Employee Branding

Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace

Diversity and inclusion isn’t just trying to make sure no-one is sitting alone in a corner. It is about allowing people to build on their best attributes and empowering them to reach their full potential.

A mono-culture love affair and why it needs a divorce

Inclusiveness isn’t just trying to make sure no-one is sitting alone in a corner. It is about allowing people to build on their best attributes and empowering them to reach their full potential. If we look at today’s working landscape, everyone is expected to be able to be an expert in several fields, just to get the work done. The expert is quickly falling by the wayside, especially as now courses are available for pretty much everything you can imagine. Aptitude is irrelevant until someone is required to go deep into a subject. Know a bit of Python? Have a crack at being a data scientist. Except, Udemy or YouTube might forget the critical factors, such as bias in data and how to ethically process the data.

The same can be said for inclusiveness. If you only scratch the surface, yet walk around like you’ve solved the world’s problems, you are hurting the long-term value of your companies’ culture.

Creating a culture of inclusivity is more important than ever in today’s climate. People have more choices now to earn a salary and are looking for more genuine places to work, that aren’t all about just paying the bills.

Some of the things altering the traditional workplace are changing the way we live our lives as we know it. Being in the digital age, swimming in the intelligent transformation parable, we can choose where and when we work. With whom we work and with what. That might seem like a privileged viewpoint, but in this day and age, privilege comes with the internet. People can create a new life, reach people who were far out of reach and become what dreams are made of. The only requirement is confidence and perhaps a stable internet connection.

When people say they can’t have money or are down on their luck, the question begs, what are they doing about their situation other than complaining about how unlucky they are. Sometimes, all it takes is to be included. To have someone believe in them.

Inclusiveness is one of the most important empathetical traits to look for in employees and to the one that should be encouraged to grow. In the future, empathy will be one of the most highly sought-after soft skills, as the machine age evolves into a fully automated sphere, we exist in.

”Diversity is about who you hire. Inclusion is about the respect and acceptance people feel.”

Gallup, Diversity, and Inclusion. Retrieved from: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/215939/diversity-inclusion.aspx

For leaders working with distributed workforces, inclusion becomes a next-level part of the job. How do you make people feel included when they are sitting in another part of the country, or an office on the other side of the world? One way to do this is to have regular conversations with the people you are managing and those who have a daily impact on those very same people. Asking the simple question of how are they going? It can often be a precursor to opening up further about how everything is going in the workplace.

Asking them to create a presentation on something they are interested in, whether it be employee branding, business process diagrams or a product concept they’ve been mulling over, go along to provide an inclusive environment, where people can thrive.

Finding out about what people like to do is part of being an inclusive leader. Telling people what they must do, even if it not in their field of work, is detrimental and a major cause of stress in the workplace.

Within Matrix organisations, it is common for people to change roles. This is all well and good, and for some people, it can be a breath of fresh air, a way for them to switch careers to something they’ve been dreaming about for a while. For others, it can be a nightmare situation. A case of management not listening to what their employees want from their workplace.

We spend so much time at work, it needs to be in an environment where people are understood and inclusiveness, based on respect and understanding are highly valued.

Many companies talk about diversity as if they are at the forefront of a movement. They seem to be diverse for diversities sake. A stark reflection of the might of the marketing engine, moving chess pieces in an elaborate board of attention-grabbing headlines, that don’t consider the pawns.

Diversity is a buzzword that should be defunct in this day and age. The adage that we ‘need more women’ in the workplace and ‘more people of different ethnic backgrounds’, is a morally respectful point, but if there is not a base culture of inclusion, no matter what diversity initiatives that are created, they will fail.

How can we encourage more diversity in our workplace?

Take into consideration the knowledge sharing of each other’s culture and perhaps an information meeting for new hires, on how the culture of the team is distributed and what traditions or idiosyncrasies are within the team and the wider organisation.

A country that is known for not having hierarchies between management and employees, will often have issues when dealing with a country that is known for hierarchies and extensive rules.

Being included within an organisation is one of the most important aspects of work-life joy. Where inclusiveness is absent, employee’s ability to work within the created structure folds and oftentimes the situation can become hopeless. Or employees end up working in silos, with an individualist attitude that, in the long term, cannot be sustained. It can also stunt the growth of others.

Here’s where empathy, that word that people don’t understand, except when talking about what humans have that machines don’t have or can’t do, comes into play.

Starting from the top: Empathy and inclusiveness

There are generally three different kinds of empathy.

Cognitive, being able to see another’s perspective, but not necessarily feeling any sympathy.

Emotional, feeling others on an emotional level, you cry when they cry.

Compassionate, understanding someone’s pain and helping to do something about it.

As mentioned, when someone says they are down on their luck, as a leader, or colleague, the empathic mechanism you need to arm yourself with is compassionate. How can you lead the horse to the water? And get the job done at the same time?

For a start, you make sure the horse is the right fit for the person. If the horse is bucking and stalling, perhaps you should reflect on your leadership style and try to figure out why the horse is reacting this way. Second, you need to look at the environment surrounding the horse. Is it starved of inspiration? Do the other horses bite it? Or is it just plodding along like a draught horse?

Determining the employee and how they work, will help you greatly when it comes time to have that talk with them and determine a way forward. The same can go for new hires and moving people into different roles and departments. What gets that person excited? How can you be inclusive while not being micromanaging the emotions of other people? The idea is the new arrivals, or people moving departments, also need to put the hard work in to include the people around them in their daily lives. If you start in a silo, at times you must put the effort n to move from the silo to the field, increasing work-life joy and also creating opportunities.

Identifying how a diverse and inclusive workforce can aid in achieving business objectives aligned with the company’s strategy is the next step in the process.”

