The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion…

March 2021

disabled office workerI remember back in 1995, working for a well-known company, discussing the topic of “Diversity” with my Director of HR. I believe Diversity means the difference in each individual: it not only includes race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and culture; it also includes the subtle nuances which make us unique individuals. Most diversity programs hadn’t evolved to include all those subtle nuances. For example, how a person thinks, feels, processes information, interacts with co-workers, handles stress, deals with adversity, manages change in the workplace, all that is what makes us diverse. He said to me that I didn’t really understand what Diversity really meant. After all, the company had an excellent Diversity program and was ranked in one of the top 100 Employers of Choice!

Well, I am glad to see that Diversity has evolved and now encompasses many aspects of individuality. More and more Diversity programs at major companies are becoming all inclusive and embracing all aspects of the “individual” – Diversity & Inclusions (D&I).

Global companies like Microsoft incorporate D&I initiatives into their daily activities and report on their D&I initiatives annually. Microsoft says “We work hard to think inclusively, value differences, and provide the necessary tools to give each employee a chance to do his or her best work.” They have also made a commitment to racial injustice and considers itself early in its journey.

According to Citigroup, “research and experience both confirm that when a company embraces diversity, the most talented people are not just attracted to joining the company but are also much more productive and motivated to stay”. In September 2020 City also launched more than $1Billion in Strategic Initiatives to help close the racial wealth gap.

Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, said, “We need to constantly remind ourselves that the most important thing we can do for employees is to build a healthy, vibrant company that treats people with respect and creates opportunity. Everyone counts, and we have to remember that we all support one another”.

What Is DE&I?

An inclusive workplace starts with awareness of the unique needs of each employee as well as a desire to find solutions rather than barriers.

In the aftermath of the 2020 protests, many companies declared their commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) and according to Glassdoor, survey DE&I related job openings saw a measurable increase.

Companies often are putting DE&I initiatives in place and want to get their employees to recognize it. Does it always work though?

In order for a DE&I initiative to be successful, companies need to go far beyond initiatives. Coaching hiring managers to meet hiring numbers and promoting from within isn’t always the answer. A company needs to go beyond – a candid conversation should take place with all existing employees to understand how they feel about the concept of DE&I. Without knowing their points-of-view it would be difficult to get employee buy-in and change the culture to embrace the essence of DE&I and really build an organization that truly lives the concept.