Diversity in the workplace is important. It is one of the ways in which organizations can become truly inclusive. However, hiring people from diverse backgrounds is not enough.
To make a company or a platform truly inclusive, more needs to be done, but how is this change brought about? What is the secret recipe to true inclusion in the workplace? According to most estimates, good leaders can bring people together and make a space welcoming to all.
Exceptional leaders can look beyond somebody’s ethnicity, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation and treat them as mere human beings. They can also build a positive work environment where people from a range of different backgrounds can feel at home.
However, before we delve into the mechanisms of how leaders bring people together, we need to assess why people feel so aloof and disconnected from each other. Read this article to know the answers to it all.
Why Is Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Important?
Many state laws are compelling companies and organizations to incorporate diversity and inclusion in their hiring criteria. Companies might take this step because of external pressure, but there are a plethora of other reasons why inclusion is beneficial for an organization. Here is why diverse and inclusive environments work better.
1. Greater Productivity and Revenue Growth
Companies that are inclusive and diverse structurally and in terms of leadership behavior tend to do well in the market. They can develop a soft image for themselves. In a world where image contributes to revenue as much as any product, it is important to come off as caring and inclusive in one’s approach.
2. Greater Employee Satisfaction
When employees are happy, they can work at their full potential and contribute a great deal to the revenue. In companies where prejudice, discrimination, and favoritism are the norm, only some employees work well; others do the bare minimum.
However, when companies are welcoming of people from diverse backgrounds, they encourage everyone to give in their heart and soul to get positive results.
3. Less Legal Troubles
Although no company should do this to save face or to avoid legal trouble, it is still a benefit of being inclusive. When the company discriminates against employees and treats them differently, they also open up a lot of gates to legal notices and complaints to the court.
This becomes even more problematic when people complain about unfair hiring or unfair firing from the office. Inclusive workplaces don’t have to go through this issue-at least not frequently.
4. Greater Employee Retention
It is a truth universally acknowledged that companies that prioritize the well-being of their employees end up ensuring greater employee retention. Employees are more likely to commit to the companies for the long-term, even if they are not being paid highly in the said companies.
12 Ways in Which Good Leaders Can Help Bring People Together
1. Assess and Eliminate Their Prejudices
It is easy to assume that all prejudice is external and that you feel none yourself. However, even the best leaders are susceptible to this overarching phenomenon prevailing in the world. Things like someone’s age, gender, religion, or ethnic background can make us feel a certain way about them.
Take the example of Jerry and Ashmit. Jerry is a 35-year-old Christian white man who has had an emotionally aggressive incident in the office. Ashmit is a 35-year-old Hindu brown man who was involved in a similar incident. As a leader, you may be prone to treat the two perpetrators differently.
For Jerry, you may assume that he was only reacting to an incident; for Ashmit, you may assume that he started that incident. Our underlying biases can often reflect on our leadership skills. It is hence important that we assess our own biases and try to remove them from any decision-making in the future.
2. Prioritize the ‘Success in Diversity’ Vision
When it comes to how companies and organizations function, it often boils down to the morals, values, and vision the company has. Since leaders have the power to decide or formulate the vision, they can do so as they please. Leaders need to believe that diversity is not just a requirement, but a priority for a company.
According to most research, inclusive organizations tend to outperform competitor organizations and achieve greater financial gains and revenue. Moreover, these organizations facilitate the well-being of individuals, which in turn allows the employees to work on new ideas and commit fully to the organization.
However, that being said, organizations fail to become truly inclusive until and unless their leaders treat inclusivity as a prime goal.
3. Focus On Behavioral, Not Just Structural Inclusivity
When thinking of inclusivity, most leaders would go for structural changes. They would have the companies formulate strict office policies that ensure diverse hiring. Others would have equity policies that ensure every member is treated fairly and without any discrimination.
Although the above are essential and should be prioritized, they just form the tip of the iceberg. To truly transform an organization, leaders need to make behavioral changes around the office. For starters, they need to ensure respectful and open leadership that is welcoming to all.
Moreover, they need to work on their relationship-building skills with their team members so that every team member, regardless of their protected attributes like gender and orientation, can communicate with the boss. Additionally, leaders need to walk the talk and implement all the equity policies mentioned above, but more on that later.
4. Providing Employees Frequent Opportunities to Intermingle
Most companies are fixated on results and revenues. They make cost and benefit analysis and follow it to the book. Organizations often put team-building exercises in the backseat. This proves counterintuitive to a good approach.
Almost all major startups that went on to become successful later prioritized team-building exercises. They ensured that their employees do not treat each other with animosity or hatred. Instead, they focused on holding activities and trips that allowed employees to get to know each other outside of office settings.
