Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is no longer a ‘want to do’; it’s a must have if you want to attract top talent and drive performance. Having champions within your organization who continually monitor and move the needle forward will ensure your diversity and inclusion efforts stay strong and relevant as conditions and needs change. Here is what you can do to develop and encourage champions from within.
Create Awareness / Talk Openly About Diversity and Inclusion Goals
Sexism. Racism. Bias. Intolerance. These are uncomfortable topics and admitting shortcomings can be awkward. Addressing these issues head-on and talking openly paves the way for reducing the barriers and starting honest conversations.
• Think about what diversity within your organization means to you. What does it look like? What have you done personally to include others? As you answer these questions think about how you can take your current understanding and expand that to your team and get many conversations going.
• Seek to understand the diversity and inclusion goals of the organization. Evaluate how they connect to your work and the business objectives. Think about the positive impacts diversity would have on your role and how you reach your goals.
• Think too about inclusion and how well you solicit, encourage and embrace new ideas and different perspectives. Remember diversity sets the stage and inclusivity invites everyone to perform.
Challenge How You Define Diversity
When people think about diversity they typically think about race, gender, and sexual orientation. These are three clear and immutable areas of difference that workplaces recognize as vitally important to the fabric of their organizations. But there are other ways to think about diversity that will lead to an even more robust and inclusive culture.
• Define diversity elements as broadly as possible. Think about characteristics like education, physical and mental ability, life experiences, political views, appearance, risk tolerance, and exposure to different cultures.
• Conduct an audit of which diversity elements are present within yourself and within your team. Welcome, and actively seek out, different ideas and opinions and think about whom you could engage to generate ideas, improve your problem solving and make work more interesting.
• Challenge the ‘Golden rule’ and treat people how they want to be treated and recognize that may not be how you would choose to be treated. Ask yourself if what you are saying or doing is respectful. When you acknowledge that diversity exists everywhere and in many forms, it’s much easier to behave in ways that are respectful and that preserve everyone’s dignity and right to be seen for who they are.
Education is key to improving diversity. And understanding that diversity and inclusion won’t be achieved overnight is equally important. The more messaging and the more guidance provided the better.
• Educate people on the advantages of diversity; specifically productivity, creativity, engagement and depth of skills. Talk too about the effects of discrimination in terms of increased turnover, poor reputation, poor performance and mental health issues.
• Examine personal bias and identify stereotypes you may be holding onto. Talk about these openly within your team. Review policies and workplace practices that may be perpetuating these biases.
• Improve your cultural competency. Learn about the differences within your team. Ask people to share their customs and practices. Bring in speakers, start employee groups, enroll in courses, connect with community groups and be deliberate in bringing together people from a wide range of backgrounds.
• If you aren’t sure about something, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes. Listen and ask for feedback and apologize if/when you make a mistake. Actively search for ways to be inclusive in how you conduct yourself at work and with the people around you.
Apply the Lens of Inclusion
The benefits of diversity are realized when everyone feels they can bring their unique selves to work and contribute meaningfully all day, every day without any fear of judgment. This process involves some introspection and empathy and is extremely important to creating champions of diversity and inclusion.
• Think about how inclusive your everyday practices are. Look for areas or examples where people may have held back their true thoughts or opinions. Does one person monopolize conversations? Is there a certain group whose ideas are given more esteem right from the start? When the team disagrees is tension allowed to work its way through or is it discouraged for the sake of getting to an agreement quickly?
• How is feedback solicited? Can people contribute ideas anonymously or through means other than face-to-face? Some people are intimidated by meetings or group settings, others need to sit and formulate their idea before presenting it to the team. Supporting a wide range of idea generation modes promotes inclusivity.
• Encourage people to think about and share times when they felt their voice wasn’t heard, when they were intimidated, or even excluded. Recalling these moments creates a powerful lesson for ensuring your own actions don’t make others feel less-than.
Promote and Celebrate
Diversity and inclusion efforts should be fun – think of all the experiences you can share when you are open to the world around you. By promoting and celebrating the diversity you see around you, you send a strong a clear message that diversity is important and it makes life that much more interesting.
• If you only celebrate Halloween, Christmas and Easter you are missing out on so much! Learn as much as you can about different holidays and decide which ones would be appropriate to celebrate at work. Find out what special days people want to celebrate. Create a team of like-minded people to bring the celebrations to the life.
• Get involved with community events that promote diverse groups. Pride, cultural associations, and disability groups are easily accessible and have built-in supports to help you get started. Run concurrent events at work to raise money for groups that celebrate diversity to add more dimension to your celebrations.
• Celebrate progress on your diversity goals and advertise your successes. Organize events that include customers and stakeholders. Promote your success at career fairs and other community-based events.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can benefit your company in many ways and having people within who actively promote and champion these efforts is essential. These champions can arise from anywhere so it’s important that the message is communicated often, that education and information is provided, that everyone is asked to challenge themselves, and that diversity efforts are promoted regularly. Whether it’s top-down, bottom-up, or right through the middle, diversity and inclusion efforts can thrive and flourish with enough attention.
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