Diversity and inclusion, all business leaders and HR Heads know, are keys to employee wellbeing and long-term organizational success. Though the two words are distinct concepts, yet they are often used interchangeably or lumped together, with a disproportionately high focus only on diversity. Often, organizations have this bias for diversity. Here are some reasons.
# Diversity, in contrast to inclusion, is easy to measure, this being a matter of headcount. It helps organizations to show they have complied the mandate. In other words, ticking the diversity box is easy.
# It helps organizations to avoid addressing, “inclusion”, as a separate category, which is a difficult metric to track. Inclusion entails hard work and imagination, and may require the organizations to navigate many unexpected obstacles, complexities, and pitfalls. Lumping helps them to mask the inconvenient or difficult part.
# Complying/ensuring diversity, as an outcome, seem not only tangible but also immediate. Obviously, propensity or incentive to chase diversity number, and achieve it, is more.
Why Inclusion so critical?
But then, why organizations must proactively seek inclusion, alongside diversity?
# Even with judicious representation of diverse workforce of women, people of color and age, or LGBT plus individuals, without an inclusive environment, organizations will struggle to achieve long-term performance outcomes. Diversity cannot be meaningful, fruitful, and sustainable without inclusion.
# Diversity alone doesn’t drive inclusion. In fact, without inclusion there could be a diversity backlash. Employees who feel excluded are less likely to be engaged at work and are more likely to leave. With inclusivity, diversity flourish organically.
# Without inclusion, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and all that lead to business growth, is difficult to create.
# Organizations can, undoubtedly, have competitive edge with diversity, by having diverse talented workforce. Yet, inclusion can help their potential unlock fully.
Inclusion entails building a work climate where employees feel accepted, respected, supported and valued. It means allowing employees to fully participate in decision-making processes and development opportunities. It is a long haul and a challenge. The challenge comes from the fact that feelings, sentiments and perceptions are so difficult or dicey to quantify and measure. And, as they say, what can’t be measured can’t be monitored.
Yet HR leaders, across organizations, are trying out ingenuous ways to measure inclusion. The art is not perfect, nor it can ever be. Nonetheless, research, surveys and experiments are being conducted to ace it. In this regard, Gartner, through extensive surveys, has developed an Inclusion Index to measure what true inclusion looks like across an organization. The new research, for instance, outlines how to put numbers to the concept of inclusion and suggests organizations to ask just seven questions to get a holistic view of inclusion from their workforce. The following are the statements that form the basis of the Gartner Inclusion Index.
- Fair treatment: Employees at my organization who help the organization achieve its strategic objectives are rewarded and recognized fairly.
- Integrating differences: Employees at my organization respect and value each other’s opinions.
- Decision making: Members of my team fairly consider ideas and suggestions offered by other team members.
- Psychological safety: I feel welcome to express my true feelings at work.
- Trust: Communication we receive from the organization is honest and open.
- Belonging: People in my organization care about me.
- Diversity: Managers at my organization are as diverse as the broader workforce.
Obviously, the degree to which employees agree with these statements would indicate the depth of inclusion.
Five proven steps
Post-pandemic, the complexity in ensuring inclusivity has further increased. With remote working culture, there is now a geographically distributed workforce who look for flexible work options. Employees are also placing higher importance on equity. The new demands and aspirations have posed fresh challenges for organizations in attracting and retaining talents. Clearly, talent management has emerged as a vital task for HR leaders.
Notwithstanding the incisive analyses, surveys, research and other academic work on inclusion, there are however some simple, practical and easy steps, organizations can always try out to foster an inclusive climate at workplace. Here are five such practical and proven steps:
#Listen to the employees: Asking them to share their experiences and feelings is vital. This can be achieved through open conversations, discussions and dialogues. Employees’ daily interactions with peers, teammates and leaders enhance their personal experiences. This participative environment helps dissuade the feelings of being overlooked or dwarfed. On finding visibility, employees naturally get confidence and inclination to share their ideas and insights.
#Show concern for employees’ well-being: Progressive and humane HR policy is key to create a sense of belongingness. This importantly should include guidelines on protecting dignity of employees and taking prompt action to prevent and stop any inappropriate behavior. Promoting written communication in gender-inclusive language also may convey a good signal.
#Sensitize and train: Conducting regular sensitization sessions and tailor-made training programs for the workforce, can help change skewed perspectives and narrow mindset, if any.
#Obtain employee feedback: This is a very useful data source for measuring inclusion, especially when HR leaders, after first figuring out the right metrics, ask the right questions. Gartner Inclusion Index, as stated above, can be of use.
#Design a clear, well-defined career path: Mapping the capabilities of employee and providing them right opportunities at the right time, would go a long way in driving engagement.
Inclusion help employees bring their whole selves to work. But for that to happen, the HR leaders and business captains themselves need to act as inclusive leaders. Mere intent to foster inclusion won’t work or create impact. Walking in the shoes of diverse groups, and being an integral part of their core values, the leaders can bridge the intent-impact gap.
Written by Ram Krishna Sinha.
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