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What comes first – diversity or inclusion?

Read time 2 mins | By: Jackie Burns, Americas Director of People & Culture, on March 18th, 2020

Over the past few years there has been a focus on diversity and an increase in representation of people from various backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. Whereas, inclusion involves creating a space where everyone’s voice is heard equally in the workplace. I think that both of these concepts will remain a top focus for organizations in 2020 and certainly something that we also continue to challenge ourselves with at Hays.

Diversity without Inclusion
While diversity and inclusion (D&I) are both common goals for many businesses, achieving these can be challenging. It’s easy to assume a diverse workplace will naturally bring an inclusive space, however this may not always be the case. Certainly, diversity can bring variety but without an inclusive attitude, employees may be hesitant or even fearful to contribute new ideas and views. Being diverse is one thing, but being accepted for that diversity is another.

It is not uncommon for businesses to just focus on achieving diversity by “numbers” in an effort to measure success or as a means to improving performance. Often times this leads to simply achieving a target as part of compliance objectives or public relations goals – rather than a means to develop a creative and high performance culture. I encourage employers to consider a different approach that embraces employees from different backgrounds, thoughts, and experiences. This paired with a culture that invites sharing unique perspectives is essential to success. Simply thinking about diversity alone does not mean an inclusive workplace will follow.

Inclusion without Diversity
Employers should make a conscious effort to foster an inclusive environment. It is possible to achieve a feeling of inclusiveness without focusing on employee diversity at all. This can lead to what’s commonly known as groupthink – where people feel a part of something, but creativity and individuality tend to be stifled in an effort to steer away from conflict. In time, the same views and approaches are used repeatedly, even if they are not entirely effective.

Managers who intentionally set out to create workplace environments where each person feels included and respected, will encourage employee engagement. When barriers to diversity exist consciously or unconsciously, the same ideas and perspectives resurface repeatedly. This is why managers must focus on both diversity and inclusion in the workplace. When both diversity and inclusion exist, employees and the organizations enjoy unparalleled opportunities to grow and excel.

It’s important to recognize that diversity and inclusion work hand and hand and are both equally important. My suggestion would be to think about diversity and inclusion genuinely in terms of ‘the way we work around here’ and not just a policy. We partner closely with LinkedIn and would encourage you to read their article, 50+ ideas for cultivating diversity and inclusion in the workplace to help you get started on your own D&I journey.

For more advice from our experts, visit our resources section

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