Earlier this year, we hosted a discussion on the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Five leaders from the Metro-Detroit community joined us to share their insights and best practices for creating a diverse and inclusive work environment.
Throughout the conversation, these leaders outlined some of the best practices and challenges that many companies face when focusing on diversity and inclusion. They acknowledged that while many businesses are taking a step in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Defining Diversity & Inclusion
While diversity and inclusion are often grouped together, it’s important to understand the big difference between the two terms. Simply put, diversity assumes you have a mix of people while inclusion assumes you’re engaging that mix of people.
According to the RBC’s policy, “Inclusion is about being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.”
Many times, leadership teams will bring a diverse group of people to the table but fall short when it comes time to engage those people in a conversation. By focusing on diversity but not inclusion, companies will have a full, yet very leaky bucket. This can have the unintended consequence of making your diverse staff feel undervalued.
How Diversity & Inclusion Affect the Bottom Line
While diversity and inclusion can have a positive impact your team, the benefits go far beyond employee engagement. By establishing strong policies and best practices, every part of your organization can be positively affected.
A recent study by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Although the study doesn’t show causation, it does indicate that when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful.
To put it simply – if you’re trying to create a product or service to meet the needs of all, you need to actively reach out and seek the opinion and ideas of all. Many companies want to think globally, but don’t realize the people driving new ideas are very like-minded. It’s the responsibility of the leadership team to engage individual with diverse backgrounds and perspectives s to understand every viewpoint of the organization.
At the end of the day, people are a company’s greatest asset. A recent study from Deloitte Australia found that inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments. These results can help improve job satisfaction, employee retention and inspire innovative ideas from employees of all backgrounds. This survey shows that It’s imperative for companies to place a strong emphasis on retention, engagement and employee satisfaction.
After all, happy employees are more likely to outperform in the workplace, so it’s important to make sure you have a company culture that feels good to your employees.
Implementing Diversity & Inclusion into Your Workplace
While many companies understand the value of diversity and inclusion, leadership teams are finding it difficult to implement programs in this area. Although establishing a policy is a great start, many organizations fall short when it comes to implementation.
Companies need to go beyond writing policies by putting practices in place to bring their policies to life. If employees don’t know how to implement it across the organization than the policy has fallen short.
For diversity and inclusion policies to be impactful, companies need to understand what the policy is trying to accomplish. A company needs to define how the diversity policy will impact the hiring process, including interview and selection criteria, what respect looks like among employees and the best way to communicate with each other.
The best place to start is for leadership teams to lead by example. Diversity and inclusion need to be more than one-on-one or group training; it needs to be something you talk about and “live” regularly. Many leaders struggle to understand the impact of diversity and inclusion on a company’s bottom line. Like any key initiative, leaders must first understand how diversity and inclusion affect the entire company for any policy to be effective.
One local example of a successful diversity and inclusion program is OneMacomb, an initiative launched in 2013 Macomb County, Michigan. OneMacomb was created to promote multiculturalism and inclusion efforts throughout the county after a study published in 2012 showed changing demographics within their community. OneMacomb helps identify best practices in recruiting, hiring, training employees and delivery of county services. This initiative is strengthening Macomb’s economy, and advocating for an inclusive community that values and supports multiculturalism.
A challenge many companies face when implementing diversity and inclusion is finding a way to get everyone involved. Many employees can feel that the training doesn’t apply to them or may come with unconscious biases. When leaders talk about diversity and inclusion, some people may feel it’s favoring one group over another. When that happens, it becomes exclusive, not inclusive, and it can become a challenge to implement.
The Future of Diversity and Inclusion
As the demographics of our community evolve, it’s important for our workplaces to transform. Leaders must define best practices and implement changes from the top down.
As our panel concluded, the experts spoke about how the success of diversity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility and spoke about a rule called Learn, Apply, Share (LAS). LAS helps you put aside your assumptions or unconscious bias and forces you out of your comfort zone. The process breaks down all the stereotypes and helps employees learn something new about one another. It empowers each employee to affect change.
To effect change, the Lt. Governor, Brian Calley, launched the Mi Hidden Talent initiative to provide more employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. He encourages all Michigan companies to focus on what people can do instead of what they can’t.
“By focusing on ability rather than disability, your company can change lives and enrich Michigan.” – Lt. Governor Brian Calley