Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

One Forbes study shows that diversity is key in driving innovation in transnational companies. Research by Harvard Business School also shows that creating a multicultural workplace is often a positive strategy to foster innovation.

Cristian Deszö of the University of Maryland and David Ross of Columbia University, studied the effect of gender diversity on the top firms. They found that companies that prioritized innovation saw greater financial gains when women were part of the top leadership ranks.

A 2003 study conducted by Orlando Richard, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, put together a database comparing financial performance, racial diversity and the emphasis the bank presidents put on innovation. For innovation-focused banks, increases in racial diversity were clearly related to enhanced financial performance.

In short, companies with a diverse workforce aren’t just better performing, they innovate at a greater pace.

What Should Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace look like?

Inclusion is the only way to build diversity within an organization. In fact, the power of diversity is felt much more when it goes beyond checking boxes for demographics and reporting ratios.

The real benefit is unleashed by providing the conditions where everyone helps drive innovation by bringing a different perspective. Unleashing this diversity of thought enables organizations to be more innovative, agile, and collaborative. All of this leads to a more profitable organization.

  1. Bring Awareness to D&I

Leaders, executives and managers are instrumental to the D&I initiatives and workplace diversity.  After all, the biggest driver of employee engagement is the relationship that employees have with their direct reports. So, the experience created by leaders will make or break the process of D&I.  Leaders have so much potential to build a diverse and inclusive culture and improve the employee experience for everyone.

Data published in the book, “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave” by Leigh Branham, analyzed more than 20,000 exit interviews focused on why the employee left their last job. The data suggests that an employee’s relationship with their manager is the number one reason why people leave. A Gallup study titled “Employees want a lot more from their managers” highlights the fact that managers account for 70% of the variance of engagement.

  1. Provide a Psychologically Safe Environment

Everyone wants to be able to contribute in an organization. Feeling safe to do so is paramount for people to take risks.  Psychological safety is also vital. Psychological safety is the safety that employees feel about engaging their personal identity. It is beyond the level of safety that they may feel about taking risks related to their group’s task, as discussed in the Academy Of Management Journal.

  1. Address Unconscious Bias

Everyone has some sort of unconscious bias that affects their everyday life.  The University of California, San Francisco’s Office of Diversity and Outreach defines unconscious bias as “social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.” People’s beliefs and biases about various social groups often result in negative effects for underrepresented groups. Senior leaders should do inclusive work to address employee’s unconscious biases and create an inclusive workplace with diverse talent.

Coaching For a D&I Environment

Managers at any level, but especially senior leaders, need to be aware and proactive in creating an experience of inclusion for all employees and promoting diversity. This will in turn create a psychologically safe environment.

It is a simple concept.  But, simple doesn’t mean easy. And simple doesn’t mean it will happen when needed.  In most cases when it comes to these skills, acquiring new knowledge and putting it into practice in the workplace entails significant behavioral change. It is not easy to do through only educational methods such as lectures, generic examples, quizzes, and exams.

Like most aspects of leadership, when it comes to D&I, understanding the concept is easy, but long-term change in leadership takes time, follow-up and discipline — not just understanding.  Leaders need to practice, get feedback, and be accountable; that is where an executive coach comes in.

Executive coaching has been proven to help with hard-to-teach skills. The key for executive coaching to work consistently depends on answering three key questions.

  1. Am I coaching the right people?
  2. Am I coaching for the right behaviors?
  3. Am I using the right coaching process?
Resilience and D&I

There is plenty of evidence for the role of resilience in the natural world. For example, one article in “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment” journal states that resilience is the ability of an ecosystem that is subject to disturbance and change to reorganize and renew itself.

Diversity enhances the resilience of desirable ecosystems.  One cannot help but make the analogy to the needs of companies today. Companies need to be resilient in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

In a recent survey conducted by the Duke Fuqua School of Business, half of U.S. CFOs believe the nation’s economy will enter a recession by the end of 2019. Difficulty hiring and retaining qualified employees is the most-cited concern among CFOs, in the report.

So, the question is, what can you do today so you, your company, and your team provide a psychologically safe environment for your diverse workforce to grow and thrive? How can you become a more productive and innovative company? How can you be ready for the future, no matter what it brings?

The answer might be simpler than you think. It is vital to cultivate diversity and inclusion by developing resilience in your leaders. Can you afford not to?