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Inclusion before Diversity

In the last two years of COVID and work from home, I got to socialize with several people who were not a part of my daily life earlier. Some of them, though very different from the crowd, influenced me big time. I realized that every type of personality is unique and is necessary to make any culture complete and meaningful. I also realized that clubbing the distinct strengths of different personalities can result in a superb and more enabled society.

As life is getting back to normal now, I took this thought of embracing diversity a step ahead, i.e., to the corporate world. But the question that hit me was, “Is diversity really enough for any environment to thrive?” “No.” Diversity needs inclusion to prosper. Further, inclusion depends upon the sense of belonging, which simply put, centres around the employee experience of feeling accepted in the workplace. Sadly, most employers use diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives primarily for compliance purposes.

Clear Benefits Galore

The trend of leveraging a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce to increase the overall bottom-line is new . The organizations that focus on DEIB beyond the need to be compliant reap the fruits of an inclusive culture. The pulse surveys in such corporates show distinctively high employee engagement scores. Their hiring results are better, and they report increased profits. Even when faced with the Great Resignation, they are able to significantly control their attrition numbers.

Why Inclusion?

The secret recipe to the success of these organizations is that they ensure not to leave anyone behind on the basis of ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, and culture. All talent is equally welcome, and the environment is so inclusive to each form of diversity that they breathe openly and don’t need to cover up their true selves or pretend to be amongst the masses. In such workplaces, each individual is trained to believe that diversity is a truth, and it needs to be celebrated and not hidden behind the veil of belonging to the majority.

Times Are Changing!

Concern for diversity existed a decade back too, but the meaning of the term was limited to maintaining male-female ratio. Companies have been tracking such ratios for long, however, now the focus has shifted to making the diverse workforce feel included. Organizations that succeed at their DEIB initiatives measure inclusion, not diversity! Ensuring good ratios in hiring women candidates is not as important as comforting them with the much-needed maternity benefit, family time off, health care, creche facility, and work from home. Further, it is essential to ensure diversity-friendly policies and practices at different stages of career, like hiring, promotions and sharing the table with the CXOs. Likewise, cross­-generational teams and other opportunities for collaboration across age groups are getting created. This way, workers learn to value and utilize the differences that each generation brings.

Leadership Matters

The leaders play a key role in creating an inclusive culture and in motivating all workforces to be committed to creating a work environment where everyone thrives. They are the first to step up and lead an organization’s transformation in a diverse and complex environment. They need to be the torch bearers and need to lead by example as inclusion can be driven only top down. While diversity is on the rise, the leaders need to act out of genuine commitment rather than ‘checking the box’. In order to do that, inclusion needs to be amongst the core values of the organization and everyone across the board must be convinced to stand by those values.

 

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