Too often, most of us are a little confused in our thinking about diversity and inclusivity. The two are not interchangeable terms, and aiming for the first goal at the expense of the second is pointless.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines diversity as “the collective mixture of differences and similarities that include, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviors.” It recognizes two separate categories of diversity – visible and invisible traits. Visible traits include race, gender, physical abilities, age, and body type. Invisible diversity traits include things such as sexual orientation, parental status, religion, socio-economic status, and education.
SHRM then summarizes the term inclusivity as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”
Part of the challenge of building a diverse workforce is the idea that out-groups will come to in-groups to apply for work, or check out their recruitment options online. In fact, networking and building talent pipelines with other groups on their home turf has been proven to be the best and most effective way to recruit top talent. This should be an ongoing practice — mixing with divergent groups at chamber events, trade associations, and through targeted civic organizations — and not a last-minute recruitment tactic. In this way, trust is built for inclusive sincerity, creating authentic inroads, and the company’s knowledge base in general benefits.
The second challenge to recruitment is your management poster. What does it look like? Unless you have recruited management level diversity, direct-report diversity is harder to achieve. People aspire to have opportunities in the workplace for advancement; if they see only a white male management floor, it is not nearly as promising a workplace as a bi-gender C-suite glowing with living color. Something to consider. Not only would your outward appearance be more magnetic, but likely your internal workings would be more inspiring as well.
Inclusivity is a challenge even for homogeneous groups comprised of the same ethnic and regional backgrounds. For example, seldom does the least educated rung on the company ladder have the same access to opportunities and resources as the most educated rung. This is where true employee training and development programs can make a world of difference, offering positional cross-training and advancement opportunities throughout the employee’s tenure.
Most important, diversity and inclusivity goals must start at the top of the corporate food chain and be honestly embraced by middle management. The move from a homogeneous culture to one that truly values differing styles, pronunciations and expectations is hard – nobody said it would be easy. But the more you activity work at it, the more it will pay off in every way.