With the powerful advent of Diversity and Inclusion into workplace practices, there is a need to define and understand what each of these terms really mean. In most corporates, these two terms, diversity and inclusion are often used interchangeably. Diversity is defined as a range of many people or things that very different from one another. In a way, diversity is the synonym of variety. On the other hand, inclusion is the act of including someone or something. It is making someone/something as a part of something.
Diversity is a field of culture and behaviour that has been prevalent in the corporate world for about 6-7 decades now. Broadly, diversity at the workplace has come to mean the presence of people from a wide range of backgrounds and possession of different traits. Differences in gender, gender identity, age, generations, ability, race, ethnicity, culture, religion and sexual orientation are some of the possible branches of diversity. The benefit of having a heterogeneous workplace rather than a homogeneous one has been researched extensively and has led to the espousing of the practice of diversity by vanguard organizations and their leaders.
While accepted as a hugely constructive and valuable practice, diversity does pose significant challenges, especially in the form of biases and stereotypes which are difficult to eliminate. In order to obtain the full benefit of Diversity and Inclusion practices, companies offer diversity training and sensitization skilling to promote tolerance and develop inclusion and acceptance of differences. Cultural awareness and sensitivity training are two common general components in a diversity training program.
Diversity and Inclusion in Workplace
While devising diversity agenda for an organization, it is recommended to look at the three-dimensional model which includes – primary, secondary and tertiary layers of diversity or should I say identity. The first layer or primary layer consists of facets such as gender, generation, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and ability. The secondary layer or the second layer is the demographic layer. It includes item like geographic location, income, education, marital status, parental status, religion, languages known, value systems, personalities, work experience, spiritual beliefs, political views, appearance, entertainment behavior and media habits. And, the tertiary or the third layer is the organizational dimension which includes functional level, management status, seniority, work location, department and industry body affiliation. Your diversity agenda should include these three layers to make the most out of differences.
While differences are to be leveraged and managed for greater productivity and problem-solving, the same differences also have the danger of creating fissures within your teams. What may serve as a competitive edge for one individual can be another’s weak point. It is the leader’s imperative to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. If the same people are talking in every meeting and are the only ones being listened to and getting attention, clearly your inclusion focus is not working.
People are different and everyone prefers to work in a certain way. By observing the work style differences in our colleagues, a leader can leverage the strengths of each of those work styles. Understanding the values of each work styles and recognizing how to work together as a team can create a more productive and happier work environment. By ensuring that different work styles are represented in every project, you position your team and your company for innovation, creativity, growth and sustainability.