Why diversity and inclusion matter in the workplace

 In light of recent unsettling events throughout the country surrounding racial injustice, the topics of diversity and inclusion have sparked a discussion not only in communities but also in the workplace. While the topic can quickly become heated, it’s challenged everyone to examine their own beliefs and actions – including employers. And, it’s important to note that it can be done in a manner that is respectful, open, and kind.

“It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Linda Best, employee assistance program counselor at Adventist HealthCare LifeWork Strategies. “Have the conversation, get to know colleagues and celebrate employees as individuals. This helps recognize what employees can contribute to your company, and ultimately make your business stronger and more successful.”

The difference between diversity, inclusion, and equality

Diversity, inclusion, and equality are all very different components of having a strong workforce.

  • Diversity means your company has employees from a wide range of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds with different lifestyles, experiences, and interests.
  • Inclusion means that your company has the policies and procedures to ensure all people feel welcome and that leaders and employees demonstrate behaviors that allow different perspectives, opinions, and experiences to be heard and recognized.
  • Equality means everyone has an equal chance at an opportunity, whether it’s hiring, promotion, or professional development training.

Doing more than hiring a diverse workforce

Best recognizes that employers spend a lot of time and money on hiring the right people for the job. But, she also points out that employees can’t truly succeed – and help advance a company’s business – until they are heard and seen. Often, that starts with personal development.

“Spend time getting to know what is at the core of your employees instead of just focusing on the hands that perform the task you need,” encourages Best. “For employees to excel at their jobs, you have to understand who they are and leverage those differences.”

Personal development can help recognize and celebrate differences. “Something as simple as a personality assessment helps leaders and employees better understand themselves and how they can contribute,” Best says.

Celebrating cultures and lifestyles can also go a long way in creating an inclusive workforce. Consider holding a multicultural month to introduce new ideas, perspectives and heritage. Sign up for a parade to showcase your company’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. Sponsor a nonprofit that works for racial equality in the community. There are many ways organizations can celebrate and promote different backgrounds, cultures and ideas.

Set an example

It takes more than hiring practices to make diversity and inclusion efforts seem authentic and believable to all employees. It takes leadership demonstrating the company’s values, upholding diversity policies, and practicing inclusivity to set the tone for all employees.

That also includes intentional hiring practices that ensure all employees can envision themselves growing and advancing in the company.

“All employees need to have something to aspire to. However, that’s hard to see if you don’t see anyone that looks like you or has a similar background or lifestyle as you in a position of power or leadership,” she says.

Setting an example also means that leadership needs to understand how their actions impact employees. Personal coaching, trainings and workshops can go a long way to help improve understanding of different backgrounds and lifestyles.

“We often work with executives to help facilitate personal and professional growth,” Best says.

“It really comes down to the responsibility of each of us to make the necessary adjustments to improve interactions with people from different cultures. Training, understanding, and curiosity go a long way in accepting that responsibility and, most importantly, acting on it,” she says.

Encourage open and respectful conversation

“Every day, we have to be intentional and mindful to create a diverse and inclusive workforce,” Best says. “Addressing issues when they arise or whenever there is some form of discrepancy openly and respectfully allows employers and employees to explore any type of thinking.”

Best recommends asking open-ended questions to help make thinking more visible. And, when it comes to tackling sensitive topics like race, she encourages others to ask for permission before diving into hot-button issues.

“I’m not sure policies are going to be what gets it done when it comes to racism and discrimination,” admits Best. “They are an important foundation, but it ultimately comes down to human interactions. When we talk about race, we can better understand one another and break the cycle of violence and discrimination.”

Learn more about programs that can help foster a diverse and inclusive environment at your organization. Contact LifeWork Strategies at info@lifeworkstrategies.com or call 800-777-8138.

Adventist HealthCare LifeWork Strategies delivers integrated wellness and behavioral health services to employers. Our high-quality EAP and wellness programs help your organization reach health goals and reduce health care costs. Our high-touch programs engage employees in healthy behaviors, increase productivity, and provide the access needed towards a happy, healthy life.