Diversity and inclusion has thankfully become more visible as a topic of discussion in the boardroom. Yet, organizations that encourage a diverse workforce, aren’t necessarily fully diverse, nor are they inclusive. In this article, we explore how to put more ‘I’ in your ‘D&I’ agenda.

An Inclusive Workforce

Companies have come a long way in the last decade to embrace diversity in their hiring. Diversity—the practice of hiring people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.,—has been encouraged by pressure groups and organizations like the National Diversity Council, asking organizations to see diversity as a business imperative.

Recent research conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, backs the argument that increasing the diversity of leadership teams is good for business :

  • Leads to more and better innovation.
  • Improves financial performance – in fact, companies with diverse management teams have 19 percent higher revenue due to innovation.
  • Increases adaptability, due to different viewpoints and solutions.

Sometimes, however, adopted agendas to choose from a wider talent pool fall short of creating an inclusive workforce, i.e., the act or state of being included. But before we jump into that topic, let’s first revisit how diversity has broadened over time.

Learn more about our approach to diversity

Going Big on Diversity

Let’s start with the basics. Diversity has been a topic of debate for a long, long time. In the US, American settlers’ relations with Indians were conflicted from the outset. Colonization activity before 1776 displaced native tribes, resulting in violent clashes. When people talk about diversity in the workplace today, what are they talking about?

The American Bar Association (ABA) defines diversity as “the term used to describe the set of policies, practices, and programs that change the rhetoric of inclusion into empirically measurable change.”

In the US, diversity falls into what the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EOEC) defines as a protected class. Protected classes include individual workers who are protected in the employment and hiring process under a number of federal US employment laws and include the following groups:

  • Age (over 40)
  • Disability
  • Genetic Information
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/Color
  • Region
  • Sex

There is also a ninth protected class for organizations that are federal contractors that include veterans and military. One would hope that companies today do consider all of these groups for their roles. That said, there are other aspects of diversity often overlooked. Examples include:

Cognitive and Neurodiversity

We all know that some people are straight-line thinkers, other more imaginative, some great with figures. Everyone thinks in different ways. More extreme versions of cognitive diversity include people with Aspergers or Dyslexia. Diversity found in intellectual functioning is tough to notice, and often requires additional tooling to accommodate.

Behavior and Ethodiversity

Behavior comes as the result of the unique experiences each of us gains through the way we are brought up and the events that we’ve encountered along the way. It’s easy to be judgemental of behaviors by failing to respect these subtle nuances in colleagues have arisen through a different kind of upbringing.

Personality and Thought-style

People think in different ways. You might notice managers tend to employ people that think along the same lines as themselves. This is one of the reasons why companies ask individuals to complete personality tests. But that too can be disruptive in its outcomes, if assumptions of the the of personality required for a role are misguided by bias.

Cultural background

There are other aspects of character and personality that we’ve grouped under ‘culture’ that can find bias in hiring processes, such as accents, food language, and cultural behaviors; such as the tendency of some cultures not to start work early, and others to take an early afternoon break. It’s easy to fall into the habit of expecting individuals from other cultures to work in the way of YOUR culture. All this does is force people to work when they’re less able to work, which isn’t the best way to optimize their work-life experience or achieve optimum productivity.

Diversity and Inclusion

Taking Inclusion the Extra Mile

The best way to transition from a diverse workforce to an inclusive workforce culture is to INCLUDE your workforce in decisions on the norms of behavior that SHOULD exist in your organization.

Often, the way we work together as teams in a business is dictated by management teams, commonly from the same background. In consequence, workforce behaviors and assumptions on hiring come from a small pocket of cultural and behavioral understanding. Even when any personal bias is swept aside, the consequence of dictating behavioral policies and expectations—rather than engaging your people in a discussion on what standards of behavior are acceptable— will always fall short of the mark.

Consider establishing HIRING PANELS that boost diversity in decision makers for new hires, and take hiring decisions out of the hands of any one individual.

You can also go the extra mile and create a POLICY PANEL made of people from different backgrounds, or run INCLUSION WORKSHOPS every few years to reset the latent understanding of what ‘norms of behavior’ should be deemed acceptable by the company and its workforce.

For more ideas on how to design your talent strategy and workforce, speak to one of our consultants.