- According to studies, businesses hoping to keep growing need to inculcate the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their business.
- Having homogenous teams leads to a loss of talent, innovation, and opportunity for growth.
- However, equitable teams are still a rarity because of comfort-zone practices and structural challenges.
- Some simple steps can begin to break through this challenge and make for better, more efficient, and well connected teams that foster growth.
Most business questions focus on how to generate greater revenue, facilitate higher team productivity, encourage collaboration, have lower employee turnover, and attract a larger section of the market. One answer to each of these questions is to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in businesses and work cultures.
Studies have shown that improving DEI in the workplace is not just the right thing to do, but a smart executive decision. The latest Mckinsey report (2018) adds to the list, suggesting businesses that have continuously shown above-average performance in this sector are 21% more likely to have better than average profits. So, when studies repeatedly reiterate this fact, then why hasn’t our capitalist world seized this opportunity yet?
Why Is There a Need for Change?
To resolve any problem, one must first understand how and why it is currently the way it is. Why does the current way of organizing teams for business requirements change?
What happens if teams are homogenous? When a group consists of people who share gender, background, ethnicity, and interests, the chances that their viewpoints and spheres of experience will be limited are high. This means the group misses out on diverse and innovative ideas and opinions that would otherwise help a business relate to and serve a broader customer base. Homogenous teams fail to leverage a huge section of talent in the market and tend to produce limited ideas and solutions.
Failure to effectively represent the customer base may ultimately result in financial loss. So, not only is a lack of diversity socially irresponsible, it can impact the bottom line too. Social responsibility is something many consumers, especially from the Millennial and Gen Z generations, care about. Therefore, businesses need to be genuine about driving inclusive cultures and recognize diversity to attract the best talent and consumers.
Inclusion is beneficial for everyone. When a team is inclusive, that inherently means everyone feels included and part of the team. The environment becomes warmer and more nurturing for each individual in contrast to the competitive or aggressive cultures some corporations are known for. Fostering a positive and inclusive culture where everyone’s opinion is equally valued increases collaboration, leading to greater productivity, and higher likelihood of your organizational goals being achieved.
Parallelly, having a culture that doesn’t foster inclusivity and equity may lead to talented women or employees belonging to minority groups leaving your organization for one that is more accepting. High employee turnover can be costly, and the ramifications of discrimination cases can also impact a business’s reputation. Inculcating inclusivity and fairness will help you attract and retain quality candidates, while also building loyalty amongst employees leading to higher dedication and productivity.
Why Are Diverse and Inclusive Teams Still a Rarity?
So, what has kept women and other minority groups out of the workplace for so long? If diversity and inclusivity have been shown to have clear business benefits, why have most companies failed to make measurable progress in facilitating it?
Firstly, there are structural barriers to the inclusion of women in the workplace. The corporate structure has historically been built to keep women out, whether that’s through not inviting them to games on the golf course, or exclusion from networking events where they could foster client and business relationships. Even the processes for hiring and promotion are often male-oriented. Institutional mindsets about certain roles, particularly those in leadership, being congruent with the male gender only keeps women from rising or supporting the women who do take on these roles.
Additionally, female leaders are often expected to exhibit “masculine” leadership traits such as assertiveness, independence and dominance, while also remaining “feminine” by being sensitive and compassionate, creating a role and behavior conflict for women. While both gender-specific roles and traits are dated concepts, female leaders often have to strike a hard balance to be seen as worthy, adding to the pressure that leadership brings with it.
Thirdly, women face affinity bias in the workplace. In most organizations, the decision-makers are male even today, with executive panels and c-suites being dominated by men. Affinity bias can lead these decision-makers to consciously and unconsciously hire and promote people who are like them. The bias leads to men being chosen over women with the same credentials, by virtue of their gender. This is why we need equal representation and diversity in decision-making bodies, to avoid the dominance of any one group.
These systematic issues have been around for a long time. The fear of change is another reason for the slow progress. Being attracted to what we know, and those who are like us is human nature. We tend to be wary of new things and people who are different from us. Bringing change requires a team to step out of its comfort zone, but change won’t happen if we don’t try to take those uncomfortable steps. As a company leader, one must take the initiative to realize the benefits an inclusive team brings.
How Can Workplaces Foster Inclusivity?
Making your work culture equitable and inclusive should be a conscious step that will require dedicated effort from everyone within the company. This process will be tailored to your unique work culture and business model. However, there are some things any organization can do to start on the right foot.
Celebrate Important Days and Facilitate Team Building
One of the simplest ways to increase inclusivity and cross-cultural understanding in your team is by providing a platform for women and other lesser-represented groups to speak. Include activities that encourage team members to share their backgrounds with each other. Recognize and celebrate days that acknowledge relevant societal progress such as International Women’s Day, or Pride month while honoring their significance year-round. Encourage team members to learn about and celebrate all applicable religious holidays.
Revisit Your Descriptions and Content
Examine your job descriptions, company handbooks, and other personnel-related content your organization produces, and look for gender-coded terms. Some easy fixes include biased terms such as “chairman” or the use of the pronoun “he” in general contexts. Rewrite these descriptions to be more inclusive to people of all genders and groups.
Evaluate Your Pay and Benefit Policies
Look critically at the salaries you pay your employees and close any gender gaps that may exist. Evaluating your fringe benefits is also important. For example, does your company offer family insurance policies equal for a man and woman’s family? Does your organization offer daycare coverage to include new mothers in the workplace? Revisiting these company policies can help you recognize and take down institutional barriers against the recruitment and promotion of women in the workplace.
Try “Blind” Evaluation
To address issues of affinity bias, consider removing names, genders, and other identifiers from resumes and applications for promotion. This ensures that candidates for new jobs, appraisals, or promotions are judged on the basis of their skills and not anything else. Ensure that interview panels are balanced in terms of diversity to lessen the chances of bias affecting the inclusion of minority groups.
Talk, Share, Discuss
The best way to promote inclusivity and collaboration in your team is to facilitate open conversations. Amplify voices and encourage diverse opinions and ideas. At the same time, we must talk about and strive to undo our own stereotypes and gender perceptions to change mindsets at an individual level. Allow room for healthy discussion which will lead to team members understanding each other better and working together more collaboratively.
The benefits of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace are both tangible and intangible. Actively nurturing an inclusive culture and rebuilding where necessary is not only ethically and morally right, but also makes good business sense. When all opinions and voices are given equal weight, it leads to better ideas and happier employees, while attracting better talent and a larger customer base.
The most progressive companies that are building a collaborative and inclusive workforce today are the ones which will be successful in evolving markets. Fostering greater diversity and inclusivity is key to ensure your company soars to greater heights, and more broadly, to influence positive social change.