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Defining Inclusion over Diversity - visual

Defining Inclusion over Diversity

By Clare Wimalasundera, PR Director

There are so many definitions out there, and the definition of diversity is constantly evolving. Perhaps most simply, Google describes Diversity as “recognising each individual is unique and recognising our individual differences”.

When it comes to inclusion, in terms of the workplace, it refers to a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging. Inclusion can be assessed as the extent to which employees are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organisation.

Specifically, our team looked into defining inclusion and we came up with the following characteristics:

1) An inclusive company is the product of an inclusive culture

2) When describing the behaviours we expect to see in an inclusive culture: encouragement, openness and communication were the words commonly used.

3) A company is only inclusive when everyone is included. This doesn’t mean everyone will always be included in all decisions, but being able to trust that everyone in the organisation is making the right decision based on the company’s direction, and ensuring people have enough information so they can be successful.

4) A workplace can be inclusive without being diverse, however, a successful inclusive culture is more likely to be one that is diverse.

Diversity can be an outcome of an inclusive culture

5) We believe everyone in an organisation has responsibility with driving an inclusive culture. Importantly we ought to work together to drive change, as most organisational changes are manifested through team collaboration.

Begin with inclusion

What’s more important than defining the terms is in using inclusion, rather than diversity, as a starting point. When we start with understanding what inclusion is, first of all, the conversation automatically becomes one that is focused on people, not data. We talk about how fascinating and individual our behaviours are as human beings. We talk about how we value difference, and how,

Ultimately, by allowing people to be their best version of themselves at work we are able to achieve more with less in a happy, healthy and productive environment. Definitions straight away come to life.

We have seen some great examples of initiatives using inclusion over diversity first. Accenture was one of the first global organisations to publish its diversity progress and goals, but only as part of its drive to embrace inclusion as a source of innovation, creativity, and competitive advantage.

Nielsen India is doing great work not only on developing a diverse workforce but also creating a welcoming environment for its employees to work. While Visa’s Head of Inclusion, Community and Wellbeing, Bianca Stringuini, maintains a strong belief of putting Inclusion over Diversity.

If we want to drive culture change in order to develop inclusive workplaces, we also have to understand the phycology behind changing behaviours and mindsets. This is not something that is going to happen by strategising diversity quotas or mandatory diversity training programmes – which can often lead to feelings of isolation.

It is also not about setting an over-ambitious goal. It’s an ongoing process of talking, listening but most importantly taking action. Continuous learning, creating sticky habits along a journey that is way more important than achieving the end goal.

Of course, diversity plays its part in this – it has a hugely important and critical role, but when we look at diversity as part of inclusion, it is a much simpler conversation to have. There are a number of studies that show that racially, ethnically and gender diverse companies (the characteristics that have generally been those on which diversity is measured) outperform peers (by 35% according to McKinsey 2017). This is fantastic of course, but diversity is not just about minorities or women, it is an issue that affects the entire workforce – including those with diverse characteristics that can not be seen.

Instead, by looking at things differently, not looking at specific barriers but identifying the positives again can help simplify. A 2017 Diversity and Inclusion study by PWC looked at organisations where diversity is not seen as a barrier to promotions. 50% of these had leaders trained in D&I. In this way, leaders pave the way for positive change – for both the individuals and overall company.

Getting from Diversity to Inclusion – redefining the norms

So how do we get from here to there?

To connect the dots, D&I experts often define “diversity” as inviting others to the dance, and “inclusion” as asking them to dance. Or Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice heard.”

Hiring a woman or a member of a minority or a differently-abled person is often not enough. Diverse voices must be heard within the organisation and must be there for the right reasons. Too often minority voices and ideas are ignored, muted in meetings, or dismissed, and this can simply be because their team members don’t understand the specific behaviours required to support their colleagues. Taking action through inclusion gives us the power to change this.