Leaders that want to bring people, from all walks of life, on the same page need to provide employees with frequent opportunities to intermingle and create lifelong bonds. This brings diverse people together and allows them to get to know each other. It also reduces prejudices and biases that people may hold against their fellow employees.
5. Interactive Meetings to Reiterate the Importance of Having Common Identity
If we look around the world, there is a lot that separates us from each other, but that is just how human beings are wired to think of each other. We can also look around the world and find commonalities among each other. The latter would help bring people closer together.
Leaders need to hold office meetings where they invite people from diverse backgrounds to share their ideas. This interactive meeting can also serve as a platform for people to realize that they are part of a team. Leaders can reiterate the fact that all of them are working towards the success of the same company.
Creating reminders of common identity can have psychological effects too. Rather than focusing on their ethnicity, age, and their religion, the employees will start focusing on their role as employees of the said organization.
Leaders can also assign symbols to teams to make them feel like they belong somewhere. A good example of this would be ‘champions of peace’ assigned to members of Amnesty International.
6. Empower HR So It Can Help Employees Resolve Conflicts
It is wishful thinking to assume that leaders alone can resolve all the conflicts occurring in an organization. Leaders have many other responsibilities, and they should not be bombarded with small, office skirmishes. A good way to ensure all issues are timely resolved is to enhance the role of Human Resources.
The HR team should be expanded to include more people so there is little room for favoritism or business in the office. HR should also be included in the formulation of clear-cut policies against prejudice and harassment in the office culture.
Additionally, HR should be extensively trained through external, third parties, so they can handle sensitive issues with ease and without alienating people. Even the people at the top of the hierarchy should be held accountable for any transgressions in the office. This is the only way people at the bottom will feel at ease.
7. Incorporate Effective Communication Tools for Better Collaboration
In today’s world, the professional and personal lives of individuals can get blurry. Since colleagues are connected on social media, mainly Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they get to know each other’s opinions on politics, religion, and other beliefs. This gives room for conflict and biases to form among colleagues.
To avoid the above, leaders should ensure that colleagues are not required to befriend each other unless they want to. For office communication, WhatsApp should be strictly avoided. Instead, companies should create rooms on proper channels like Slack. The channel-based communication systems ensure that lines between someone’s personal and professional lives are not blurred.
Furthermore, project management platforms also help with workflow and allow people to function without being squashed into someone’s personal life.
8. Celebrating Small Wins in Grand Ways
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. That is only half-true. All work and no play also make Jack a bad and non-participatory employee. If leaders fixate on goals and work too much, without giving employees any room for fun and games, they will help cultivate a negative office culture.
People would end up coming to the office just for the sake of salaries and bonuses, and not because they enjoy their work. It is important to focus on the latter because that is the only way people can feel like they belong somewhere. The work they do should be meaningful and worth a lot more than money.
Celebrating small wins through parties, dinners, or through tangible awards can make people content with their jobs and the environment they work in. You can even organize fun games where people from different departments can come together and explore their inner child.
9. Encourage Problem-Solving Behaviors
As leaders, it is easy to enforce certain solutions on your team members. It saves both your time and your energy. However, this ensures only short-term solutions where you can deal with conflicts on an ad-hoc basis. If you want to empower your employees, you need to give them ample space to work out their issues.
Try to encourage your team members to brainstorm ideas and then find their unique solutions to problems. This allows them to think creatively and come up with out-of-box solutions. Additionally, this gives employees more courage and develops a sense of ownership in them.
Most importantly, by encouraging self-problem-solving behavior, you provide employees with time and space to better interact with each other. It also allows them to rise above their petty differences and work towards a common goal.
10. Increase Accountability Around the Office
No leader, even the greatest ones, can be perfect all the time. In your career, you will make many bad choices and take many bad calls. Leadership does not mean you will never make mistakes; it means having the courage to accept those mistakes and hold yourself accountable.
If your goal is to bring everyone together and under the same banner, you need to have the same policies for everyone, regardless of their position or their rank. The change begins with you. If there are people in your office that can escape responsibility and are not held accountable for their negative actions, it will cultivate a non-inclusive environment for everyone else at the office.
Leaders, who stay humble and true to the office’s vision and mission, end up being a favorite among employees. Their opinions are given more importance.
11. Show Empathy and Kindness to Everyone
Imagine your employee coming up to you and crying in the middle of an important phone call, what would your initial response be? Would you send them away because you are talking to a potential client, or you would end your call early and listen to your employee? Good leaders will always choose the latter.
Empathy is a beautiful trait that is rarely found in individuals, especially in leaders, but empathy can go a long way. It makes your employees feel like they belong somewhere. It also makes them feel important and validates their concerns. In the long run, empathic leaders are more likely to be respected and revered by their employees. They are also able to build more trust in their team.
12. Cultivate an Environment That Fosters Mutual Self-Respect Among Employees
Respect should not have to be earned; it should be given regardless of whether anyone deserves it or not. An office environment where people are free to act as they please can foster very negative attitudes. It can even instill toxicity in a perfectly normal office environment.
It is hence the job of a leader to inculcate mutual respect as a strict value that needs to be adhered to by everyone. From the janitor to the manager to the CEO, everyone should be required to give and receive an equal amount of respect.
A company where respect is based on someone’s position or authority becomes a problematic place to work in. Leaders should actively fight to restore mutual respect among employees from all strata.
What are the 6 Main Traits of a Truly Inclusive Leader?
Good leaders are not always inclusive. The latter is a special skill that requires years and years of practice. However, some people can acquire it through careful planning or a conscious effort. Here are the 6 traits of an inclusive leader.
1. Strong Communication Skills
Regardless of whether you have any of the other 5 traits or not, you can not be a marvelous leader if you can’t command a room.
Great leaders of the past, whether it was Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, or Muhammad Jinnah, all had great communication skills. This helps managers and team leaders better articulate their opinions and their ideas to the rest of the people.
2. Committed to Cultivating a Diverse Workforce
Leaders who can prove truly inclusive are fully committed to making their workforce as inclusive as possible. They don’t treat this on an ad-hoc basis. They go out of their way to ensure that they hire from a diverse pool of talent. They don’t stop at this. Through both structural and behavior changes, they ensure their workforce feels right at home.
3. Courage to Fight Status Quo
Most companies and their upper hierarchy are wrapped under corporate policies. These are often discriminatory and biased against certain groups. It requires a truly courageous person to rise against the status quo and fight this corruption. Leaders who are looking to please everyone get frightened easily and become part of the problem.
4. Cognizance of Bias and Prejudice
A truly exceptional leader has a good level of self-awareness and can see their privilege while making decisions. For example, an inclusive leader would be able to realize that their experience as white individuals is different from the experiences of black individuals. They hence make decisions keeping in mind the different biases that may influence their decision.
5. Open-Mindedness and a Desire to Learn From Others
Inclusive leaders realize that a diverse group of people have a lot more to offer than a similar group of people. Rather than getting defensive, they encourage the uniqueness these people bring to the table. Good leaders will ensure that these people are heard on every occasion. Open-mindedness helps them be more welcoming of different ideas.
6. Cultural Intelligence and Awareness
Most people assess other cultures based on the opinions and ideas they have acquired in their lifetime. They use their own culture as a metric to judge other cultures. Good leaders do the complete opposite.
They judge other cultures on their own merits. For example, culturally intelligent leaders would modify their frank and extroverted behavior while dealing with Muslim women, who might depict more ‘modesty’ or ‘restraint’ in dealing with the opposite gender.
How Can Best Diplomats Help You Become a Truly Inclusive Leader?
Certain things you can learn through experience; others require a conscious effort on your part. If you want to be a truly exceptional and great leader, you need to think out of the box.
Best Diplomats has trained thousands of young minds and encouraged them to rise above their situation. Through its conferences, it has allowed people from all over the world to embark on a journey to greatness. The organization focuses on teaching you the skills of diplomacy, public speaking, and team management: everything you need to become a great leader.
Not just that, but through its extensive focus on team-building exercises, it also allows you to interact with a diverse group of people from more than 85 nations. This provides you the perfect opportunity to unlearn any bias that you have acquired over the years. More importantly, through Best Diplomats, you can learn about other cultures and other societies.
The conferences are shaped in a way so that you can debate on important issues concerning the world, while also having ample time for fun and socialization. Needless to say, the three days spent with Best Diplomats will prove to be a life-changing experience for you. To know more, register at Best Diplomats.
When commanding a team, leaders have two options. They can shun diversity and go along with people from similar backgrounds and cultures, or they can encourage diversity and inclusion and take up this challenge of making everybody feel at home.
The former option may seem easy, as leaders won’t have to go out of their way to devise special policies for a diverse group of people. They will be able to achieve many short-term goals easily. The latter option may seem like a challenge at first, but it will ensure the company succeeds in the long run.
With an inclusive team, leaders will be able to bring more innovation and uniqueness to their projects: something that is worth fighting for at every turn.
What Is the Difference Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging?
Most people use these terms interchangeably; they mean something entirely different. Diversity is a representation of a plethora of different people in a team or an organization. Inclusion is providing everyone the same or similar opportunities to contribute in the workplace. Lastly, belonging