Inclusion in the workplace is important for any organization. But why? In part, a diverse cross-section of viewpoints, value systems, and backgrounds helps able expand your reach in the marketplace.
Typically, you hear the words “diversity” and “inclusion” used interchangeably, but they are two different things. In my opinion, an organization should have a clear and separate plan of action on how to achieve both.
Diversity should look beyond the usual demographic measurements of race, gender, and age and include varying thoughts, perspectives, and cultures. In my experience, the idea of inclusion is often left up to the organization’s interpretation. But without a vision for what inclusion is and how to achieve it, a company can’t truly hold anyone accountable for ensuring it happens.
So the challenge lies in moving from saying “we are a diverse company” to having actions that show “we are a diverse company, and we include every employee in our corporate thoughts, words and deeds.” Women, minorities, and even millennials have typically been ways companies improve their diversity through workforce numbers. However, all of these groups of people have something in common – they aren’t always made to feel like they would be included within the workplace dynamics. And it’s unfortunate, but the fact remains that they will never have a seat at the table if they aren’t even in the room to begin with.
Employees want to feel that their company is a safe space, open to receiving thoughts and perspectives from everyone. They want their employers and coworkers to treat them fairly and with respect. There should be no discrimination or favoritism. Feeling valued, appreciated, and having a sense of belonging is critical for achieving inclusivity. That’s the baseline for building and maintaining trust within the workplace environment.
The reasons to be inclusive are as long as my arm, but yet there are still companies who know they should do better and still choose not to. Avoiding the issue doesn’t make it go away. As a matter of fact, not addressing inclusivity only creates an opportunity for a brighter spotlight to shine on the problem. Companies that have a diverse customer base should have an employee base that is representative of that base. This grants employers the opportunity to internally reflect the community they serve.
I recently spoke with Phillip Dunn, Founder of 2TheTable, LLC, who said: “Diversity and inclusion are necessary in the workplace to maximize opportunities and minimize risk. Opportunities often go unnoticed when the workforce is homogeneous and lacks diversity of thought. For example, in banking, some financial institutions might be able to attract more diverse depositors if they understood the financial habits of different communities. They could design marketing to attract more depositors and quality borrowers. Missed opportunities translate to missed earnings potential and market capture.”
Essentially, without inclusion, companies have taken their finger off the pulse of the communities they serve. This could potentially lead to organizations making more assumptions than assertions. Spending more time doing damage control for their cultural missteps than boosting morale by encouraging cultural awareness and appreciation. And let’s not forget, being inclusive is not reserved just for the standard employee, but also for executive leadership and the C-suite.
Diversity is the start of change, but inclusion will sustain it. Organizations still need to ensure that workplaces are free from discrimination and enable people to reach their full potential. We all should all be striving to do what’s right, even when it isn’t easy, rather than just what policies and procedures require or what corporate culture traditionally dictates. The bottom line is this: Diversity without inclusion is not enough. Because unless you back up your values with actions, they’re just empty words.
"Do everything in love." - 1 Corinthians 16:14
Author: Erika D. Jones
Erika D. Jones is a community development officer for Frost Bank. She is passionate about community engagement, outreach, and making a difference in the lives of Houstonians. In her position, she plans and implements outreach strategies and opportunities geared toward low-to-moderate income individuals and families. Erika partners with numerous community organizations to host financial literacy education and small business seminars. In her free time, she enjoys reading and retail therapy. Erika is married and is the proud mother of three children.