If you think diversity and inclusion in the workplace will happen without your involvement, think again.
With recent events in the news putting racial inequality in the spotlight yet again, there is a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. Though D&I efforts are nothing new, few would disagree that reaching diversity and inclusion goals remains a work in progress. A recent Gartner survey found that only 36 percent of D&I leaders rate their organization as effective at building a diverse workforce.
Yet, when employees adopt their organization's vision for diversity and inclusion, everyone benefits. A diverse and inclusive workplace promotes a sense of belonging among employees, and also leads to stronger financial performance and better team decision-making.
However, the success of D&I efforts is highly dependent upon the support of everyone in the workplace — not just senior management. Here are some ideas to help you actively support diversity and inclusion in your organization.
Become aware of unconscious bias
Unconscious bias occurs when you make decisions or treat others in a certain way based on a set of subconscious assumptions or stereotypes. Unconscious bias is pervasive; there are an estimated 150 types of unconscious bias in the workplace, including:
Out-group bias (perceiving those who are different negatively)
Affinity bias (preferring those who seem more similar to you)
Blind-spot bias (identifying biases in others, but not yourself)
To support diversity and inclusion in your organization, think about the assumptions you may have about other individuals or groups, and challenge yourself to examine how those biases impact your interactions with others. As you become more aware of unconscious bias, you can take steps to eliminate it.
Participating in diversity training and having conversations with a trusted mentor can also help you identify ways to reduce the impact of unconscious bias in your day-to-day work.
Understand your organization's stance on D&I
Every organization has its own approach to diversity and inclusion, and you should know what that is in your organization. Whether your employer is just beginning to develop a vision for workplace diversity and inclusion, or it already has a large D&I program with task forces and other resources, you should get informed. Knowing what your organization is doing to promote a culture of fairness and equality can help you identify new ways to get involved.
PWC research found that only 22 percent of employees know the steps their organization is taking to track diversity metrics and execute its D&I strategy. By speaking with your company's D&I representatives, HR, or other senior leaders, you can understand current efforts to support inclusion in your workplace and what's on the horizon. The more you know, the more you can support important initiatives.
Many companies have a range of D&I activities open for employee participation, including mentorship programs, discussion groups, and volunteer activities. Participating in one or more activities not only helps you learn how to improve diversity and inclusion where you work, but it may also help you get out of your comfort zone and meet new co-workers.
Here are just a few ways you can get involved:
Volunteer to mentor someone who can benefit from your knowledge and experience.
Join the office diversity council.
Attend lunch-and-learns and other sessions on diversity topics.
Talk to HR and ask about other ways to get involved.
Be an inclusive leader
Whether you're an individual contributor or a manager, you can support diversity and inclusion in the workplace by example. As an inclusive leader, you can help create a welcoming work environment where people treat each other fairly. Take the following actions to show leadership within diversity and inclusion initiatives:
Respect each individual for the unique experiences and capabilities they bring to the team.
Collaborate with others within and across teams, welcoming views different from your own.
Proactively work to help others feel they belong.
If you're a manager, seek to hire a diverse team and celebrate the different perspectives of each member.
As a collection of people of different races, genders, ethnicities, and experiences, every workplace can benefit from improving diversity and inclusion. When you take steps to support D&I initiatives where you work, you not only support an important aspect of your company's culture, but you also do your part to help the entire organization succeed.
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