Do you know how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace and within your daily life? Destruction has occurred throughout history when attempting to constrict diversity. Conversely, magnificent innovations are discovered through the differences we share.
What is Diversity? A diverse population will be expressed in a myriad of forms, including different personalities, abilities, cultures, age groups, sexual orientations, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, (dis)ability status and political perspective, and beliefs of thought, to name a few.
What is Equity? Equity is a commitment. It happens when a collective environment works independently and together to actively challenge and respond to bias. When individuals agree on a policy of equal opportunity and inclusive culture and do not discriminate but choose to promote diversity and inclusion.
What is Inclusion? Inclusion is the belief and action of embracing and welcoming all differences and perspectives. By creating an environment of inclusiveness, you create a space for the differences of each unique individual to be heard and embraced. These shared experiences create a universal resource for everyone to advance and grow.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is the cornerstone of company culture. Promoting and teaching others how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace should always be a proirity.
The University of Michigan’s Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer, Robert Sellers, stated it best. “Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party. Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist. Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to dance/experience the music.”
Here are a few ways to promote diversity initiatives and cultivate an inclusive workplace.
1. Seek out people with diverse backgrounds.
A brilliant chef tastes many dishes. Opportunities are lost if you only share your time with people who agree with your perspectives. Take the time to speak with people who dress differently, have diverse talents, speak oddly, or believe strangely. The first step in understanding how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace begins with your own self-reflection. You may seem as foreign to them as they are to you too. A great way to avoid unconscious bias is to focus on what positive lesson they can teach you.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln
2. Give everyone a voice.
Embrace employee engagement to create an inclusionary work environment. Ask your team members to share their experiences and insights. Encouraging and allowing people to share their opinions demonstrates that you value them. Silencing and shutting people down discredits how your employees feel and discourages the contributions needed to solve problems, improve service and increase the bottom line.
3. Abolish a superior attitude.
Acting like you are better than someone else is a poor path to follow. Does superiority lead to a better employee experience? Undoubtedly, it will only lead you to a lack of support and cause distrust in your decision-making capability. No one holds in high regard a person who treats others as though they are inferior to them. Demonstrating an attitude of equality is the best route to growing positive company culture.
4. Be the leader.
Embracing diversity is done through example. Waiting for others to take the lead might not advance the objective of creating and sustaining the abundance of information and knowledge available to you through other people. Be the one to initiate an appreciation of the abilities and contributions of others. Ask yourself, “What are the benefits of diversity amongst my staff?” Remember that inclusion is the art of realizing that diversity broadens opportunity. Mentoring those walking in your footsteps will allow you to see things from another perspective.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
5. Oppose hate.
Don’t allow yourself or others to engage in behavior that restricts another person’s ability because of age, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. Let a person’s merit and added value determine your judgment. The most noted champions in recent history to oppose hate are Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. You don’t have to create a movement. Still, you can speak against those that demonstrate a lack of tolerance or the destruction of another person because they are different. Some of the most profound statements can be made loud and clear by simply walking away or by not laughing at unprofessional behavior. Help employees that are being ridiculed or overlooked because of bias. Speak up to human resources immediately if you encounter this in the workplace. Teaching others how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace can start with one person speaking up about injustices. Different backgrounds should be celebrated, and inclusion efforts don’t always have to be made public.
6. Avoid ridicule.
Treating others with contempt disparages inclusion. Taunting people or jeering them can destroy any possibility of having a productive relationship. You don’t like to be razzed or lampooned, do you? Then don’t do it to other people. We are all different and should encourage each other to be our authentic selves. New hires may not know all of the intricacies of the workplace. Avoid teasing behavior, and show them the value of being the company’s top talent by including them in your company’s “whys” and “hows. Not everything we ask of our employees is clearly stated in their job descriptions. Inclusive companies are profitable companies.
7. Allow for a second impression.
Research shows that we form impressions about people within seven seconds of meeting them. We decide whether we like them, whether they are trustworthy, their social status, education level, and much more – all within seven seconds. Of course, our impressions are not always accurate. Certainly, you have been wrong about what you thought of someone more than once. Our judgment can easily be clouded by hearsay, preconceived notions, and prejudices. If you don’t think your safety is in danger, allow people to make a second impression on you. It’s hard for employees to create a sense of belonging when the workplace culture feels judgemental.
8. Acknowledge the beliefs of others.
A belief is a perceived truth acquired through experience or a trusted resource. Yes, people have a contrary view to yours; they have different beliefs. Acknowledging the beliefs of others does not mean you are relinquishing your convictions. You are not selling out your ideals. Do the best you can to practice acceptance. The primary goal of an inclusionary leader is to provide support and resources to marginalized employees and to help foster a more inclusive and diverse workplace.
9. Practice acceptance and educate yourself.
Accept others for who they are, not for who you want them to be. Practicing this is far easier said than done. For diversity and inclusion initiatives to work, all levels of your company’s hierarchy must encourage and practice them. You might not want to sport purple hair, but your son or daughter may. You might enjoy reading books while your significant other prefers to watch television. Perhaps one coworker talks extremely slowly, and you speak quickly. Learn your coworker’s preferred pronouns and be respectful of their experiences. Update your vocabulary and avoid dated terminology. A key to increasing your acceptance is to remind yourself of how boring life would be if we were all alike!
10. Do something different.
The point is to leverage different thoughts and perspectives. Pick up a book that articulates an unfamiliar view. Study a foreign language. Use social media to your advantage. Learn about potential travel destinations. There are so many online resources to assist you in educating yourself to become a more effective leader. Use your commute time to listen to audiobooks instead of the radio. Research something that you know nothing about. Visit another country. Engage in anything that will expand your current knowledge and viewpoints.
11. Appreciate the unique contributions of others.
Take the time to acknowledge and recognize people’s value. Too often, people don’t compliment others for their contributions. If someone went out of their way for you, send them a quick message on Linkedin or a quick email. It takes only a few seconds to offer an accolade or a few kind words of appreciation.
12. Discourage cliques and exclusive groups.
An environment dominated by of lack of inclusion is futile. Special groupings or clubs that discourage participation from different viewpoints should be reconsidered. Being affiliated with a particular group is almost guaranteed, but being a separatist is ineffectual. There is no easier way to degrade workplace diversity than by allowing yourself to be a part of a clique. Diverse teams with complex interpersonal working relationships breed innovation. Eleanor Roosevelt summed this up beautifully when she said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
13. Make an apology.
You probably offended someone for having a different view from yours at one time or another. Both our personal and professional failures and successes influence our ability to embrace diversity. These experiences will strengthen character. Do the right thing. It can be hard to know how to begin this conversation. In order to be an effective leader, you must be able to admit fault. Clear the air. You can make amends. Be brave. Apologize.
14. Focus on integration, not separation.
We live in a global economy. America is known as a melting pot. Inclusion and a diverse workforce are vital for employee retention. Every day you encounter ideas that conflict with your sentiment. Fencing off the opportunities awarded to you from the perspectives of others can be damaging to your progress. Inclusion is a powerful component of learning how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
15. Allow the fulfillment of potential.
Remove age, race, gender, and other physical differences, and become hyper-vigilant of your contribution to creating an inclusive workforce. See others for their contributions and the value they add. Discriminating against someone because they are not like you is stupid. You have more to gain from listening to people with varied approaches.
16. Be your best, always.
Your title does not define you, but how you perform your title does. Your actions will define you even if people decline you. Be mindful of blaming. It is easy to point the finger at someone who disagrees with you. Just because you have not changed someone else’s opinion, it does not mean discrimination occurred. In the long run, performance outlasts displacement.
Now you know how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Best of success to you!