Diversity and Inclusion are key players when it comes to retaining your skilled workforce. The good news: organizations understand this and want to take steps toward cultivating a more inclusive atmosphere. The bad news: most organizations aren’t sure how or where to start.
It is important to note the difference between diversity and inclusion:
For the most part, employers have a good understanding of what workplace diversity looks like. Diversity describes the variation in physical, social, and personal traits such as gender, ethnicity, age, and education, says Workable.
What is inclusion?
Inclusion isn’t as straight forward. Inclusion refers to how organizations create an environment where all employees feel comfortable to be themselves and their unique talents and perspectives are valued, explains Harvard Business Review (HBR).
“Representation is a measure of diversity; the employee experience is a measure of inclusion,” says Steven Huang, head of diversity and inclusion at Culture Amp.
Uncovering Talent, a 2016 report involving Deloitte employees, discovered a significant majority of certain groups in the workplace are hiding more stigmatized aspects of their identities, essentially downplaying who they truly are, says HR consultant Jennifer Brown in a Forbes article. This act is known as “covering.”
Results found 61 percent of employees reported hiding their true self from the workplace when it comes to:
- Appearance – how employees alter their attire, grooming habits, and mannerisms to blend into the mainstream.
- Affiliation – how employees avoid behaviors and negative stereotypes associated with their identity. For example, a woman might avoid talking about being a mother, so others don’t view her as less committed to her job.
- Advocacy – how employees may not be willing to openly advocate on their group’s behalf to avoid being associated with that population.
- Association – how employees avoid being seen with other member of their group. For example, an employee of a different sexual orientation might not feel comfortable bringing their partner to a work function.
Strategies for employers
Talking to your employees is the most important step. In order to create an inclusive workplace, you need to understand who your employees are and how they envision an ideal work environment. The best way to gather this information is through:
- Surveys – Ask questions that will paint a clear picture of how your workforce feels about inclusion. Insightful statements employees can rate on a number scale include:
- I feel I belong at this company
- I can voice an opinion without fear of negative consequence
- Perspectives like mine are included in decision making
After collecting responses, it is recommended you segment the data by criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation to highlight common issues among smaller groups, according to HBR.
- Focus groups – for best results, use independent facilitators or HR representatives to lead the discussion, says the Society for Human Resource Management. Employees will feel more comfortable about being honest with their experiences if their managers are not in the room.
- One-on-one conversations – Don’t underestimate the power connecting individually with our team members holds. By taking an interest in employees’ families, goals, and personal well-being, and being open about sharing those areas of your life, you will be better equipped to establish trust. This will lead to employees feeling comfortable to voice their unique opinions, says HBR.
As employers, it is your responsibility to influence the work culture so that your employees feel comfortable, heard, and valued. Not only will this lead to healthier individuals, your organization’s culture, reputation, and bottom line will likely increase.