In today’s political, economic, and global business environment, diversity has become increasingly important. While diversity and inclusion have been a part of the conversation and on the radar for many businesses for years, recent news has brought the topic front and center.
As an education provider and member of a family of global education organizations, OnCourse Learning prides ourselves on our diversity & inclusion and our culture of access, empowerment and care. Having a culture that supports and drives diversity and inclusion doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes thoughtfulness, commitment and education of your entire staff, from the frontline to the boardroom.
What is Diversity & Inclusion, and Why Does it Matter?
Diversity is more than just skin color or cultural differences. It’s what makes you unique. You can find diversity in age, disabilities, gender, language, life experiences, personality types, etc. The danger is when there are claims that one characteristic is better or less than others.
All people need to feel a sense of belonging. Inclusion is when every person is valued, heard, respected, empowered and feels a true sense of belonging. Inclusion is the process of valuing all individuals and leveraging their diverse talent, not despite their differences, but because of them. This requires a conscious effort.
The business case for diversity and inclusion is well documented. Diverse teams outperform, develop more innovative ideas and results in higher profitability. McKinsey’s research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same.
Inclusive leaders create a safe team environment where all employees can speak up, be heard and feel empowered. Truly understanding diversity and inclusion and what it means is foundational in creating a culture that celebrates differences.
How to Jumpstart Your Diversity and Inclusion Initiative
Many organizations value diversity and inclusion. However, others may have more work to do than others. Just how do you start an initiative around diversity and inclusion? Here’s a good place to start.
Before conversations can even begin, leaders need to seek, and gain knowledge and skills needed to navigate difficult diversity and inclusion discussions. This comes with reflection.
- Be curious – Keep an open mind and seek different points of views. Ask questions about the experiences of others with the intention of listening.
- Educate – Explore trusted resources on topics of racism and unconscious bias. OnCourse Learning provides a Diversity and Inclusion eLearning Series with over 36 different courses. In addition, here are some additional resources worth exploring:
- Hear Dushaw Hockett, founder and executive director of Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity, in his TEDx Talk on implicit bias
- Listen to ‘1619,’ a podcast from The New York Times: an audio series on how slavery has transformed America, connecting past and present through the oldest form of storytelling
- Check out this anti-racist reading list from the New York Times
- Reference a series of articles from the Harvard Business Review on race in the workplace
This type of self-reflection requires a sense of vulnerability and authenticity. It’s a critical first step.
People will experience social and political issues and events in different ways (i.e., sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment, confusion, silence, etc.). When seeking to jumpstart your diversity and inclusion initiative, understand you may not know how people are feeling or how they experience events. Approaching the conversation with a heart that is eager to learn and doesn’t claim to be the expert recognizes diversity. Leaders don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok.
When listening to other’s experiences, don’t attempt to change someone’s point of view. Remember to be curious and seek to understand.
In a diverse world, viewpoints are just as diverse. People have different beliefs, opinions and sentiments. When in the workplace, it’s important to be fully present and available to listen to your colleagues (peers, leadership and direct reports).
Leadership sets the tone of inclusion. Does your organization have a statement on diversity and inclusion? This statement usually outlines and affirms the company’s beliefs, values and support of diversity. Remember, diversity isn’t just skin color. Diversity includes gender, sexual preference, even religion.
Each employee, management or not, is responsible for ensuring the conversation aligns with the company values and respects others’ points of view.
Everyone will need to demonstrate brave leadership in order to promote inclusion in the workplace. Empathy and awareness are needed. Remember to listen first. Then, respond by encouraging elaboration. Ask clarifying questions and/or acknowledge what others may be feeling. Rather than responding with judgement or your own viewpoint, use empathy to respond.
5 Tips for People Leaders
- Scan your team for diverse representation. Are you seeking diverse job applicants?
- Review your job descriptions to ensure they are welcoming a diverse pool of candidates
- Work with your talent acquisition team member to explore posting your next job opening on diversity job boards
- Review the salary levels of your team to ensure that women and people of color are being paid fairly.
- Connect with your HR consultant to get support with conducting a salary analysis.
- Monitor the engagement of your diverse colleagues. Your HR consultant can help you review the survey responses that are specific to diversity and inclusion and psychological safety.
- Ensure you are distributing development opportunities equally across your team. Stretch assignments and special projects are essential for colleagues to gain the visibility and critical experiences that they need for career progression.
- Learn how to use Deloitte’s 6 Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership to lead in a more diverse world of markets, customers, ideas, and talent.
As an organization, OnCourse Learning hopes this resource will guide your organization in having meaningful conversations on diversity, inclusion and social justice. As colleagues, you have the opportunity to join together for an expanded purpose. Please know that this guide is just a step in a series of efforts needed for reform.
Keep learning. Keep Growing. Stay Well.