What is Diversity?
Diversity as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is “the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.”.
Why is it Important?
Morally diversity and inclusion are human rights. However, human civilization has shown us that this has been a constant struggle over time. The painful history of marginalized people in all spheres are not to be forgotten or glazed over, but their fight, struggle and sacrifices are to be remembered, celebrated, and immortalised.
Some legendary icons such as Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King were catalysts for change and spoke for the voices of the marginalized. As a South African who now gets to enjoy freedoms and celebrate my own heritage in the rich tapestry of the Rainbow Nation with thanks to leaders like Nelson Mandela.
While not-so-legendary but equally admirable are the lone voices making a stand for women in a male-dominated corporate jungle, for rights to sexual orientation and some for their own gender identity in a seemingly binary workplace. Metaphorically, diversity, for me as a coach, is accepting and advocating for all the colours of the rainbow in full glory. Diversity resonates strongly with authenticity, that is being true to yourself and living your Truth. This can happen when you feel free and feel included. What a beautiful utopia we create when we are all feel included and accepted to be authentically who we are.
Business driving diversity because diversity makes cents
Leaders of business are hiring people with diversity management skills to enable transformation in technology and a change to an inclusive culture. Interestingly, diversity and inclusion, these fundamental human rights are becoming business jargon and part of business strategies. This is because having a diverse and multicultural workplace, brought about by globalisation, interconnectedness of the technological and social revolution, is a significant competitive advantage to capitalise upon. In a way, business in seeing that advocating for diversity is making sense and business cents.
Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Research has found the following:
The talent base increases and introduces a diverse range of skills, experiences, perspectives that can positively impact a workplace especially with ideas and processes can become more efficient and more effective. Companies can now also provide 24-hour service to global customers, by allowing inclusion from different part of the world employing people from different regions or outsourcing of the world to assist departments such as customer support, to provide real-time assistance to customers in their specific time zones. When employees feel included, they are happier and more engaged, produce greater quality work, and stay longer with that company.
Creative thinking and problem solving are key skills needed in the 21st century workplace and this potential in certainly increased when you add people with different cultures, backgrounds, perspectives, skills and experiences to the mix. Scientifically the more varied the group, the more creative the solution that they will come up with. Diverse groups also seem to be outperforming ones with singular perspectives.
Improved Cultural Awareness
This is especially important for multinationals that compete in multicultural environments. Understanding cultural nuances, language, protocols, acceptable and unacceptable behaviour allows a type of diplomacy in interacting and communicating with potential business partners, respective countries of operation, business vendors, clients, and customers. It allows effective work relations and as well as doing-business relationships.
A Positive Reputation
A company that is seen as accepting and inclusive of diversity, attracts diverse talent since it is fair and tolerant of diversity. Casting a wider net in a greater talent pool.
Increase in Marketing Opportunities
A company that is tolerant, accepting and fair with employees from various backgrounds and cultures, promotes a positive reputation and markets itself as diverse and inclusive attracts a wider range of customers from all the diverse backgrounds the company is composed of. Diversity attracts diversity.
How to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
Research shows a few ways to do this:
- Create an “Inclusive Workplace Model” which is an imperative in creating a culture of inclusivity
- Evaluate your executive team — do they portray diversity and inclusion?
- Acknowledge and honour multiple religious and cultural practices
- Foster a company culture where every voice is welcome, heard, and respected
- Open a dialogue about gender pay inequality
- Welcome a multilingual workforce
- Foster diverse thinking
- Build a multigenerational workforce
- Strengthen anti-discriminatory policies
- Eliminate bias in the evaluation process and promotion opportunities
- Segment employee engagement surveys by minority groups
- Use independent groups to conduct focus groups
- Personalise one-on-one discussions
- Make your technology accessible to every
- Words matter
The Executive team is the Company’s Voice
Just simply looking at each point above, there is one common denominator – your executive team. Almost everything from the composition of the executive team to their leadership skills, their emotional intelligence, their communications skills, the words that they use, their actions and even non-action is speaking in capital letters to your stakeholders, your role-players and most importantly to your customers.
Thus, it is essential to have a diverse top management team, and this means gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Ask yourself…what is the gender make-up of my executive? How about the representation from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds? How about sexual orientation?
Data from a Boston Consulting Group 2019 study indicates three are openly gay, and one identified as a lesbian.
There is much room for transformation here. The business case for diversity and inclusion is strong. Executives need to be situationally aware of the context the market is operating in and respond with appropriate business strategies, including organisational development and leadership development strategies.
This will get the business on the road to diversity and inclusion and transform with authenticity. Peter Dey, corporate leader and governance expert, remarked on the slow pace of this change (webinar on Good Governance for 21st century organisations).
How Coaching drives Change for Diversity and Inclusion
The very bedrock of what coaching is, is what Carl Rogers called, unconditional positive regard, which simply put is: acceptance.
When your executives engage in the coaching conversation, they learn the mutual benefit of acceptance of self and others. Leadership coaching can develop the leadership skills required to create a diverse and inclusive workplace by improving:
- Self-awareness and Situational Awareness
- Emotional intelligence e.g., Intent of Words used vs Impact they have on direct reports
- Effective Communication: from words to policy to procedure to feedback
- Adopting a coaching leadership style or even becoming Leader Coaches: allows one-on-one discussions that keep employees thinking and feeling important and empowered
- Strategic thinking for the organisational development that supports diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are human rights that some have struggled and fought for, and it is on the agenda as a workplace imperative.
Not only has it been attributed to increased productivity, but also an increase in creativity, increase in collaboration due to cultural awareness, a more positive reputation and increased customer base and marketing opportunities.
Diversity and inclusion is making business sense. A way to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, is a focus on the executive team of the business.
It is the common denominator in creating the resolve for a diverse and inclusive culture. It is important to take look at the executive team and hear what is telling you and your stakeholders, especially your customers.
Leadership development which includes leadership coaching can improve the skills of the executives in e.g., becoming self-aware, situationally aware, emotionally intelligent, strategic thinking of how to create an organisation that fosters diversity and inclusion, effective communication and adopting a coaching leadership style to grow and shape the diverse range of employees in the business.
This will let employees’ true colours shine – it is a human right, and your business will thank you too.
Does your workplace embrace diversity and inclusion? Learn more here.