No Diversity Without Inclusion!
Considering the many cultures and nationalities living and working together in Luxembourg, a first impulse would suggest that diversity would come naturally and function per se within the Luxembourgish workplace market.
Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Considering the typical comparison women in Luxembourg often still earn significantly less than their male counterparts in a similar position and their chances of a board position or other top-ranking position is devastatingly low. Just to quote the recent “6th Women in the Boardroom” survey report by Deloitte, in Luxembourg, “the number of board seats held by women declined by nearly 3 percent.” […] “A total of 33 women – or 12% – were counted in the 36 companies Deloitte analysed in the grand duchy. In those same companies, there were zero female CEOs.”
Despite the emphasis on diversity, this is an often quoted and highlighted inequality in the job market. Looking at different nationalities and cultures, minority groups of various arts, the inequalities are even less frequently highlighted yet even more significant.
Take the recent campaign “Stop Hate for Profit” and the reactions of large organisations such as Coca-Cola and Unilever withdrawing all advertisements from Facebook due to the contradictions and inappropriate behaviour/content. This shows that the challenge of diversity is real and cannot be ignored at CEO level.
Now, while we are all aware of the challenges of living diversely yet with equal rights, how can companies if not entire nations improve and truly live up to the expectations linked to diversity and equality? Is there a hidden ingredient? What are the barriers that need to be broken down?
Diversity and common barriers
Generally, we understand the concept of diversity. In the workplace “put very simply, diversity […] means that a company hires a wide range of diverse individuals. Diversity is often misconceived as solely multicultural matters, however it also applies to diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, educational, background, and so on.”
However, “workplace diversity doesn’t just extend to hiring diverse individuals, but also making sure that the participation of these employees is equal”.
Now despite good intentions there are still some very strong and common barriers that need to be taken into account when dealing with diversity.
To mention just a few common barriers, think about:
When working in a diverse environment communication needs to be prioritised. This not only includes dealing with potential language barriers, but also with cultural differences in behaviour, humour, expressions and other more indirect methods of communicating. With increased digitalisation differences in digital literacy also need to be considered and not only generational gaps, but gaps in skills and competencies in general, just because someone knows how to message their social contacts on WhatsApp doesn’t mean that they are tech-minded and feel comfortable with the various online tools and digital solutions.
Equality needs to be pushed and continuously revised in many areas. This spans from equal pay over equal career opportunities and mentoring/sponsoring within a company to equal empowerment in terms of autonomy, responsibility and training and logistics opportunities. Inequal treatment of individuals – perceived or obvious – leads to long-term demotivation and increased staff turnover.
Biases and isolation
Having a brain means we are automatically biased.
Most of the time this happens unconsciously. Nevertheless, this means that even when used to working in a diverse environment, in an instant moment without realising it we can make seemingly “harmless” yet biased decisions. This may result in treating people differently, showing preference or in the worst case making some people feel isolated due to cliques or social circles of employees with a common language, background or other characteristics.
Resistance to change
More often than not the first reaction to a suggested change is rather reluctant if not directly negative and dismissive. This resistance to change – and belief in “continuing as always” also comes up when diversity is discussed.
Think about all the “men’s clubs”, such as the Rotary Clubs, that used to be for men only and while some have now opened up to allow women to join, it is only with reluctance and only because of the idea of equality, they are still very male dominated.
The above-mentioned barriers highlight that a diversity policy just isn’t enough. It can in some cases seem superficial and at worst even backfire and do more harm than good if not supported and implemented properly at all levels within the organisation.
Inclusion as a tool to leverage diversity
Symbolic diverse hiring doesn’t bring you far in today’s market even though studies have shown that diversity is not only beneficial to the employees. Despite all the challenges that may arise with a diverse workforce, business itself benefits greatly from having diverse profiles in terms of innovation, productivity and profitability at the bottom line.
Nevertheless, for diversity to truly have an impact in the workplace it needs to be accompanied by a culture of inclusion. If this is not the case, there is a risk that it will only be perceived as a sign of political correctness and “hot air” without any substance and at worst divide employees further.
Using inclusion methods to support and weave diversity into the DNA of the company will help the company to strengthen and increase:
- Stakeholder engagement levels – this refers both to employee engagement and motivation as well as long-term customer and brand loyalty.
- Company confidence – making employees feel they are working in a safe environment, where they can be themselves inevitably results in increased innovation and creativity.
- Talent retention – while individuals enjoy working for the company, a higher number of industry professionals will want to join a company striving to provide an inspiring and supporting work environment for their employees.
Embrace and implement a diverse and inclusive company culture
Building a diverse and inclusive culture is a long-term project, which requires input from each of us to achieve:
Inclusive Leadership Mindset
An inclusive leadership mindset is mandatory to support and walk the talk. It is first and foremost, the inclusive leaders “who accept people for who they are and consciously include all stakeholders.”
In general, an environment needs to be created where all employees can speak up, be heard and feel welcome and safe.
According to the Catalyst report “Inclusive Leadership: The View from Six Countries” the following four inclusive leadership behaviours have been identified:
empowerment, accountability, courage and humility (EACH). Here it is important to emphasize that one doesn’t have to be a leader to work on those attributes. Everyone can practice them and make a positive change at an individual, team or leadership/corporate level.
Mentor and Sponsorship Programs
Creating a mentor and sponsorship program within the organisation helps people to feel included while they learn and grow consistently on a personal and professional level.
In an HBR study it was found that “a mentor’s advice is not enough; a sponsor’s meaningful advocacy makes all the difference. Our research, for instance, finds that women of colour, who say they have sponsors are 81% more likely to be satisfied with their career progression than those without sponsors.”
Recognise, communicate and educate on biases
As mentioned above we are all unconsciously biased; helping people to understand this risk and thus to recognise it as well as to train them in identifying such biases in themselves and their peers can be highly beneficial. Such an approach can help to reduce those unfortunately biased decisions and conclusions to a minimum within a team or company or make people aware of the need to redirect and reconsider decisions taken without feeling embarrassed if the topic is openly discussed and dealt with.
Build a strong reputation and hold all levels accountable
Could diversity and inclusion become strongly lived core values while remaining humble? This is one way to build a strong reputation and ensure the elements become woven into company processes and programs. Maybe even define a tracking system to measure progress against set KPIs at all levels. Involving the CSR committee could even give it a fun and social aspect to motivate employees to participate.
The marriage of diversity and inclusion
As stated in the introduction even in such a modern workplace market as Luxembourg, there is reason for concern when looking at the decrease in diversity and inclusion identified.
If disregarding the worries from a humane perspective, from a purely business perspective diversity and inclusion are increasingly important if not even mandatory in order to remain competitive. This as “a growing body of research indicates that diverse and inclusive teams outperform their peers. Companies with inclusive talent practices in hiring, promotion, development, leadership, and team management generate up to 30 percent higher revenue per employee and greater profitability than their competitors. Without a strong culture of inclusion and flexibility, the team-centric model comprising diverse individuals may not perform well.”
It is clear that diversity and inclusion is beneficial from both an economic and social standpoint. Like with most change projects, when starting to weave the elements into the company DNA, many barriers have to be identified and dealt with in order to ensure long-term success. Each culture is different and needs to identify and focus on their issues to overcome, whilst introducing functioning strategies to embrace and implement a fully diverse and inclusive culture. The two go hand in hand and while strong together, they are weak and potentially even dangerous and damaging apart. Or in other words, as the diversity advocate Vernā Myers famously stated: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
What about you and your team? Are you ready to dance?
Do you want to learn more about cultural change and employee engagement?
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