SHRM – How to develop a diversity and inclusion initiative.

HR or People and Experiences Departments can help a great deal, if not instigate the path of inclusion within a workplace. Be that a distributed workforce or otherwise.

Creating an environment that encourages inclusiveness, by celebrating different national days together, sharing different country facts, or cultural videos on your intranet can go a long way. A great example could be the humor or slang of one country that could be misconstrued in another. Videos are great to demonstrate the differences.

As mentioned, people need to be aware of other’s cultural sensibilities, but remember they have cultural sensitivities too. This last point is often forgotten when we force different people from alternate cultures to work together.

We talk a lot about the culture, what about different personalities?

We can’t talk about inclusiveness without also considering the personalities of the workforce. What some people call internal culture. However, personality is a better term when you look at the bigger picture. Placements of specific people in teams can make a huge impact on the functioning of that team.

Again, this is where HR should be involved and give guidance on the matter of team formation, or should at the least include a member from the Management team who has an understanding of inclusiveness and takes into account when formulating teams and giving people promotions.

How will that person act when given power? How will the people who are managed by the person being promoted feel about it, or react to the situation?

Taking it back, this is where empathy comes in. Both cognitive, being able to see another person’s perspective, and Compassionate, understanding the perspective and hopefully bypassing the pains.

Usually, instinct in these circumstances should be trusted. Being a bull at a gate and charging forward without looking at how the future will play out, will, in the end, cost money and create a workplace that is not a happy one.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to be aware of the circumstances and what is happening in the company. Or you instate someone who will listen and act accordingly. At times, disagreeing with management. Of course, this is where you need to have complete trust and as a leader, be humble enough to step back and let people who are trained in the area of people and inclusiveness take the reins. It is also your responsibility to keep an eye on people who are not happy and who are not doing their best work. Why are they unhappy at work? What can be done? How do you make them feel they can ask for assistance?

Where can I start on the road to divorce my monoculture? – Inclusiveness that is tangible and will work?

A good place to start could be having everyone take a personality test. While they’re not 100%, it gives you a base to work from. This should be done by knowing who the person is, to give you grounding and get to know who you’re working with. It also gives a good idea about who would work well together.

There are a few tests out there, but perhaps, one of the most well-known personality tests is the Myers & Briggs version, inspired by Carl G. Jung’s theory. The theory of Myers & Briggs can seem quite complex, but when it’s broken down into a Q & A format, it can be completed at a faster pace. The information is easier to digest in this format. At times, an employee’s personal life can be quite different from their home life. It is important to state that the answers should relate to people’s work lives. If they keep revolving back to their home life, ask them to outline how they would like their work-life to resemble more closely to their work-life or vice versa.

Second is asking strategic questions to determine how people feel about others. This could be anonymous to encourage people to be completely honest. It can tell you a lot about your company culture and the personalities you have in your workplace. Both on a cultural and personal level. Starting is key.

The third step is having interviews with people where they feel comfortable telling you about what they enjoy about their job and the parts they find difficult. Implementing Cognitive empathic techniques to have a bird’s eye view of the situation, will help you determine the way forward.

It is important to remember that not everyone is a born leader, but having a custom-built team, helps a great deal for company cohesion and, in turn, business success.

“As I learned about years ago in my work with Scotiabank, the only way to build a local business is to “become part of the local economy.” This means localising your brand, localising your product offerings, and localising your talent and leadership, with a focus on empowering these people to make local decisions.”

Josh Bersin, https://joshbersin.com/2018/08/diversity-and-inclusion-is-a-business-strategy-not-an-hr-program/

A radical proposal could be having a diversity and inclusion officer at your workplace, on a local level, who also works closely with HR. This could be a solution, although the person must be neutral, as favouritism has no place when determining a good, inclusive fit. They also must have the Compassionate and Cognitive empathic traits, to ensure emotional intelligence is measured and acted upon in relevance to a situation. As the last point, follow up is key. This will help to ensure your better judgment on the human skills side of the equation, are justified.

This measure can be particularly beneficial with companies that are undergoing an acquisition or are growing at a rapid pace. The long-term benefits will prove themselves. You only have to look at Microsoft for an example, where Diversity and Inclusion Directors are being instated company-wide. With Microsoft, there is a strong lean towards the inclusion of women in general, and women from minority communities. Starting from the base educational level.

Having diversity can help your business to grow, so long as it is inclusive, and not done just to appease the public view of a company. Change must come from the top-level and flow through a whole organisation.

Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes, just like a spouse

Diversity isn’t only based on including people of all sexes, cultural background, and personality type. It should also include people who have a disability, or whose brain functions differently. Society needs to embrace everybody if we are to create a world where everyone is taken care of. Perhaps, it’s a naïve viewpoint, but the more people who are out there earning money, the more a community thrives. Both on an economical level and a personal level.

This is all well and good, but it doesn’t help me to quickly solve the issues I’m facing with diversity and inclusion and find a new, forward-thinking partner in crime

Diversity and inclusion strategies are long term business goals, that need to be treated as such. You don’t slap on a finance title and role without first making sure the person who is taking on that role knows something about numbers and business needs. So why do the same with diversity and inclusion?

Next-level communication and self-guided materials on how to be more inclusive and be aware of one’s failings at the same time, can help as a starting point. Remember, failings can always be improved upon if the person is open to it. If they’re not, no matter what type of environment the horse is in, it will not drink the water. Perhaps it’s best if they move on. Harsh as it might seem, you might find a collective sigh of relief when the non-drinking horse finds somewhere else to stable its unmoving body.

As with everything, education is key and having leaders who can lead, while seeing the big picture at the same time, is crucial in moving forward with creating a workplace that is celebrated, and makes people want to come to work every day.

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