78% of executives believe that diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage, according to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends. However many executives and professionals are still unsure about how to make diversity and inclusion a part of their everyday work. Many professionals also believe that diversity and inclusion initiatives should be led by others such as the HR team, or the diversity and inclusion employee committee. In reality, it is important to start with ourselves and our own level of awareness on the subject. The more we work on ourselves, the easier it will be to build a more inclusive and diverse workplace. As Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” So where should you start? Here are six simple techniques that you can use everyday to become make diversity and inclusion part of your day-to-day work:
1. Celebrate all cultural holidays and celebrations
A simple and easy way to support diversity and inclusion is to be aware of a variety of upcoming religious and cultural holidays. By having a calendar of important celebrations, you can keep track of which ones are coming next and celebrate them with your team. Honouring key dates such as International Women’s Day, Pride Month, Chinese New Year, Holi, Purim, Diwali, etc… When meeting with your team, if the context is appropriate, ask people what their plans are to celebrate the holiday. Use your company’s communication channels to share any upcoming cultural holiday and even share a cultural holiday calendar. Be mindful of these special days when scheduling conference calls and remember that some employees may have different needs that may require flexibility. To find out more about how to boost diversity and inclusion at work, download my free guide: Ultimate Diversity Champion Guide.
2. Join employee resource groups and encourage others to do the same
Gartner defines an employee resource group (ERG) as a “voluntary, employee-led diversity and inclusion initiative that is formally supported by an organization. ERGs generally are organized on the basis of common identities, interests, or backgrounds with the goal of supporting employees by providing opportunities to network and create a more inclusive workplace.” By joining employee resource groups for women, for black employees, for LGBT+ employees or other employee resource groups, you will improve your personal development and your understanding of other groups in your organisation. Employee resource groups foster a culture of belonging and inclusion. By inviting others to join the employee resource group, you will amplify the reach of these groups and foster inclusion. Try and make it easy for your employees to take part, by asking them to share initiatives or projects the ERG is focused on and by offering to schedule your team meetings in a way that does not clash with the ERG meetings. Share a memo about the benefits of joining employee resource groups. Encourage senior leaders to take part to have more role models showing what behaviours are expected.
3. Invite new voices to your meetings
Companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation according to Boston Consulting Group. Inviting diverse voices to your meetings fosters more diversity, which is a win-win for everyone involved. The workplace that supports a diverse range of voices fosters an inclusive work culture, where all groups of employees know that their voice is heard, valued and respected, not just a small group of employees. If your team is not very diverse, invite people from a different gender, a different ethnicity, a different age, a different cultural background to join your team meetings on a specific project. By proactively asking someone from a different background to join your team meeting, you demonstrate that you value diversity and different perspectives, which inspires new ways of thinking, creativity, and new approaches to problem-solving.
4. Be intentionally mindful in your communication
Your communication style says a lot about your awareness of diversity and inclusion. Your language has a significant impact on how you make people feel at work. Become mindful about using inclusive language in your daily interactions. Avoid using gender-specific words such as “guys” when addressing a group of women and men. Listen more than you speak, do not interrupt or overtalk, be respectful of the time of the person you are meeting. When expressing your opinion, avoid assertive language and instead use sentences such as “according to my experience”. Do not dismiss other people’s contributions but instead, welcome different opinions to you by asking what the reasoning behind it is. Avoid string facial reactions because they may discourage your colleague. Try and remain neutral and express yourself by simply talking.
5. Be mindful of automatic assumptions
Research shows that unconscious bias plays a significant role in the workplace. One Columbia University research revealed that both men and women are more likely to describe male students as “excellent” or “brilliant” whilst female students are described as “highly intelligent” or “very knowledgeable”. These phrases do not set women apart from their competition, the researchers say. Assumptions and stereotypes hurt diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Although implicit bias is often unconscious, it is important to recognize when we apply our biases in our daily interactions at work. Avoid assumptions about the gender of the person and use gender inclusive language. Avoid assumptions about someone’s identity marks: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion etc… Avoid making comments about someone’s physical appearance; avoid assuming that everyone is equally as healthy as you are as many people have hidden disabilities. Avoid expressions such as “as you may know” because not everyone has the same experience as you have. To learn more about how to prevent unconscious bias at work, watch 4 unconscious bias hotspots at work (and how to recognize them).
6. Learn every day
Educate yourself every day about groups that are different from you: learn about experiences of people from a different gender, ethnicity, age, educational background, sexual orientation etc… You can listen to a podcast on your way to work, or an audiobook, read an article or recent research on any of these topics. You can also follow social media accounts specialised in any of these topics. By learning a little bit about cultural differences each day, you are opening up your mind to different perspectives and becoming more aware of your own unconscious biases and how it might show up in your daily interactions at work. Doing your part by educating yourself proactively is a key step to becoming a better ally at work and in your personal life. To learn about diversity and inclusion at work, follow me on Linkedin, Twitter or subscribe to my Youtube channel.
Making diversity and inclusion part of your day-to-day work does not have to be complicated or time-consuming; by making some small efforts everyday, you can proactively change the culture of your workplace and boost diversity and inclusion in the long term. As the workplace is changing at an increasingly rapid pace and as members of the public are changing their expectations of the workplace, professionals who do not change their approach to diversity and inclusion risk being left behind. Now is a great time to change your approach to diversity and inclusion and learning how to become a better ally at work. If you are interested in learning more about how to boost diversity and inclusion in your organization, get in touch!