Changing the Narrative: Why Inclusion, Not Diversity Is Key

July 24, 2018

- Nicole Aebi-Moyo - Client Advisor

Diversity is easy: it can be both measurable and quantitative and requires actionable steps and executive buy-in. Want to prove you’re making progress? Just set some SMART goals, implement the necessary steps to achieve those goals, and your job is done. Right? Wrong. Hitting a target of having 50% of your C-suite made up of women will not, in and of itself, change the way your organization performs for the better. Listen to Bluewolf’s own CEO, Eric Berridge explain why having a diversity of talent and experience makes Bluewolf a better consulting partner in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Having a diverse workforce is beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • A diversity of thinking drives better outcomes as creative breakthroughs come more easily: it’s not the same-old, same-old.
  • An understanding of your customers and clients is easier if you have similar experiences to them. As we become a more heterogeneous society, our workforce also needs to reflect this.
  • A diverse workforce helps with recruitment and retention as staff feel supported and able to fully participate.

Verna Myers once said “Diversity is being asked to the party: inclusion is being asked to dance.” I’d like to argue it should be,

“Diversity is being asked to the party: inclusion is being asked to contribute to the playlist.” - Nicole Aebi-Moyo

Can you remember your very first day at work? You were probably a little anxious, feeling out of place, wondering where you fit in, trying to do and say the right thing so that you make a good impression, all while working out what your new job actually entailed. That was hard work that first day, wasn’t it?

Imagine having to do that every day.

As part of the LGBTIQ community, I am conscious of my difference every single day. I choose to talk openly and freely about my family: my wife and two kids. But every time, every single time I use the word “wife” with new people, there’s a millisecond of doubt in my mind about whether it is “safe” to do so. Will I be accepted? What will people think of me? And in some situations, am I physically safe right at this moment? It can be exhausting. And I have left jobs before because I’ve not felt safe and supported.

Or what about those who are neurodiverse? Navigating the complex highways of office politics and social niceties can be all but impossible, and highly stressful. Constantly having to read between the lines of both written and verbal communication to make sure you’re behaving accordingly can be impossible for some, and what keeps a lot of people on the Autism spectrum out of work.

There are many ways in which we are all different: sexuality; (dis)ability; sex; age; religion; and so on. Diversity is not something that can be ignored anymore.

Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness; it is the key to growth” Jesse Jackson

Aside from making life easier for people at work, why should we care about creating a space that helps people feel included? There’s plenty of research to support inclusive workspaces including a study by Forbes in 2017 that found:

  • Highly engaged (and included) employees are 78% less likely to leave
  • Inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time
  • Decisions made and executed by diverse teams deliver better results 60% of the time

What does an inclusive work-space look like, and what can I do to help? Inclusion is about belonging, and there are many ways that you can belong. Whatever your organisation decides to do, it should start from your values, and be led from the top.

As a leader:

  • Be clear about your organisation’s values and discuss these on a regular basis with all the people in your business.
  • Actively ask how people could feel more included in the workplace: you might be surprised at what people suggest.
  • Think about how you measure the IMPACT of an inclusive workplace. That could be in a staff satisfaction survey; through interviews with your clients around the diversity of your team and the impact that had on the work you did with them;
  • Think about your communication: both in terms of tone and content. Be explicit and don’t expect people to read between the lines.
  • Make inclusion part of your everyday routine. This is not an exercise you can do once and consider done.

As an individual:

  • Explore your biases. We all have them, being aware of them helps us think about how we reduce their impact. For example, do your recruitment processes help reduce proximity bias (or the recency effect)?
  • Make your communications explicit: ask the question you want an answer to. Don’t expect people to read between the lines, they may not be able to.
  • Challenge your leadership to do better.
  • Be involved, don’t be silent.

Whether you end up with gender-neutral bathrooms, office furniture that’s flexible enough to meet everyone’s needs, or an agreement that social events need to be varied both in terms of time and content, your inclusive workplace should be driven by everyone.

At Bluewolf, an IBM Company our culture thrives on both diversity and inclusion. Start your career with us — now.

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