The agenda around diversity, equity and inclusion is one that remains key in most organisations, and it cannot be ignored. Initially, this agenda was driven by legislation in order to enforce the inclusion, equal and fair treatment of the underrepresented groups in organisations. It started out as balancing the race, and then later the gender scale, but has over time become less legislative, but more about organisations taking an active, action-oriented approach towards creating and championing cultures that embrace and recognise diversity, equity and inclusion. The focus has now shifted to become all encompassing, and addresses DEI issues related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, language, age, etc.
What is DEI and why does it matter?
It is human nature to want to belong, and it is safe to say that we all know what it feels like to be included, to be treated equally and accepted. Organisations also know that to flourish, they need to create cultures where their employees can bring their whole selves to the workplace trusting that they will not be unfairly treated, not deliberately excluded and that what makes them diverse is not used against them. DEI matters in every organisation simply because it sets the tone for the type of culture an organisation wants. Organisations with strong DEI agendas tend to enjoy the benefits of high performing, happy teams.
In creating inclusive cultures, organisations can retain their top talent and also attract top talent and skills. A LinkedIn Top Companies 2022 survey, aimed at surveying the Top 25 Companies for individuals to grow grow their careers revealed that DEI is at the core of what enables organisations to retain and attract talent. Although the theme for the survey was on career progression, it focused on seven pillars around career progression, being the ability to advance, skills growth, company stability, external opportunities, company affinity, gender diversity and spread of educational backgrounds. It is evident from this survey that diversity, equality and inclusion form a large part of what makes organisations the best to work for.
We define diversity as understanding and recognising that we are all unique and different. It is acknowledging that our individual differences can be along the dimensions of gender, race, religious beliefs, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical abilities, political beliefs and any other ideologies. It is understanding that despite these, organisations can create, embrace and champion cultures that embrace and celebrate the diversity of its employees. Organisations also need to acknowledge that diversity brings growth, it brings a different perspective. An example of this can be referred to in the article "Women in Senior Leadership" which states that bringing women into senior leadership positions does bring about different leadership styles, unique ways to solve problems and deal with crisis situations.
Equity in the workplace is about organisations providing fair opportunities to their employees, based on their individual abilities and needs. It is the acknowledgement that each employee has varying access to resources and privileges, and those with limited resources may need support in order to take fair advantage of opportunities within the organisation. In order for organisations to create equitable working environments, they need to also ensure that their employees are well empowered to fairly access these opportunities.
An inclusive organisation is one where employees know that they can bring their authentic selfs into their work environment. It is one where leaders make a deliberate effort to remove intolerances, biases, and discrimination and encourage a culture of engagement and collaboration. Inclusion is where employees know they are free to use their voices and be heard, they can participate in decision making, and they feel that they belong.
Getting DEI right
Getting diversity, equity and inclusion right is not an easy task for organisations. There are however factors that organisations can take into consideration when it comes to their DEI efforts:
1. Define your organisation's DEI vision
Every organisational leader needs to have a clear vision of how they see the future of their organisation. Organisations like Coca Cola have taken diversity and made it an integral part of who they are, how they operate and how they see the future. It is in defining the DEI strategy that an organisation can start shifting its culture towards the future it desires.
2. Transparency is key
One thing that is common when it comes to organisational cultures that promote diversity, equity and inclusion is transparency. People often refer to "water cooler" conversations" or " "golf course strategic planning sessions", where key decisions are taken and even implemented with the select few. This is a classic example of non-inclusivity. A lack of transparency around decisions does not foster a culture of inclusivity, and will ultimately result in organisations losing their top talent.
3. Employee Engagement
Much as organisational leaders have a mandate to drive DEI agendas, these should not be formulated without employee engagement. Making organisations inclusive, embracing diversity and promoting equity is about the employees. Their contribution to the DEI strategy is critical and should not be taken lightly, as this in itself shows the inclusivity of the organisation.
4. It must be more than "talk", more than "policies and procedures"
It is all good and well to have well defined and documented policies and procedures and it is important to encourage conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion. But for organisations to fully enjoy the benefits of a diverse and inclusive culture, they must clearly define their DEI vision, they must have clear plans in place to realise their vision, and there must be clear measurements and feedback on the implementation of these policies.
At Gestaldt we believe that organisations thrive because of their employees, and their employees thrive because they feel that they belong.
Get in touch with us to help you define or re-assess your organisation's DEI vision and plan.