For decades, the term diversity has been woven into the fabric of organizational rhetoric with a such strong commitment, from human resource professionals and CEOs alike, that one is led to believe it is now commonplace. And the term inclusion is frequently used to describe organizational cultures that are rich in diversity and employee engagement.
A means by which to measure
On the one hand, we are inclined to accept the proclamations of achievement in diversity and inclusion from management at face value. But what if we could actually identify the cultural characteristics that separate the organizations demonstrating superiority in diversity and inclusion from those that are not quite there yet?
This is, in fact, something we can do.
Diversity, in its simplest form, means that an organization employs people of the widest range of differences, not only in race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values systems, national origin, and political beliefs, but also in the different ways that employees approach problem-solving and innovation.
Widely diverse organizations tend to interact more effectively with their stakeholders and communities, especially customers. With the trend toward globalization, diverse organizations are far better equipped to identify and exceed the expectations of the diversity around them than those with less-than-diverse workforces.
Another common characteristic of a successfully diverse organization is a tendency to attract a customer demographic that is more widely diverse than that of companies with less diverse workforces. A diverse workforce is critical to organizational success today. Equally important is the focus on an inclusive culture.
Where inclusion distinguishes
While diversity means the presence of human differences, inclusion involves the activation of a diverse culture combining engagement and mutual empathy. In an inclusive environment, all are pulling together in a spirit of focused teamwork and mutual respect.
The characteristics and positive results attributable to widely diverse and inclusive organizations are obvious, especially when compared with those lacking in these rich cultures. Positive outcomes are consistent and directly proportional to the presence of cultures rich in diversity and inclusion.
Bettina Deynes, SHRM-SCP, Vice President, HR and Diversity, Society for Human Resource Management, [email protected]