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How Does Diversity Without Inclusion Affect an Organisation

When we talk about leadership, the first few words that come to our mind would be “helping beautify others,” and “making an impact.” Once a person attains a leadership position, their prime intention would be to make a difference.

How Does Diversity Without Inclusion Affect an Organisation

 

A well-articulated diversity agenda has consistently been the focus of organisations that have made remarkable progress in their D&I journey. For a long time, diversity in Indian workplaces was defined through the gender lens. Workforce diversity also includes generational, cultural, religious, racial and geographical diversities. In the initial stages, an organisation focuses on initiatives and the focus shifts to model behaviours as the mission progresses.

In the efforts to become equal opportunity institutions, organizations place a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusivity, which is consistent with their values and culture. Brainstorming of D&I goals needs to happen at the top level. Setting realistic goals together and being open to feedback at all times are essential practices for instituting and achieving D&I goals faster.

What is diversity without inclusion?

Diversity without embracing inclusivity is a sure recipe for disaster. For instance, the possible outcomes would be a struggle for power, harassment and assigning “gender roles” within a work environment intentionally or otherwise. A diverse pool of employees contributes extremely well to creative and “out of the box” thinking with their diverse experiences and socio-economic backgrounds. If the ideas are criticised and rejected without any discussion by the team leaders, diversity becomes pointless. Diversity is nurtured only in an inclusive environment.

In a nutshell, true inclusion is when all people from diverse backgrounds feel accepted, valued and respected. Diversity is like preparing an elaborate menu for a dinner party without considering the guests’ preferences. Inclusion is when everybody gets to enjoy the feast. There is no point boasting of a diverse workforce if each of those employees does not feel included. The feeling of non-inclusiveness arises from various factors. A few reasons are lack of awareness and exposure, personal bias, or the unwillingness to be open-minded and welcoming.

Tips to improve inclusion

Inclusion is largely dependent on the company culture and the responsibility of shaping the organisational culture is on the senior leaders.

i.        Create awareness

The seniors form the connection between the management and the employees. Hence the first step towards improving inclusion is to educate the senior leaders. Many a time, one’s personal biases come in the way of inclusive behaviour. Such unconscious judgements can be overcome with education and proper training. Regular D & I training and sensitization programs are increasingly becoming an integral part of the corporate policies of many Indian organisations.

ii.        Set goals and communicate

Inclusion goals that are set need to be communicated to the whole team. There should be an open channel of communication between the policymakers and the employees to ensure that the goals are achieved. The HR department and team leaders need to ensure that the policies that are in place are effective and serve the purpose. This is possible only with discussions, assessments and two-way communication.

iii.       Revise the policies

As an inclusive organisation, the HR policy needs to consider and include leaves for significant occasions that are generally not celebrated in the location of work. The policies need to be structured in a way that candidates feel welcome right from the acquisition stage through the retention phase. A neutral job description, a diverse interview panel and specialised psychometric analyses need to be part of the hiring strategy. Rather than coming up with a long list of policies and not following through, it is best to introduce simple and realistic policies and work steadily.

iv.       Introduce team-building activities

In any team-level or organisation-level decision-making, the management needs to consciously include employees from diverse cultures, races, religions and sexual orientations. Celebrating diverse traditions together at the workplace is a great way to make everyone included. Everyone will feel included if significant days for all groups are celebrated, including those for minority communities where they might have previously experienced some form of discrimination.

Challenges of implementing D&I policies and driving workplace inclusion

Diversity and DEI goals are not event-based or number-based. When an organisation starts treating DEI objectives as metrics that need to be chased every year, the whole idea becomes futile. The strategies need to be integrated with corporate policies and approached in a way that drives workplace inclusion. If that alignment is not there, diversity and inclusion become merely a fancy statement for attracting fresh talent. DEI initiatives are aimed at making human lives and collaborative functioning easier in the workplace.

When an employee goes out of the way and respects diversity at work, the organisation needs to appreciate their efforts publicly. Encouraging employees and rewarding good behaviour drives employee engagement as well. Diversity is a catalyst for innovative thinking, better decision making and team building. Inclusion is what strengthens the team and boosts engagement and retention.

The goals and plans of DEI do not serve everyone equally. A “one size fits all” approach does not work when trying to achieve inclusion. Rather, a customised approach whereby the organisation understands the psychology of each employee through communication and psychometric assessments helps in driving inclusion. At the end of the day, the DEI strategies should ensure fair representation of its workforce.