Countless studies and real-world examples have proven that diversity and inclusion are beneficial to companies, their employees and in the grand scheme of things, to the society around us. At the same time, it is not always easy to talk about diversity because in our culture, it is still a relatively new value, which is often accompanied by misunderstandings and, in turn, fears. That is the reason why introducing diversity to the workplace may require a lot more work than you would initially guess since in addition to educating people, it also requires them changing their attitudes and stepping outside of their comfort zones. This is also precisely the reason why every company must support the creation of a diverse environment and diverse hiring. How to go about it most efficiently?
See the person
Seeing a person for who they are and not just their job title is a very important value within the way of thinking found among a company’s board members and personnel staff and it directly affects every employee and the company as a whole. Unfortunately, this value can be easily forgotten or remain without attention when huge changes are made. And it is made even more important by the fact that it is much easier (and let us be honest, much cheaper) to hire a trained specialist than it is to hire a persona who fits the team perfectly with their characteristics. But we should still remember that teams and companies consist of people who, above all else, must have a good match with each other, understand each other, share the same values, and want to work with each other, and only after all that must they be experts in their field.
Focus on a person’s strengths
Just like you should hire a person not their work profile, you should also focus on a person’s strengths and not their weaknesses. Various studies show that if people are allowed to apply their natural strengths in the workplace, then that increases their overall energy levels and motivates them to work. Although we use different methods, such as the CliftonStrengths assessment, to map out the strengths of our employees at ADM, then even more important than that is changing the way we think and understanding that focusing on the positive AKA the strengths of our people is a winning strategy. Despite the fact that focusing on people’s strengths “only” requires a change in the general way of thinking, it is still a long-term process during which you should also account for the need to train the company’s leaders (e.g. according to Gallup’s ideology, 70% of a team’s welfare is dependent on the leader and the other 30% makes up the team’s own contribution) and possible structural changes.
No one wants to work in a company where they feel isolated from others. This is especially painful for new employees who somehow differ from their colleagues, for example when a more senior person joins an otherwise youthful team. It does not matter whether it is just one employee who feels isolated or a whole department – it is always a bad thing as it hinders cooperation and makes people unhappy. Leaders must pay attention to all of their employees and when planning changes, they need to involve those people who will be affected by the changes and for whom they are even being made. Just like three single guys should not be solely responsible for building a room for a mother and a child, you also should not implement activities that support diversity to “fill a quota” while forgetting whom you are making these things for in the first place.
Quotas ≠ diversity
Gender and other quotas generally do not help to create or fix diversity. Instead, they cause resentment and discomfort, above all because all kinds of quotas actually decrease inclusion instead of increasing it. Instead of focusing on pre-existing employees, people tend to focus on hiring new people and because of the resentment that causes in the old employees, the new employees have a harder time of adjusting in their new team. The worst-case scenario is that this becomes an endless loop where new quotas constantly decrease the feeling of involvement. Since quotas are usually implemented because big mistakes have been made in how a company is run, then it is recommended to focus more on leadership and the tools available for it – such as hiring, human resource management, and internal communications – than quotas.
This may seem obvious but people who come from a different background or culture, are of a different race, gender, or age, all have a different approach to communication, motivation, and ideation. To ensure that the employees feel comfortable, the leaders need to adjust their communication style according to the audience. Although the opposite, where the leader speaks however they wish and think is right since their employees are on the receiving end, may seem logical and convenient, it does not make it easier to achieve your goals. Instead, employing a communication style that accounts for others provides people with the opportunity to feel competent and successful both as individuals and as a member of a team.
You must have a plan
An organisation’s culture is led by all its employees, not just its leaders. That is why I recommend that you give your employees a bigger role in helping to achieve diversity and inclusion when you start to make a plan for any changes. It is also important to publicly support positive initiatives and to recognise any achievements that have been made – you should also add these activities to your plan, at least in the beginning.