Many companies have stepped up their diversity hiring practices in the last several years. Having a diverse workplace creates variety in perspective, brings together different experiences and insights, fosters innovation and supports growth into new global markets.
However, it’s not just enough to hire a diverse group of people and expect they will flawlessly integrate into your company. While many businesses work on this philosophy, the integrative model presents significant challenges, including (but not limited to):
- Creating a workplace where employees may not feel respected or valued,
- Keeping biases related to workplace policy, procedures and practice in place,
- Creating the belief that diversity and inclusion training will be enough,
- Building discomfort around workplace expectations; and,
- Indicating a lack of understanding by senior leadership about the importance of employee engagement, training and policy review to ensure the retention of diverse employees.
An integrative model is not inclusive. An integrative model promotes an ‘us’ and ‘them’ and even if diversity and inclusion training is provided, it will not result in the inclusive workplace desired – in fact, it may even make the challenge greater.
An integrative model is a one directional model where ‘they integrate into our way’ – it forces employees to adapt and change to the way of the workplace. Instead, your goal should be focused on creating an inclusive environment in which all employees feel a sense of belonging, respect and genuine welcome.
If you’re wondering if this is worth it, you should consider a report by Deloitte (2018) indicates that organizations with inclusive cultures are:
2 times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
3 times as likely to be high performing
6 times more likely to be innovative and agile
8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes
All of these are important to an organization’s success. None of these will be maintained without fostering inclusion through the development and promotion of intentional and sustainable practices.
Striving for an inclusive work environment
Fostering inclusion in the workplace matters. Not only does it reduce employee turnover because staff feel more valued and included, but it reduces absenteeism, attracts skilled workers and enhances creativity. Different people with different perspectives can drive positive change as everyone works together to build a positive employee culture.
As you move toward fostering an inclusive work environment, be on the lookout for common stumbling blocks.
- Getting stuck in deficit thinking
‘This is how we do it’
‘It’s how it’s always been done’
‘They need our help to understand our way’
The belief that difference must integrate, change or adapt so the workplace can remain the same can be interpreted as the belief that different employees have a deficit. The goal becomes helping them understand ourway. Not only does this strengthen stereotypes but the effects on employees can be devastating. The perception of a lack of skills may only mean a small chance at success. The lack of attention (or even awareness) or consideration of the compatibility between the cultural backgrounds of employees and the culture of the organization will ensure that employees may continue to face inequity and discrimination in the workplace. It will also ensure that the workplace will continue to view inclusion as something that only requires awareness and open-mindedness.
- Assuming “sameness”
‘I treat everyone the same’
‘I don’t see colour’
‘People are people’
The assumption that there are enough similarities among us to make communication easy may reduce the discomfort of having to deal with difference, however, there are no universals of human nature as a basis for automatic understanding, each encounter will be individual. If you treat everyone the same, then you’re really not doing anything at all. While statements about sameness may make you feel like you’re doing something – being nice, it’s not helpful. We’re not equal – we all start out at different places, with different backgrounds, experiences, and worldviews. It goes back to those aspects of identity. A sameness approach will reduce your discomfort of having to deal with difference, but it won’t promote inclusion. You need to become comfortable being uncomfortable.
- Non-Verbal Communication
‘Why don’t they look me in the eye?’
‘Why is she smiling?’
Never assume common gestures have the same meaning. Non-verbal communication can have very different meanings, particularly how time is viewed, spatial relationships and signs of respect and formality. Non-verbal communication can have very different meanings. Consider:
- Eyebrow raising – can indicate surprise, doubt, greeting
- Eye contact – can indicate interest, challenge, rudeness
- Smiling – can indicate happiness, uncertainty, embarrassment
- Averting the eyes – can indicate respect, disinterest, dishonesty
- Pause during conversation – can indicate discomfort with, or the value of, a conversation
- Stereotypes based on judgement and/or faulty assumptions
‘That’s what those people do’
‘Don’t they know that’s now how it’s done?’
Stereotypes are overgeneralized, secondhand beliefs that provide a conceptual base from which we can attempt to make sense of what is happening. Out of our stereotypes, comes a tendency to evaluate – approving or disapproving, usually against our own cultural views. Instead of stereotyping, consider the worldview of the other – take the time to consider and challenge your perceptions. Keep in mind that diversity encompasses the broadest possible representation of individuals, perspectives and experiences. Just because someone does something that is different from you doesn’t make it wrong or bad. Think about that the next time you’re getting ready to judge.
Consider an Inclusive Model
Inclusion is ongoing – it’s not a one-off training session, or part of the onboarding process. For diversity to be effective and sustainable, you need an inclusive model – a model that seeks to achieve a welcoming environment where all feel a sense of belonging.
Yes, it involves identifying and dismantling barriers, attending to issues of privilege and systemic racism. It also means ensuring your workplace has the leadership required to be effective, a level of employee engagement that will support sustainability, resources for training and development, and the policy/procedures revisions that will come about as you work toward an inclusive workplace.
An inclusive and welcoming community embraces human differences, sees them as strengths, and offers respect in both words and actions for all people. Work towards this and you’ll reap the benefits.
Bourke, J. & Dillon, B. (2018 January). The diversity and inclusion review: Eight powerful truths. Deloitte Review, 22. Retrieved from: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/4209_ Diversity-and-Inclusion-revolution/DI_Diversity-and-inclusion-