Apr 20

Diversity is Being Invited to the Party; Inclusion is Being Asked to Dance (Series 8 of 8)


Increasingly, diversity, in many organizations, is simply a fact of life. Inclusion, on the other hand, is a choice that too many organizations have difficulty committing to. Yet, it is only through the process of inclusion that we are able to realize the benefits of diversity.

Realizing the benefits of diversity through inclusion is not always easy. Let’s face it, it is easier to talk to, work with, and trust those most like us. It takes less time, less preparation, and feels less risky to work with people with whom we have commonalities. If we speak the same language, come from the same background, have the same skills, share the same perspectives, it is pretty easy to communicate and find agreement.

The benefits of diversity may not include making work easier, but it often makes organizations better. Here are three significant ways engaging diversity improves organization performance:

1. An organization that welcomes and engages diversity is more likely to attract and retain talent from a broader talent pool.

2. An organization that welcomes and engages diversity is more likely to attract and retain customers from a larger, more diverse marketplace.

3. An organization that welcomes and engages diversity often finds that the work and decisions of diverse teams is superior to that done by teams lacking significant diversity.

Let’s explore the third benefit, higher quality work with diverse teams.

While teams without significant diversity may be able to work faster, they often lack the diversity of perspectives, experiences and/or talents that may be needed to reach better decisions and raise performance. The fact that teams without significant diversity may be able to work faster is itself part of the problem. When we work with those more similar to us, we often have the same perspective and make the same assumptions so, it is easier to agree. When there are significant differences, we are presented with a variety of perspectives that need to be worked through and considered. Working through differing perspectives slows not only the collective process down, it often slows our own thinking process down. We are less likely to make unconscious assumptions or jump to untested solutions. It is exactly this process of more careful consideration that often sparks new insight and results in better solutions.

Of course, this more thoughtful, considerate, and inclusive process may feel uncomfortable or difficult so, management must be ready to:

1. Articulate why this is important to the organization’s success

2. Support the development of key management and team skills such as: Active listening, Trust building, Problem solving, and Feedback

3. Most importantly, leaders must model behaviors of inclusion; displaying curiosity, patience, and self-learning

Series 8 of 8