Diversity – “the collective mixture of differences and similarities that include, for example, individual and organisational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviors.”
Inclusion – “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 organisation’s success”
Feeling welcomed and included, a part of the team, has a substantial effect on whether we feel good when we’re at work, our ability to perform in our role, and our overall wellbeing.
Australia, and subsequently its workforce, is one of the most diverse countries in the world. We come from a wide range of cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, gender identities, ages, sexual orientations, and differing family responsibilities.
Yet discrimination, bullying, and harassment in the workplace remain ongoing issues, particularly for people from different cultural backgrounds, people with disabilities, mothers returning to work, LGBTI people, and mature age employees.
Diversity is about our individual differences and acknowledging the unique blend of knowledge, skills and perspectives people bring to the workplace.
Diversity can include characteristics such as cultural background and ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, language and education. Diversity also includes characteristics such as professional skills, working style, location, and life experiences.
An inclusive culture is one where everyone feels valued and respected and is able to fully contribute. It is about removing barriers to make sure everyone can fully participate in the workplace and have equal access to opportunities. Inclusion is about empowering people to contribute their skills and perspectives for the benefit of organisational performance and business outcomes.
The moral argument is weighty enough, but the financial impact – as proven by multiple studies – makes this a no-brainer.
Diversity is central to innovation. It brings forth new and better ways of doing things, helps us to harness the benefits of technology and improve the efficiency and quality of our services. Inclusion is the key to unlocking this potential.
When we value workplace diversity and inclusion we see benefits such as higher employee engagement, improved performance, greater innovation, retention of talent, improved employee wellbeing and lower levels of unlawful behaviour such as harassment and discrimination.
The case for diversity & inclusion lies in valuing peoples abilities instead of their limitations
Whether business owners and managers like to admit it or not, people tend to recruit someone that reflects back themselves. Sometimes when a management team states they recruit on cultural fit what they really mean is they are looking for a while male aged between 25 – 45 that likes to sink a few beers at the end of the week and supports the West Coast Eagles. Sometimes it’s overt, such as my example, but sometimes you can look around your workplace and realised you’ve basically employed the same person 40 times, this is called unconscious bias.
2018 Diversity & Inclusion report conducted by Hay’s found that 63 per cent of respondents across all markets believe leaders hold a bias towards people who look, think or act like they do.
Research suggests that we instinctively categorize people and things using easily observed criteria such as age, weight, skin color, and gender. But we also classify people according to educational level, disability, sexuality, accent, social status, and job title, automatically assigning presumed traits to anyone we subconsciously put in those groups.
The “advantage” of this system is that it saves us time and effort processing information about people, allowing us to spend more of our mental resources on other tasks. The clear disadvantage is that it can lead us to make assumptions about them and take action based on those biases. This results in a tendency to rely on stereotypes, even if we don’t consciously believe in them.
Read more about this here
No matter how unbiased we think we are, we may have subconscious negative opinions about people who are outside our own group. But the more exposed we are to other groups of people, the less likely we are to feel prejudice against them. So the more diverse our workplaces, the more it will become the norm.
Millennials have a unique perspective on diversity. While older generations tend to view diversity through the lenses of race, demographics, equality and representation, millennials see diversity as a melding of varying experiences, different backgrounds and individual perspectives. They view the ideal workplace as a supportive environment that gives space to varying perspectives on a given issue.
Kicking goals in the area of diversity & inclusion isn’t easy, it’s a work in progress, something that requires continued work and maintenance. Empathetic leadership is key to this transformation. For real change to happen, every individual leader needs to buy into the value of belonging – both intellectually and emotionally.
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