Updated: Sep 13
Much is made of diversity and inclusion in the workplace development arena.... but are we 'doing' diversity and inclusion right? Are we truly making attempts to develop equitable organisations that embed diversity, inclusion and equity.
For most organisations, on some level or another, diversity and inclusion is about showcasing diversity, as if it were part of some fashion show runway collection!
It involves 'celebrating' people of different backgrounds and initiating programmes and activities to show that the company means business.
A deeper look however, shows that things may not be as they seem.
Whilst leaders actively 'promote' diversity and inclusion, it does not appear to be taking shape across the senior levels of their organisations.
This is quite telling!
There are several reasons why diversity without inclusion does not work. These can be seen in the results of diversity initiatives that are often described as 'piecemeal'
Some of these are highlighted below:
1. Lots of diverse people in an organisation, but very few, if any, in leadership positions
2. Decision making processes are the preserve of homogeneous leadership, and lack creativity and innovation that diverse groups bring to the table.
3. Leadership has little understanding of cultural needs and believe that they are treating everyone fairly.
4. An abundance of activity around inclusion, for example for 'Pride' and 'Black History Month' whilst employees complain of lack of inclusion and understanding
5. An diverse employee base that does not feel like they belong
6. The development of products and services for a homogeneous group, with little or no understanding or attempt to market based on the needs of diverse groups
7. A website that depicts the true nature of the organisation, through images of leaders from a homogeneous group that is lacking in diversity.
Equity can only be truly realised if it is part of the fabric of an organisation. True diversity, is nothing without inclusion.
Very often, the true nature of an equitable and inclusive organisation can be seen at the top of an organisation, through its characteristics and behaviours.
When Diversity Fails to become Inclusive
Hiring for diversity is somewhat of a fashion at the moment. Organisations steadily seek to hire people from different racial and cultural background and women, in a quest to appear more inclusive.
The reality however, for many, is that once the recruitment drive is over and the diverse faces appear, often on the company website or on social media, for the purposes of showcasing, that's the end of it.
So what we have, is words, with very limited action. Action to get people in, but very little to develop equality through inclusion.
Inclusion should not stop once the recruitment process ends. In fact, hiring is only the start of the journey!
Diversity comes with a host of business benefits but it is essential that organisations are genuine about increasing diversity to deliver on an inclusive agenda.
If they are not, then employees, recruits and stakeholders to the business will soon realise that efforts to support diversity and inclusion are without strategy and the results will be poor.
This can be damaging as it serves to maintain the status quo, and further marginalises employees. When new recruits are taken on, they will soon realise that the job advertisements and nice words around diversity and belonging, were merely for promotional purposes.
This will lead to increased absenteeism, high rates of staff turnover and reduced productivity. In many instances, it can lead to discrimination cases being brought against the organisation and bad publicity.
Why is Equity important in the Diversity Agenda?
An equitable organisation seeks to attain inclusion in order to make diversity valuable. It values difference amongst its employee and customer base.
Many organisations seek to increase diversity without acknowledging the impact that equity and inclusion make to processes, that support better decision making, recruitment and retention and the effective management of projects.
Whilst increasing diversity is important, without ensuring inclusion, diversity initiatives are doomed to fail.
This is because merely increasing numbers for the sake of promotional value doesn't actually change behaviours, that will support diversity or, in fact, inclusion