With all that has been taking place in the world the last while and my observations of some organizations I thought this to be a topical issue for us to address. Being an observer from the outside and looking in has its advantages as you sometimes get to see what others are missing. In a lot of these situations it is the leadership in the organization that is unable to see the forest for the trees. As a result they have helped to create an organization that does not have a culture of diversity and inclusion. Employees are not respected, valued or supported and as a result the organization can be labeled as toxic or an unsafe place to work. When that begins to happen you typically see job hunting becoming the primary focus for existing employees.
What is “diversity”?
“In broad terms, diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. It means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion.
But it’s more than this. We all bring with us diverse perspectives, work experiences, life styles and cultures. As a source and driver of innovation, diversity is a “big idea” in business and in society.” (1)
What is “inclusion”?
“Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential. Inclusion should be reflected in an organization’s culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce.”
“In simple terms, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.”
So what are the challenges that are facing us and why are we talking about diversity and inclusion now. No one is listening so it can’t be that bad of a situation. Well, it does get worse.
“Baby boomers will eventually leave and Gen Y will be the cohort who will inherit the opportunity to create success for organizations. Since their DNA is intrinsically collaborative and team-oriented, the old command and control management approach will not result in peak efficiency. Inclusive organizations will cultivate cultures that produce higher productivity, retention, engagement, morale and innovation. For most industries, innovation is not an option; it’s a business imperative.”
“According to a study by sociologist Martin Ruef who analyzed the social and business relations of 766 graduates of the Stanford Business School, he found that those entrepreneurs with the most diverse friendships scored three times higher on metric of innovation, proving that pooling together diverse ideas drives innovation.”
“Also, as hard as it might seem, retire Command-and-Control Management. Certain management practices tend to stifle, rather than drive, productivity and innovation. When all decisions are made at the highest levels, for example, lower-level employees might feel like their opinions and ideas are being controlled rather than heard. Creating an environment in which everyone has the freedom and comfort to think and approach problems in their own way can give employees a sense of belonging that will lead to better creativity and engagement across the company.”
“Inclusive Culture has been defined it as one in which employees can contribute to the success of the company as their authentic selves, while the organization respects and leverages their talents and gives them a sense of connectedness. “In an inclusive culture employees know that, irrespective of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, and physical ability, you can fulfill your personal objectives by aligning them with the company’s, have a rich career, and be valued as an individual.”
When employees are empowered to contribute to the business they feel valued. In an inclusive work place employees with the professional skills to perform their job requirements feel welcome, supported, and rewarded, and are inspired to succeed based on their ability.
“Many companies struggle and do not realize the full potential of a diverse and inclusive workforce. These organizations might still be focused on numbers and lack a complete understanding of the business imperative. While diversity in organizations is increasingly respected as a fundamental characteristic, neither acceptance nor appreciation have equated to inclusive workplaces where unique vantage points of diverse people are valued. Inclusion enhances an organization’s ability to achieve better business results by engaging people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives through participatory decision-making.”
Mentor programs and mentor cultures can help organizations build that inclusive culture that is important today and even more so in the forthcoming years. In a highly competitive market place where the battle for talent is prevalent it is crucial for organizations to embrace the “gift of mentoring”.
If you or your organization are struggling with creating an inclusive and diverse work place take a look at mentoring as a potential catalyst to help propel you forward. After all, “can you afford not to?”
Doug Lawrence is the founder of TalentC®, a Human Resources solution provider focused on effective mentoring. Doug is an International Certified Mentor Practitioner (ICMP) and an International Certified Mentor Facilitator (ICMF). He has over 30 years of mentoring and leadership experience.
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