Diversity and inclusion are two words that very few people had heard of ten years ago, but in 2021 these two words are used everywhere. However, many people do not understand what they mean and how to truly achieve diversity or truly achieve inclusion.
The most famous way of describing diversity and inclusion goes as follows – diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance. I feel differently. To obtain true inclusion, you need to be at that party and not feel that you are just able to dance but feel comfortable dancing however you want to without feeling judged.
Below are some questions to ask yourself and your wider team to assess whether you are truly inclusive or whether it’s time to make your team more inclusive and reap the benefits of an inclusive team. My advice would be not to wait to try and rectify this. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. With inclusion, it is so much better to be proactive rather than being reactive. However, it is so important that you understand that one or two big initiatives will not change or rectify everything. If you want to truly make an inclusive culture for your team, this will need a long-term commitment to both the big initiatives as well as the day-to-day initiatives.
Below are some of these long-term commitments and day-to-day initiatives which you can implement in your business to ensure you build an inclusive team.
Is there psychological safety?
If you look around your office (well, not your office at the moment because you are probably sitting in a room at home), but if you look at your team and the wider team, if you ask yourself the question – do you feel comfortable being your full and authentic self at work? If you are one of the lucky ones who answer yes to that, I ask you to look around at everyone in the office and the wider team and ask if they feel the same? If there is one person who doesn’t feel able to bring their full selves to work, then you have work to do to build a truly inclusive team.
When you recruit, are you ensuring that you are looking in places that aren’t just top universities or other top companies? So many people do not have the privilege to get into these institutions. It does not mean that they cannot do the job; on the contrary, they could actually do the job better than someone who has been at a well-known institution due to their lived experiences and understanding of what is needed. It depends on the role, but it is key that you look outside your usual comfort zone to find the talent you need to galvanise your business.
Forget about ‘culture fit’
Ban culture fit as a reason for not hiring someone. As a reason for not hiring someone, the excuse of not being a “culture fit” is the exact opposite of what it means to be inclusive. To be truly inclusive, you need everyone to feel that they can bring their full authentic selves to work, and by feeling they have to fit into a culture, you are doing the exact opposite. We need to think more holistically about who is in the organisation and what each individual can bring to the table. That means we need multiple skill sets and multiple personas who may be very different from what you had originally thought was needed in the company. We need to learn to celebrate difference, and if there is one culture fit for all, we are moulding people, which is everything that inclusion isn’t.
Raise the D&I conversation
Is diversity and inclusion something that is spoken about and managed in performance conversations? If not, this is another sign that you may need to make your team more inclusive. If diversity and inclusion are not spoken about in these conversations and more generally in the workplace, then employees will not believe that this is taken seriously. Therefore, anyone who does not feel included will most likely end up either not feeling motivated and therefore not producing the work you need or eventually leaving. Ensure that you have clear messaging to your team around diversity and inclusion and that this is followed up in performance conversations. This is especially important for line managers to understand and be upskilled in, as they have the important job of bringing a team along with them, and if it is not inclusive, you will not get the best out of them.
Do you have employee resource groups, or do you consistently support and celebrate people’s differences? Employee resource groups are a way to show individuals that they are cared about and celebrated. It’s a way for employees to meet other employees like them, share lived experiences, and make proposed changes to work policies and structures to become more inclusive. It’s also a way for employees to learn more about that specific employee group which will help break down unconscious or conscious biases others may have.
Ultimately, creating an inclusive team is all about listening. Listening to your team and ensuring everyone is heard and feels that they can dance however they want without being judged!
Esther Marshall, Diversity and Inclusion expert, mental health activist, and the author of the ‘Sophie Says’ children’s books series.