By Iain Scholnick
Diversity is hot topic right now—from Silicon Valley to Wall Street to Project Greenlight (on and off camera). In the workforce, increasing diversity and inclusion is becoming a huge initiative across industries. Organizations need to understand that talking about “diversity” is a star. However, really integrating a program of “inclusion” is what is needed. Meaning, we have to go beyond simply hiring diverse people and get to the core of how that process will actually improve our bottom lines and company cultures.
To create more meaningful diversity and inclusion, we have to fully understand the spectrum of inclusion issues, more articulately recognize our assumptions and their impact on others, and figure out a way to connect our diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives to ROI and concrete business goals.
If your organization has not yet nailed down a strategy for better implementing D&I, now is a great time to start, especially as we begin to close out the year. Below, I’ve outlined three initial steps that teams can implement today to start becoming more inclusive in a way that makes a true impact:
Understand the Spectrum of Inclusion Issues
First, it’s important to increase awareness of D&I that has real meaning for those at a broad range of competencies—from novice to experienced. You should clearly communicate to your teams that the idea of diversity has evolved. It is now connected to much more than gender and race—it includes disability etiquette, mental health awareness, working with cultural differences, and much more. A good example is how diversity today is not only about males and females, but is also very inclusive of the LGBT community as a whole.
Recognize Assumptions and Their Impact
Second, a key step is to develop competencies to understand the sources of assumptions and the barriers they may create to having an inclusive culture. For example, on the subject of disability training, self-awareness of our own assumptions can put teams at ease, and let them focus on people’s abilities, rather than their disabilities. When we feel at ease and professional, we tend to solve problems and present solutions in an objective and unbiased way—resulting in higher productivity, more meaningful collaboration and communication, and better business outcomes.
Connect Diversity and Inclusion to Business Goals
Finally, since all departments today needs to use data to show ROI, we have to reinforce the direct connection of diversity and inclusion to business impact. You can build a foundation to realize increased engagement while also driving business goals. The truth is that cultural sameness is counterproductive. Working productively with employees who are the same as us is rarely how tangible business breakthroughs are made. It's after we learn how to work with those who are different from us that the best new products and services are brought to market. A lack of diversity results in groupthink, which is an enemy of innovation. Diverse teams are more productive. For example, something that Braidio does well is provide analytics that track employees’ learning progress, and plan future learning initiatives based on data, rather than guesswork—which helps CLOs show ROI.
Heightened productivity, increased employee engagement and a more meaningful company culture are just a few of the byproducts of diversity and inclusion. Better D&I is also a way to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to social good and social responsibility.
The reality is that, due to increasing globalization, understanding who we work with is becoming a core competency. If you think about it, it makes sense that those of us who are born with that skill tend to naturally rise up the ranks. This is because those employees make great strides in relationships not only with a diverse group of customers, but also partners, vendors and coworkers. Both small businesses and major corporations have been subconsciously aware of this phenomenon for decades, however, only recently have management teams actually started to articulate this as a concrete skill that needs training. Taking these three initial steps to implement more meaningful diversity and inclusion in your organization will help your employees start harnessing this increasingly key skill set in the years to come.
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Iain Scholnick is the founder and CEO of Braidio, a cloud-based collaborative learning platform that focuses on learning, networking, and collaboration. A veteran of the Internet, wireless, and security vertical industries with 20 years of technical, business operations, and start-up experience, Iain was also the founder and CEO of LicenseStream, the first comprehensive platform allowing owners of digital content to significantly extend the reach and revenue potential of companies already licensing their content online. He can be reached on Twitter @braidthis.