Introducing guest blogger: Reginald Ponder, Thought Leader and Executive Marketing Lead for The Kaleidoscope Group.
A common myth is that diversity and inclusion is the responsibility of the D&I person. The problem with this belief is that it places the responsibility on one person or department to make a culture change—which is neither easy to talk about nor execute.
The reality is D&I is driven by individuals at every level within an organization. Companies can lay out policies, procedures, and practices—but the real change agents are employees themselves.
Many people believe that diversity adds value but don’t quite know how to engage in making diversity and inclusion more of a verb than a noun. If you are one of them, this article is for you.
Here are three questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are creating an inclusive workplace. We call it The Triple-A Approach: assemble, ally, and amplify!
We all have a sounding board. It might be formal or informal—but we all have a group of people whom we take our issues and concerns. We also all have unconscious biases about who we put on our board of listeners. We generally seek people just like us. Why? Because it is a natural desire to seek agreement.
But using this selection process creates an echo chamber with little diversity of thought. Selecting people who think, act, and even look like us almost certainly creates a team with like voices—voices that say “I agree with you” and “you couldn’t be more right.”
This lack of diversity is bad news for business outcomes. Studies have shown that diverse teams outperform teams that are not diverse. One McKinsey report found that diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean.
Diversity helps teams identify blind spots and increases the likelihood of innovation. After all, you can’t address that which you have not discussed. Here are a few tips to help you develop a diverse sounding board:
Creating an inclusive workplace means ensuring that all voices are heard. Diversity of thought should be encouraged, cultivated, and valued.
Sometimes managers think they are being inclusive by simply inviting others to a meeting. Have you ever been invited to a meeting as a spectator rather than a participant? You probably felt stifled, held back, maybe even disengaged altogether.
Ally yourself with others through welcoming and encouraging varied voices. Does your culture support co-creation? Does your organization value discussion over expediency? If so, you likely get to hear many new voices and thoughts. If not, you are cheating yourself.
Even when a new thought or idea might not be applicable, it helps the creator strengthen their position, argument, or solution. The new thought can create more new thoughts or help solidify the current thought.
Here are a few tips to ensure all voices are being heard:
The key to ensuring all voices are being heard is helping others find their voice. Many times, people have something to say but don’t feel empowered to say it. You might think "I hire people to do their job and expect them to speak up." But there are many environments where speaking up doesn’t exactly help the speaker.
Amplifying others informs everyone in the room that all voices are not only welcomed but needed. Are you helping to amplify other voices?
Here are a few ways you can help others get into the discussion:
Help a teammate get their point across. When a teammate makes a point, and the point is ignored or not understood, you can help clarify or amplify it. Breathe some life into your teammate’s contribution by adding texture and dimension to their idea.
Example: "I think what Judy is trying to say is X."
Circle back to points that were ignored. This signals that you value all voices and have chosen to amplify those voices even when the speaker doesn’t “have the floor.” Circling back allows the originator to discuss and expand on their thought. It communicates that all thoughts have value when we focus on the outcome, not the dissenting opinions.
Example: "Judy, what I think you were trying to say earlier is X. Is that right?"
When a team member gets cuts off, speak up. When a team member gets cut off, try getting their voice back on the table to allow that person the opportunity to re-engage. This is empowering as well as powerful for the entire team. It helps quieter, less assertive employees be heard over the louder voices in the room.
Example: "I think Judy was trying to say something."
Some people fear these inclusive approaches because they might create longer meetings, take meetings off-topic, or suggest that teams agree on a perspective just because it was shared. None of this needs to be true.
To keep everyone on track, stick to helpful practices such as timekeeping, tabling discussion points, and reminding the team that a shared a perspective doesn’t necessarily equal an endorsed perspective.
You have the power to begin creating an inclusive workplace. It doesn’t need to be a mandate from management. As individuals adopt inclusive behaviors, inclusivity becomes contagious and sets the standard for engagement. People will begin to seek other opinions and champion the value of diverse thoughts and experiences.
Just remember The Triple-A Approach:
The bottom line: Ideas never heard are opportunities never realized. Just something to ponder.
Get expert tips and best practices from diversity and inclusion experts from across the country in our new ebook, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace.