I am sure by now you are all aware that businesses with a diverse workforce make more money than those businesses that do not. The reason for this is simple, a business with more people from different backgrounds are likely to have more ideas and perspectives than those where everyone comes from the same background and thinks in the same way. Despite this many organisations are still struggling to deliver on their diversity and inclusion agendas. The reason for this is simple, without inclusion, there can be no diversity.
One of the best ways to think about this is to think of a dinner party. Imagine you invite a meat lover, a vegan and a vegetarian to the same party. That is diversity. However, most organisations then do the equivalent of only offering a set menu at the dinner, which means at least one person is not going to enjoy the meal. If you think of diversity as getting an invite to the dinner, inclusion is then ensuring everyone enjoys the meal. So how can an organisation ensure that they improve inclusion?
As with many programmes within an organisation, if it is not supported by management it will fail. An organisations managers are the link between employees and the company. A business can have the most forward thinking inclusion and diversity policies and an incredibly diverse employee base, but if a group of its managers only believe in working with one type of person to work in one type of way, the whole thing falls apart. I have seen this on several occasions, even in organisations where men and women both have equal paternity / maternity leave. Certain managers still insist on not hiring women in case they have family commitments, despite men having to take the same time off. The end result is that they still have an under representation of women at management level as compared to their overall workforce despite the policies being in place.
Re-think company policy
It is actually incredibly easy to hire people from diverse backgrounds if you have the right hiring strategy. For example, an organisation could host a women or specific ethnic group hiring drive, by partnering with specific community groups and promoting open positions with them. However, if we go back to our example of the dinner party, you then need to re-think how you apply certain policies. For example, in Japan Christmas is a normal working day as it is not celebrated, therefore if you are from a culture where you celebrate Christmas you have to take annual leave. Likewise, if you are from a culture that does not celebrate Christmas and are working in a country where it is celebrated, you may need to take annual leave to celebrate your own significant cultural celebrations. So, a company could instead have a policy that allows for individuals to have extra days off to celebrate their own holidays. The same would go for flexible working to enable family time. A man or woman can be a single parent. Likewise, a single millennial may need to care for a sick parent or grandparent. This is just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities.
Finally, one of the easiest ways to show employees that you respect their culture and traditions is to also celebrate this at work. If you have an Indian member of staff, arrange a team lunch or dinner to celebrate Diwali. If you have someone who is Chinese, make sure you do something for Chinese New Year. It all costs nothing to send an email around to the organisation to highlight each cultural event and tradition so that people are aware why for example all their Thai staff have taken the week off in April to celebrate new year, or why 4th July is important to a company’s American employees or 25 April to Australian employees.