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5 tips for more diversity, inclusion and true equality

Feeling a sense of belonging in the workplace is crucial for good employee experiences. Moreover, ignoring disadvantaged and unfairly treated groups of people is now morally unacceptable. Employership is rated higher when targeted actions are taken to render workplaces more diverse and inclusive. In this blog I offer 5 tips for enhancing inclusion, diversity and equity.

Diversity not only benefits employees but also employers; for example, teams that are diverse are more innovative, and customers feel a greater sense of recognition when organizations reflect their identities. It’s definitely a hot topic these days.

‘Belonging’

According to Tana Turner, a Canadian sociologist and consultant, employees must experience diversity, inclusion and equity. A true ‘sense of belonging’ is found where those three elements overlap, a feeling that you genuinely belong in the workplace. Diversity means mixes of people of differing backgrounds, origins and personal characteristics. Inclusion is the art of making that mix work, so that nobody feels disadvantaged or excluded and everyone functions better together. Moreover, equity – ‘experiencing equality or enabling equality’ – is an oft-forgotten element.

Experiencing equity does not mean ‘one size fits all’. Rather, it’s about fair, equitable treatment. Equity is an approach that strives to give everyone access to the same opportunities, and consequently organizations must accept that not everyone has had the same starting points, while subsequently correcting for that fact. It may well be necessary to make distinctions, therefore. Or, as geneticist Hans Galjaard once remarked: “Nothing is more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people”.

Let’s take a look at the three elements:

Inclusion is creating an environment in which every individual or group is respected, supported, heard and valued, and feels welcome to participate fully.

Diversity includes all aspects in which people differ from one another, including visible characteristics like gender, ethnicity and age, and invisible ones like personality traits, qualities and working methods.

 Equity is about treating all people fairly, ensuring they have the same access to opportunities and can progress, while concurrently striving to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent certain groups from participating fully.

 

‘Diversity is being asked to the party.

Inclusion is being asked to dance’

Vera Myers

 

It must be said however that when it comes to diversity and inclusion, the practical reality is more complex than we would perhaps like: a single training aimed at making people more aware of their unconscious biases will not have an immediate, desired impact on hiring and promotion. Management teams may indeed speak favorably of diversity yet such teams still primarily consist of white males; the nursing and prayer rooms in many workplaces still look suspiciously like the cleaners’ storage closet; and while the official corporate language may well be English we’re still quick to speak our own native language with our compatriots, to the exclusion of others who cannot follow our conversations. Or, the international headquarters in the U.S. routinely schedules online meetings at times suitable for them, but in Europe at that time of day their colleagues are sitting down to dinner with their families and of course decline to attend such meetings. In short, there’s still much work to be done.

5 tips for more diversity, inclusion and equity

  1. Write more inclusive recruitment texts

Look at your recruiment pages and to highlight diversity adjust the photos accordingly. Adjust your recruitment processes to account for (unconscious) biases. Let your colleagues know that when recommending potential new employees they can actually look further than simply their immediate circle of friends. We are after all looking for applicants who have the right DNA, not copies of present personnel. However, the most important tip for creating more diversity is this: the language used in recruitment texts must be more inclusive, and I don’t mean by simply including the standard diversity statements. Inclusive writing is much more than that: using certain words can attract or repel your chosen target group. Are you simply listing skill sets or do you want results? Are your texts discrimination-free? Did you check with your target group to see how they regard such recruitment texts?

  1. Check pay differences

 Differences in pay that people deem unfair are sources of workplace dissatisfaction. After adjusting for all manner of factors, women on average still earn 6% less than men (Wawoe, 2017), and it doesn’t stop there: employees with migration backgrounds earn less than natives; expats earn more than local employees; and employees with regional accents earn less than those who speak standard Dutch. And there even more differences that have absolutely nothing to do with job performance. In 2018, Aegon became the first Dutch company to include in its collective labor agreement the proviso that men and women should be paid equally. The company’s management team felt it was high time to remove such discrepancies. Take this an example: routinely check whether unjustified pay differences exist in your organization and take appropriate actions to equalize them.

  1. Celebrate the holidays of all cultures

Recognize the fact that the various groups in your (international) organisation also celebrate their own cultural holidays. Bear this in mind when scheduling and planning meetings and recognize such holidays internally. At Unilever, employees from Benelux countries can exchange national holidays for days on which they themselves want to celebrate.

  1. Examine how specific groups experience the organisation

We tend to categorize the findings of employee surveys according to male and female, age groups and years of service; consequently, scant attention is given to how other relevant groups experience the organization. Instead, find ways to conduct other types of analyzes, provided there are enough respondents. And in written evaluations, ask the employees how they experience diversity, inclusion and equal treatment. Further, host sounding board sessions, interviewing groups of employees and asking them about their experiences, while empathically listening to their stories. Put yourself in their shoes and take their opinions seriously, and do something productive with your findings.

  1. Create communities

As a way of creating stronger bonds, employees like to have their own internal ‘clubs’: groups which share common interests, helping one another and having fun, which we call communities. Such shared interests may be work-related, but are more likely to involve interests outside of work. Encourage and help employees find one another via a LGBTIQ network, for example, or by hosting a 5K run (with sponsored shirts) or other such activities that create bonds between like-minded people.

 

 

Author: Heleen Mes