Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, often driven by the senior management or CEO themselves aim to create a work environment where everyone can bring their whole self to work and be motivated to put in their best in a psychologically safe environment. Diversity and Inclusion programs must deliver some key messages in order to promote inclusion and have predictable and favourable outcomes.
Diversity refers to the differences among people that comprise a group or a team. These differences could stem from multiple factors such as race, gender, physical abilities, sexual orientation, age, education, skill, talent, knowledge and psychological attributes. Inclusion on the other hand, refers to a work environment that enables people to bring the whole self to work that enables them to collaborate, take interpersonal risks, innovate and generally feel respected and motivated.
Diversity and Inclusion programs could end up becoming too broad and diffused and therefore it is necessary to define certain key messages that must be delivered in every program.
Here are some of those key messages:
Psychological diversity is paramount:
- While many organizations focus on creating diverse teams and even have recruitment targets related to onboarding people from diverse groups, it is important to consider the diversity in psychological attributes of people.
- Many companies have diversity charters that have goals like – achieving 50% women workforce or having 10% of the workforce from the LGBTQ community.
- While these are good goals to have, they may not necessarily contribute towards creating an inclusive environment. Also, for the sake of diversity, performance and safety of employees cannot be compromised.
Unconscious biases are omnipresent:
- Everyone experiences and demonstrates some form of biases in varied situations. Biases are learned stereotypes that a person might hold and are often subtle in nature. Moreover, while people are good at identifying other’s biases, they may fail to realize or admit their own biases.
- Because biases are deeply engrained, they affect our behaviour and personality in many ways. Ever needed assistance in changing a tyre? Who would you approach – a man or a woman? If you would typically approach a man, then that demonstrates a certain bias you may have.
- When unconscious biases exist unchecked in a workplace, diversity suffers, and inclusion is the casualty. Unconscious biases can seep into many processes and functions of an organization.
Diversity is a number, inclusion is a decision:
- Organizations that like to have easy and measurable objectives, focus on diversity. Diversity in a group is relatively easy to measure. Even psychological or personality differences in a group are easy to measure.
- With a plethora of psychometric assessment available, that are both reliable and valid, it is possible to measure if the behavioural priorities in a work group are skewed towards a few behavioral tendencies. However, measuring diversity is not the end goal. Diversity only indirectly promotes higher productivity and creativity.
- The real driver is inclusion. Inclusion makes everyone on a team feel respected. By accepting, engaging and enabling people as they are, organizations can become more competitive and innovative.
Diversity and Inclusion must therefore deliver these three key messages –
- Recognizing psychological diversity is important
- Biases are everywhere and no one can claim to be fully unbiased and
- Inclusion is the goal of diversity and inclusion initiatives.