Building a culture of belonging: Embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Building a culture of belonging: Embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Though the terms diversity and inclusion are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. When it comes to workplaces and organisations, Resources for Employers defines diversity as, “the variation in personal, physical and social characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, age, and education” while “inclusion refers to the procedures organisations implement to integrate everyone in the workplace, allowing their differences to coexist in a mutually beneficial way.” So while diversity answers the ‘what question,’ inclusion answers the ‘how.’ Workplaces must be diverse and inclusive in nature and approach. Without inclusion and diversity as core values, workplace equality is impossible, and both prospective employees and workplaces have a huge cost to pay. While prospective employees may miss out on employment opportunities because of the lack of D&I (diversity and inclusion) values, workplaces themselves may miss out on fresh and innovative perspectives, better performance and goodwill of employees and customers. Here are actionable strategies to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, creating an environment where every employee feels valued, respected, and empowered.

Mission, vision and important conversations 

Workplaces must integrate diversity and inclusion as core values in their mission and vision. However, merely citing them as core values is not sufficient to create actionable change. Organisations must adopt an active open-door policy, and CEOs, team leaders, and HRs must take public stances for D&I values during lectures, talks, presentations or even on social media. Incorporating D&I as core values would also include raising awareness of the same amongst all employees and demonstrating to them what such values mean specifically for the organisation.

Educate organisational leadership

The second most important step in setting up D&I values as core principles is to thoroughly educate thought and organisational leadership about the same. Leaders must know that the organisation takes such values seriously and that they are required to keep those in mind when carrying out various tasks of or on behalf of the organisation. When the leaders of an organisation are careful and considerate towards, D&I values, they percolate into all levels of the organisation.

Accountability board 

Implicit in the idea of upholding certain values, is also the idea of accountability. Without accountability, it is hard to ensure that such values are translated into actions. Therefore, regular inclusion surveys and feedback must be conducted to collect data from the organisation’s employees. Data must also be collected to determine the level of diversity in the organisation. Both must be constantly increasing and evolving. An organisation may set up an accountability board to ensure accountability for D&I values.

Diversity and inclusion as a business strategy 

One way to integrate D&I values in the employees and business of the organisation is to treat diversity and inclusion as business strategies to glean benefits from the diverse perspectives of as many people as possible. This would mean active and adequate involvement of everyone in the team while making important business decisions. 

Removing gatekeepers and implicit biases 

Gatekeepers and implicit biases are some of the biggest hurdles to creating an inclusive and diverse workplace. Gatekeepers are those individuals who once make it into the organisation, obstruct others from achieving the same success by depriving them of the knowledge and resources required to make it into the organisation. Gatekeeping could also include leadership that refuses to mentor younger employees to impede their progress. On the other hand, implicit biases are unconscious attitudes and beliefs towards certain social groups. For example, if an HR has an implicit bias towards a prospective employee from a certain social, cultural, ethnic, racial or religious background, they might not hire them despite the candidate's skills and qualifications. 

Encouraging socialisation at work 

A fun way to uphold D&I values within the organisation is to organise team meetings, lunches, picnics and games for employees to get to know each other and socialise despite differences in background. The aim of such events must be to portray ‘differences’ as what they are: diversity. Organisations may also organise cultural events such as ethnic days, multilingual celebrations, and potlucks. 

Diverse hiring pool 

Organisations must ensure that during hiring drives, they reach and take into consideration as many candidates from diverse backgrounds as they can. A diverse hiring pool is the result of an effective open-door policy that operates from the approach of inclusion and from the drive to bring in as much fresh talent as possible. 

Hiring calls for people from marginalised communities

Workplaces could go a step ahead and put out hiring calls specifically for people from marginalised communities and backgrounds who are not adequately represented in their organisation. This would eliminate some competition and make the opportunity much more accessible to the members of marginalised communities. 

Without the values of diversity and inclusion, a workplace can't foster a sense of belonging. Employees who possess a strong sense of belonging are loyal, efficient and more productive because they feel respected and cared for by the organisation. The values of diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand and mutually benefit both the employer and the employee.