Over the past few years, we have seen organizations across the board focusing on ‘diversity and inclusion’ (D&I). In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that today, diversity and inclusion has taken center stage at workplaces. But what has led to its coming into the spotlight? It is because organizations are increasingly realizing the positive impact of D&I on their business - multiple studies have found that diversity and inclusion links directly with an organization’s business performance. As per a Gartner report inclusive teams improve team performance by up to 30 percent in high-diversity environments; while another BCG study cites that companies with diverse management teams had a 19 percent increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts. Therefore, diversity and inclusion should be ‘non-negotiable’ for every organization that wants to remain successful in the long run.
Creating a diverse and inclusive culture in an organization is much more than just having policies and programs. Diversity is understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people while Inclusion is about creating an environment that enables equal participation of all employees so that they feel valued - this has to resonate with each employee and reflect in the initiatives the company takes. It is imperative that D&I flows top-down i.e., top management has to be its flagbearer.
Diverse teams achieve great results, but that can only happen if they coexist in an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable and safe to express themselves. This promotes self-confidence, encourages collaboration within teams, brings awareness about culture differences and ultimately leads to creation of an overall healthy and efficient working environment. In fact, studies show that not only do diverse teams perform better but they are more innovative and experience much more happiness in general. A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report shows that employees who indicate that they are happy at work are 1.5 times more likely to say they always want to give their best. This underlines how happiness at the workplace is directly related to inclusivity and innovation.
Organizations have to work towards ensuring that Diversity and Inclusion is woven into the very fabric of an organization. At Ericsson for example, Diversity & Inclusion has been fundamental to our culture and core values, that's why we nurture it in everything we do – build teams that reflect our approach and create a space for all employees to bring in their unique perspectives. It's important that we do this for our people, our customers and for society. In fact, we are convinced diverse inclusive teams not only drive performance and innovation but also create greater business value.
To create diverse teams that lead any organization to achieve their goals, each team member must feel confident to air his/her views without inhibition or in scientific terms feel ‘psychological safe’. The term ‘psychological safety’ was coined by an organizational behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson of Harvard, and it refers to “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” A psychologically safe environment, therefore, is one where a culture of mutual respect and trust enables people to bring their best to work, be more caring towards their peers and lead the organization towards its goals. Hence, diversity is only the first step, diversity with inclusion is the source of creating real value and impact at a workplace.
How do we make sure diversity is inclusive?
Fostering mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities
Setting clear expectations and defining each team members’ role and responsibility is most important. Employees who are unsure about their roles, with poor direction might feel overwhelmed, lost, and even stressed. In fact, without a clear understanding, the workplace could become a breeding ground for dissatisfaction. Through clear planning and communication with each team member, organizations can make sure they foster mutual understanding where members recognize each other’s roles and work in tandem with each other with respect and trust towards a common goal.
Creating a culture of speak-up and acceptance
It is important that each team member feels his/her contribution is being recognized without judgment. Meaning that team leaders need to be equipped to create a space where all members are encouraged to share ideas, ask questions, or voice concerns, and make mistakes without any repercussions. And employees will be able to do so only if they are able to bring their full self to work without fear of any bias.
Providing necessary tools that promote engagement, learning and conversation
Right tools and training are key for teams to work smoothly and collaborate, and this is especially critical in the COVID-19 pandemic induced ‘work from home’ situation. Necessary training and tools are also crucial for employee growth. And a culture that promotes learning and development contributes significantly towards an overall healthy environment by ensuring the employees are prepared for any work-related disruption or uncertainties.
Diversity encompasses a diverse range of things, including - cognitive perspectives, education, work experiences, personal life experiences, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation as well as many more. It helps widen the talent pool as well as increase employee engagement and trust. A diverse and inclusive environment establishes a sense of belongingness among the employees. When employees feel more connected at work, they tend to work harder and smarter, producing higher quality work thus creating a positive impact on the business returns.