Implementing policies that focus on diversity and inclusion make employees more comfortable in their jobs – and is certainly the ‘right thing to do’. However, as FIDI President Laura Ganon explains, companies who properly address these issues will see real benefits to their business
Have you ever been to a place where you felt uncomfortable, like you didn’t belong? Have you ever been in a situation when you felt you could not be completely yourself? I bet you have, we all have, and it is not a good feeling, is it?
Now, imagine that you felt like that all the time you were at work, where the average person spends a quarter of their adult life.
Inclusion is the magic word we need to make us all feel well in our skin and, as a result, to feel we can be exactly who we are. It allows us to think freely, to be empowered to create and to innovate. If you are in an environment where everyone is included as equal, I am sure you will be more productive, more honest, more straightforward and, most importantly, happier.
If you create an inclusive environment in your company, you will most certainly welcome the other magic word: diversity. Not just because it is politically correct, or because we are nice people, and not even because our customers are asking for it.
All these things are true and are indeed very good reasons, but if they are not enough in your opinion, there is another reason you cannot ignore: it has been proven in many studies and research that the more diverse the team in a company, the more innovative it is – and revenue increases as a result.
The truth is that diversity is not just something to comply with. It creates real competitive advantage. Fresher and more creative ideas are generated by teams that have different minds brainstorming together. Different gender, age, ethnicity, cultural background, social class, religion, sexual orientation, physical abilities, and appearances bring with them new perspectives and the opportunity for each person to learn from others’ experiences. Diversity and innovation not only grow together, but they feed from each other in an endless positive spiral.
So how can we make effective changes? If you need to improve diversity and inclusion in your company, I suggest you start by treating them as you would treat any other important project: identifying weaknesses; setting goals and targets; assigning responsibilities; defining deadlines; measuring and reporting results; and, finally, establishing consequences, good or bad.
We all know this is the only way things get done: evidence, goals, and metrics. As a minimum, targets should include hirers, promotions, unbiased performances reviews, and the assurance of an inclusive environment in the company.
Embrace this change in leadership, not just to do the right thing, but to have a more profitable business. But don’t forget, while companies can mandate diversity, they must cultivate inclusion, by establishing bias interrupters, recognising and respecting the differences that diverse groups bring.
Some companies are full of good intentions and, while they try to improve their workplaces, they fail. Why? I think many companies attack the problem with conversations and training only. But if there is a structural problem, you must change the structure. And if you want to make progress, you must apply the normal process you use for your business projects. This is a language any CEO understands and knows how to apply.
As I usually say, it is not a matter of just improving, it is a matter of surviving. Companies that are oblivious to demands of society do not have a very bright future, if any. In short, inclusion and diversity are business priorities. And if the change starts with business, it will almost certainly spread to the employees’ private lives, creating a better developed human race.
There is a lot to do but small steps lead to huge changes.