Our words have an applied power to create and destroy. And, in a world of endless opinions, we have to learn which words to discard and which words to utilize. This is especially essential for cultivating an inclusive workplace. Work environments that don't prioritize inclusion often harbor uncertain atmospheres when posed with ideas that may be perceived as nuanced. The issue doesn't lie in new information or diversified perspectives but the close-mindedness of individuals reluctant to try new forms of thought. This is actually one skill great leaders must master to ensure that their teams are performing at their optimum levels.
The Importance of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace
It's one thing to have a business and it is another to run a successful business. When we look at successful businesses such as Apple, we find diversity in every aspect from marketing development to retail and engineering. In fact, 53% of new hires in the United States are from historically underrepresented groups in tech. This is primarily because this corporation prides itself on producing products made for the people by the people. And, what better way to do this than by cultivating an inclusive workplace. When a business is able to cater to a wide variety of people, that business is able to increase and expand its consumer base.
Benefits of Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Within Business
1) Increased Productivity
Two heads are better than one. And, more perspectives mean that solutions can be found faster for different workplace dilemmas. Including people in problem-solving matters not only builds team trust but increases productivity.
2) Wider Range of Skills
Diversity allows for more people with new and diverse experiences. These differing experiences garner a wider range of skills and expertise.
3) Diversified Perspectives
It's good for a business or workplace to have improved cultural insights as this enforces the ability to have diversified perspectives. The welcoming of new perspectives allows for flexibility and adaptability to show itself in the workplace.
4) Improved Company Reputation
In order for optimal customer and client satisfaction, diversity is necessary to ensure that each demographic is fairly represented through the company and its products. Companies that lack inclusion may ostracize a demographic out of ignorance or misrepresent a community. These misunderstandings greatly impact a company's reputation negatively.
5) Reduced Employee Turnover
Establishing an inclusive workforce significantly reduces the likelihood of employee turnover. Employers often have to let their employees go due to things like back-biting, insensitivity, favoritism, rudeness, and assigning blame. The occurrence of such encounters become greatly increased when inclusivity and diversity are not embraced within the workplace.
6) Improved Creativity
Diversified groups make for improved creativity. Each mind is unique in its own way, bringing new insights and fresh ideas. The more diversity, the greater a company's reach and relatability.
Setting the Tone
Leaders are individuals who must lead by example. If employees and team members have a biased or prejudiced management, it's likely to see cliques within the workplace begin to form. This can result in misunderstandings as well as discrimination. Instead of sharing their ideas, people will feel reluctant to offer their opinions. What is then cultivated is a 'yes culture' where the workplace just becomes and echo chamber, aimed at the boss's approval.
If leaders truly want their workplace to adopt and foster the notions of inclusion, they must first set the tone by displaying mature levels of tolerance, empathy, and compassion. Free thinking should be normalized and even encouraged. Also, people should feel comfortable respectfully expressing how they feel regardless of their gender, race, political affiliation, cultural views, etc.
Encourage and Accept the Differences
What people need to understand is that not every course is linear in fashion. And, sometimes it's better to take new paths because those avenues could very well be a faster, easier way to reach that destination. This is the same with accomplishing goals and tasks within business. By practicing inclusion, a company has several unique minds coming up with faster and better means of meeting deadlines, developing projects, collaborating, and problem-solving.
If an idea sounds completely unattainable, leaders should still express it to their team. Those individuals may be able to see the project with different eyes. They may be able to create a means to fortify that idea so that it becomes tangible. Leaders should also foster a psychologically safe space to encourage their team to speak up about their ideas as well. By promoting feedback, team members feel their words and concerns are being acknowledged. This is the beauty of inclusion and collaboration within the work environment. However, leaders must upkeep these kinds of interactions so that it becomes the consensus.
Maintaining and Inclusive Atmosphere
Some of the most explosive debates and dialogues transpire when speaking on sensitive topics such as race relations, politics, religion, and money. It's seldom that you'll find someone who doesn't have an opinion regarding these subjects. It's best in most cases to simply learn to agree to disagree. Leaders should establish a few guidelines to ensure that communication and collaboration are being done responsibly and respectfully.
Leaders can remind their employees to allow others time to speak and practice empathy when interacting with their peers. To inspire open-mindedness and maintain a conducive work setting, leaders must also teach their team. Mentorship can greatly benefit employees in ways including increasing social confidence, developing communication skills, becoming more empowered to make decisions, and learning from the experiences of others.
Diversity and Inclusion Activities
Knowledge of how to interact with people should be made accessible to everyone. Diversity and inclusion activities offer key learning moments, creating a respectful space for people to voice their views without judgment. The following are a few diversity and inclusion activities to get the ball rolling.
I Am, But I Am Not
This activity is great for dispelling any stereotypes or biased beliefs. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it can also be seen as an ice breaker.
1) Instruct your team to draw 2 columns. Above the first column, they will write the words "I am". And, above the second column, have them write "I am not". The word "but" should be in the middle of those 2 columns.
2) Have each person write a fact relative to themselves. For example, one person may write "I am a woman."
3) Allow participants to write a common stereotype that may be associated with an aspect of who they are. For instance, someone may write, "I am a woman but I am not too sensitive to take criticism."
Eating is something we all do. Have a monthly or annual potluck where employees can pick one of their favorite dishes to make for their co-workers. Potlucks give everyone the opportunity to try new foods of different places, learn more about international cultures and customs, and more. Experience a piece of someone else's life through food.
Diversify the Calendar
Improve employee engagement and make employees feel appreciated by acknowledging or even celebrating multicultural holidays.
Step Apart, Step Together
This activity helps teams learn more about each other and also makes them aware of the similarities they share. Although everyone is different in many ways, there are still plenty of tenants that allow us to relate to others.
1) Have 2 to 3 team members stand up, facing each other.
2) Other members of the team will call out some things such as a staple food, hair color, eye color, or even religion.
3) Direct the 2 to 3 team members to take a step apart for each difference and step back together for each similarity that's called out.
Workplaces should always aim to have an inclusive environment. And, leaders can cultivate this diversity through initiating mentorship programs to improve interpersonal skills and empathy. Also, they may encourage their team to bring new and better ideas to the table. Thinking outside of the box should be embraced just as diverse people should be included in the very important conversations that shape a business.