Diversity is not new, or complicated, but sometimes appears, or is made to appear, to be both. In the organisational context, diversity appears to have rapidly increased in recent years, which is attributable to a number of factors. Similarly, the concept of inclusion does not need to be feared as complicated, as individuals simply wish to be allowed to be themselves.
There’s growing significance placed on creating environments where a variety of different voices are encouraged and heard. These voices come from people who may or may not be of the same gender, race, or ethnicity.
Building an inclusive environment
In most organisations, diversity and inclusion is best approached with a top-down, bottom-up strategy. While it’s imperative that diversity and inclusion efforts are supported by senior management and actively engages leaders, one cannot discount the impact of employee involvement. Engaging employees at all levels is the most effective way to reach critical mass and communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion. Often employees are eager to join in the process but lack the know-how and confidence to take action.
How Employees Can Support Diversity and Inclusion:
1. Becoming culturally competent. Take the time to learn about different cultures, races, religions and backgrounds represented by your colleagues. Ask your co-workers to share some of the customs and practices associated with their cultures. Become familiar with diversity-related terms.
2. Treat people in a way they wish to be treated rather than the way you wish to be treated. Common social activities and practices that are comfortable for you may not be comfortable for everyone.
3. Drive positive change in the organisation. Be a spokesperson for diversity issues that are not necessarily your own. Any organisation will find it difficult to ignore the powerful voice created when groups representing different diversity dimensions unite.
4. Welcome ideas that are different from your own, and support fellow teammates. The creativity that comes with diversity can help you generate new ideas or improve a process already in place. It can also make work more interesting, engaging, and fun.
5. Understand the diversity elements you personally bring to the organisation. Diversity comes not only in the form of culture, race, and gender but also includes elements such as socio-economic background, education level, geographic location, thought, and many others. Each of us brings to the table a lifetime of experiences and knowledge. Each of us is different and adds value to the organisation because of these differences.
6. Commit to continuous improvement. Be willing to learn, accept feedback, and listen to the concerns of those around you. Even the most enlightened individual can find opportunities for growth.
7. Communicate and educate. Diversity work is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, patience, and perseverance. Be tolerant of co-workers who do not yet appreciate the value of diversity or who may not always behave respectfully. Often, negative behaviour comes from ignorance rather than malice. A willingness to educate can go a long way.
Change to the benefit of both individuals and the organisation by embracing difference and creating a global culture of inclusion.