I have worked with and for many organizations during my career — from great to truly horrible, and everything in between. Ever since I took Organizational Behaviour 101 in business school I became fascinated with the relationship between people and work, and how this relationship impacts business outcomes. Even though my career is 17 years long I am still trying to figure all of this out, and I likely will continue until I retire.
One specific area of my work that has been truly rewarding is diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Maybe it’s because I have a severe hearing disability and speech impediment, or maybe it’s because I work in the most diverse country in the world, Canada. Whatever the case may be, I have seen firsthand that diversity and inclusion is positively correlated to employee engagement and business results. The data that I have personally collected through my work proves this, and I always talk about this whenever I have the opportunity to present on diversity and inclusion at conferences and events. Have a look at my last big presentation that I did at the Achievers’ ACE 2016 conference in Toronto late last year (slides below).
This relationship between diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement is not a simple one to wrap your head around. It’s not black and white, or linear in nature. However, leading employee engagement platform, Culture Amp, teamed up with Paradigm to publish a report called the, “New Technology Industry Diversity & Inclusion Report 2017“. I encourage you to read the article, and download the report.
What I got out of this report is the notion that diversity and inclusion initiatives that have a strong focus on “belonging” are likely to be more successful. It states that for groups that feel underrepresented, they feel that diversity is more important. But as the group starts to feel that they are represented, their desires shift to wanting to feel included. Further, one specific finding opened my eyes to what I have been saying for years. It said that someone who felt that there was not diversity in their workplace could still feel that they belonged. The sense of belonging suggests that it benefits the same people that traditional divesity and inclusion initiatives attempt to reach. Why? It’s more about “inclusion” and less about “diversity”.
My last statement does not, and I repeat, does NOT minimize the importance of diversity in the workplace. It is unbelievably important, and it’s one of the core things that I look for in organizations. Diversity represents the mix of employees (i.e. the numbers), which in my opinion, is what the majority of organizations, legislation and policy makers focus on. Inclusion, on the other hand, is getting the mix to work well together. Inclusion is about knocking down barriers, enabling your employees to bring their true selves to work in order to flourish and realize infinite success, and getting your employees to work extremely well together. This is incredibly difficult to do, but is crucial to business success, as I have articulated.
The True Challenge
As we continue to find ways to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces we need to spend more time on the inclusion part of the equation. This is far more difficult to do than the diversity part, but is what will truly create diverse and inclusive organizations. Just because you have ticked all of the boxes on your workplace diversity checklist does not mean you are an inclusive workplace. So, my challenge to all of you is to go back to your HR strategies and practices and throw an “inclusion layer” on them and ask yourself where you stand on the workplace inclusion front. It’s not an easy exercise, but it will be unbelievably rewarding for you and the organization you work for. Plus senior leaders will love you because the impact will be positively felt on the business side.
I will be publishing a follow post on how to build more inclusive workplaces, and will also have a cool announcement. Stay tuned!