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How You Can Make Your D&I initiatives Work for You

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COVID-19 has pointed out various gaps and divide in the organization and one such gap is inequality at work – whether in terms of gender, pay, and race. This disparity had become a reality of the corporate workplace.
And to address this disparity the organizations had adopted various or seem to have adopted numerous D&I initiatives. However, something somewhere didn’t work.

Picture this

According to a report by JUST Capital – about 86% of companies have a Diversity and Equal Opportunity i.e. D&EO policy, however, only about 11% of the organizations can claim to have real and measurable targets.
In a report released by Forbes, it was revealed that more than a quarter of employees in large organizations felt that their direct manager is committed to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).

Talent Management Institute through their recent blog piece has tried to identify the cause of this ‘shocking lag’ and has unearthed a crucial observation.

The effect is visible across the levels.

According to HR.com, about 20% of respondents felt that their company was at an advanced level in implementing D&I initiatives.

Considering the data, let’s check whether the terms Diversity and Inclusion were understood properly by the HR professionals as well as talent leaders.

So what do the terms Diversity and Inclusion mean?

As per the 2018 Gallup Report, Diversity is defined as the ‘full spectrum of human differences’ – on lines of race, gender, religion, age, social orientation, socio-economic status including physical disability.
In most cases, organizations also consider other different demographics like personality traits, opinions, lifestyle, family composition, including education level. Diversity in organizations can be of various types like –

1. Internal Diversity refers to the various factors that an individual is either born into or belongs to. Usually, an individual has no control over these diversities and refers to factors like ethnicity, age, cultural diversity, race, and national origin.

2. External Diversity refers to an individual’s characteristics they build over a period of time but they are not born into it. Implying that an individual can change those characteristics. External diversity comprises – geographical location, experiences, relationship status, citizenship, education, religion, socioeconomic status, and skills and interests.

3. Organizational Diversity refers to the various diversity factors that can snap up in any company and includes diversities like job function, management status, and seniority level.

4. World Views as the name suggests are the differences and diversity in the views of people related to the world. It is believed that people’s worldviews are affected by the individual experiences, beliefs, history’s knowledge along the political philosophies that an individual subscribes to among other things. This type of diversity includes an individual’s cultural events, political beliefs along with knowledge of history.

As Diversity’s meaning becomes clear, let’s understand what Inclusion means and why Diversity and Inclusion have become important in the current workplace.

“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.”

– Jesse Jackson, Politician and Civil Rights Activist.

As per the definition by SHRM ‘Inclusion’ is an environment at the workplace where all employees are treated equally, fairly, and are respected irrespective of the differences they have. Inclusion refers to the workplace where employees have equal access to opportunities and resources and are able to contribute completely to the success of the organization.

 Organizations can boost their employee engagement programs with Inclusivity. Here’s how – Inclusivity ensures that each and every employee feels that she is a part of the team and is included. Understand this an Inclusive workforce feels seen, heard, respected, and valued.

Result: Surge in innovation, increased cooperation, and rise in employee engagement.

While D&I initiatives are used together, interestingly diversity and inclusion are not the same. As psychologist Bill Crawford says, “Diversity, or the state of being different, isn't the same as inclusion. One is a description of what is, while the other describes a style of interaction essential to effective teams and organizations.”

Now that it is clear what is Diversity and Inclusion, let’s understand why is it important to have D&I training programs in an organization. While there are numerous benefits of D&I training programs at a workplace, some of them are listed below –

1. D&I initiatives foster innovation and more creativity in the workplace.
2. The D&I training program will allow businesses to build an economy that is competitive enough in relation to the present globalized world.
3. It ups the performance levels of employees as they feel heard, and valued at work.
4. Organizations can capture bigger share of the consumer market with Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.

While there are benefits of Diversity in organizations, it is important to know that diversity without inclusion will have no effect on the success of the organization. At the same time, remember that even if the senior management is 100% committed to D&I initiatives it is not enough.

Then what’s the solution?

The solution is in the hands of talent leaders or talent managers as they are the ones who can engage the frontline leaders. It is important to engage frontline leaders as they are the ones who interact with their teams and are the mentors and role models for the employees. 

But how do talent leaders engage the frontline leaders who are disengaged?

According to a blog piece by Talent Management Institute, there are five things a talent manager can do to engage the frontline leaders.

1. Make D&I program culture and not a fad
2. Even the leaders need leaders who can lead them
3. It is more about Show then tell. In other words, more practice and less preaching
4. Ditch the Hunch and use decision-making tools for more concrete and precise decisions
5. Make the results accountable and make managers responsible for the results.

The road ahead is not easy, as D&I is a long-term investment – one that requires patience – however its benefits can be counted in terms of increased employee retention, the surge in employee engagement resulting in increased commitment and performance.

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, it was revealed that the teams who have inclusive leaders are about 17% more likely to have high performing employees, about 29% more likely to collaborate.
In a nutshell: Engage your frontline leaders to make your D&I initiatives work for you.

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