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Considerations for Fostering Diversity and Inclusion within Your Organization

Written on January 29, 2020

Warren Averett diversity image

Many statistics show that companies that value diversity and inclusion perform better than those that don’t.

Diversity does include factors like race, gender and age, but it isn’t just about those things. Having a diverse workforce means having employees with varying areas of expertise, backgrounds, skills, perspectives, approaches and specialties as well.

It’s no wonder that companies that have a roster of employees with unique approaches and assets are performing well. Approaching any product, service or task from more than one perspective can strengthen and refine it like nothing else can.

Yet, regardless of how diverse your company’s team may be, those different talents, skills and perspectives can’t truly benefit your organization if your work environment isn’t one that’s inclusive and values everyone’s contributions.

If you’re looking for specific, step-by-step instruction for creating the perfect diverse and inclusive environment that will benefit both your company and your organization—it doesn’t exist. Fostering a work environment that promotes diversity and inclusion will be different for each and every organization. But there are a few common areas that are beneficial for each company to consider.

1. Cast a vision for where you want to see your company decades from now

Consider where you want your organization to grow. Start with intentionality to create and communicate a plan to weave diversity and inclusion into organization, so that it isn’t just an initiative, but so that it’s a way of life at your company.

“We have to be intent that we are poised to make this change, and at the end of the day, it has to be something that we think about and that we work on every single day.” – April Harry

“You have to have a vison of where you want to go, and you have to embrace that vision. If you don’t see in your business trajectory a [company] that is just overflowing with all kinds of people, you’re not going to start in earnest because you don’t see the need for it.” – Marsha Sampson Johnson

“To build a culture that really fosters diversity and inclusion, leadership and upper management should start laying the groundwork early.  They should always be intentional in promoting communication and teamwork among those with various experience levels and perspectives.  Rather than excluding those who might not fit well with one team, they should be redirected to different projects where they can contribute their unique skillsets.  Think of each employee as a puzzle piece – each one unique yet necessary for success.” – Kevin Wang

2. Evaluate your internal processes, including recruiting and interviewing

Evaluating your current systems is just as important as creating new ones. Take the time to examine your company’s processes with fresh eyes to determine if they play the part that you need for them to. Especially when it comes to hiring new employees for your team, consider if the processes you have align with where you want to go.

“You have to scrub your internal systems and processes for unconscious bias because it exists in systems and processes. So, before you train the employees, or perhaps on a parallel track with training employees, just look at exactly where you’re recruiting. What questions are you asking? How are people screened? Who’s screening them? Who makes the final decision about hiring? Who determines that this candidate, though equally qualified, isn’t the right fit? What does that mean—not the right fit? So, I think there are opportunities to really scrub the organization top to bottom if we’re serious about creating a platform where people feel welcome.” – Marsha Sampson Johnson

“It’s important that we really get to know individuals so that we can make sure all people are included and that we have opportunities in which everyone can feel as if they fit in.“ – April Harry

3. Foster relationships and encourage team members to get to know each other

Having an environment at your organization that allows team members to connect personally and relationally can increase inclusion and foster many different kinds of conversations.

“I personally think that the best way for you to be able to have an open an honest dialogue with someone is to have relationships that allow that—that, if you foster that relationship in a way in which everyone is comfortable…then, I think we can have those conversations.“ – April Harry

“It is extremely important for leaders to create an open environment where employees foster relationships, giving them the ability to think outside the box. This will allow employees to continually learn and stay engaged within an organization.” – Zahida Iqbal

4. Introduce unconscious bias training and/or uncomfortable conversation training

Trainings exist that are specifically designed to help employees identify biases that they aren’t aware of and to help team members learn to openly engage in conversations that, while productive, may be uncomfortable. If you are looking to foster diversity and inclusion at your company, you may consider enrolling your team in a training to help incorporate these principles into your organization.

“This isn’t something that you trust because you read about it. You trust giving that kind of feedback and engaging in uncomfortable conversations when you do it and live to say, ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad.” – Marsha Sampson Johnson

“It’s important for team members to know how unconscious bias limits our ability to solve problems and develop creative ideas. On every sports team I’ve coached, we have had people with different talents and strengths. When those differences were celebrated and used to provide us more options to compete, we won more games. When we tried to make diverse talents fit into a rigid system that didn’t match their strengths, we became frustrated and tended to lose more often. To truly excel one must not be afraid to examine his or her own practices, beliefs and biases. The strongest organizations have the courage to look at themselves.” – Scott Bradbary

Learn more about how companies can go farther with fostering diversity and inclusion within their organizations in this episode of The Wrap Podcast.

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