated on balancing a distinctive sense of self with a feeling of inclusion in the group. This is where recognizing a worker’s unique background and personal strengths is paramount to cementing team bonds, getting the most out of employees and delivering on DEI initiatives.
3. Ensure that leaders do the right thing.
Building an inclusive organization is only possible when leaders demonstrate and support DEI practices. Supervisors will step up and assist employees to navigate the uncertainties and misunderstandings that may arise from differences, doing so respectfully, fairly and straightforwardly. Managers must earn the trust of employees by authentically actualizing and practicing DEI principles on a daily basis.
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