Today’s society is being shaped by not only technological advancements, but also by the complex diversity of cultures that surrounds us. And because of that, there has been a huge focus on the importance of being inclusive and fair with employees. Many leaders think they know what diversity and inclusion means, and think they are doing an outstanding job at implementing it. But unfortunately they do not. And here is why.
The most common mistake many company leaders make is assuming these two concepts, diversity and inclusion, are the same or very similar. By being completely ignorant in what these two actually mean, it is impossible that such initiatives will actually work. Most leaders simply do the bare minimum to comply to the regulations of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and disregard to do deeper research on more substantial ways that benefit the current workplace culture. Many just want to be recognized on the typical BS “Top 100 D&I companies of 2019!”. To these leaders, “stop looking for recognition and start thinking how to earn the respect from the actual people in your workplace. Give them influence over the growth of the company” (Llopis, 2017). Make that change and you will find yourself involved in a very successful growth strategy.
So since ignorance is the main problem, let’s solve that. Diversity is mainly seen as bringing people with different skin colors, physical traits, ages, and gender to a work environment. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. People who want to diversify their workplace need to also look at invisible traits such as religion, socio-economic status, cultural and ethical values, work backgrounds, sexual orientation, and even geographic location. It is a collective mixture of differences and similarities that need to be embraced as a whole, not separately. Simply having a wide roster of demographic characteristics won’t make any difference to an organization’s bottom line. Having five colored skin individuals, two bisexuals, and a few female colleagues won’t cut it. It is crucial that besides those factors, you have individuals that encourage their participation, want to know their thought process, and promote innovation. And this is where inclusion finds its place.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is how people behave and ensure a welcomeness feeling to those who are “different”. In a more scientific term, inclusion is “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success” (SHRM). Not including your employees will negatively impact your business by not allowing it to grow and having employees’ performances decrease. No statistics or fancy graphs need to be displayed here for you to know this is true. I am sure that you have felt not being included in some way – either a friend’s dinner you weren’t invited, a meeting you were not being listened, or even at work when a group of coworkers grabbed lunch without you. That moment sucked, right? Feeling left out feels so painful to us humans because our desire to belong is primal. From the beginning of our species as Homo habilis, we have been taught that in order to survive one must remain with the group. Being excluded meant missing out on resources and protection which led to, not being overly dramatic here but, death. Not saying this will happen to you if you get excluded…
Long story short, as FoodtoEat’s founder Deepti Sharma always says, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”. Last night she even hosted, along with Product of Culture, a communal table dinner event to promote D&I. Three distinct Immigrant NYC based chefs created a three course menu that highlighted their culture and later shared their personal stories with the group. The mission behind this dinner was, besides enjoying the delicious food, to have individuals understand they can in fact promote D&I besides the usual process of hiring women and people of color. They can do so in multiple ways, way funner, by using their purchasing power to invest in small businesses like of those three chefs – either attending their restaurants, ordering their food through FoodtoEat, or going to such dinner events!
Businesses have the transformative power to change and contribute to a more open, diverse and inclusive society. It is a no-brainer the benefits and financial impacts it has proven to our organizations. “Employees in inclusive environments feel appreciated for their unique characteristics and therefore comfortable sharing their ideas and other aspects of their true and authentic selves” (Washington and Patrick, 2018). Stirring away from like-mindedness and embracing and honoring other people’s differences should be the goal of many, or even all of us. Maximizing the full potential of the people and the business will drive growth, innovation and opportunity for both.