The year 2020 truly shed light on social injustice here in the U.S. It also highlighted that many organizations, regardless of the industry, have responded with a commitment to creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations where people not only feel like they belong, they know that they belong.
Merriam -Webster defines diversity as “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.” The inclusion of different races, cultures, genders, nationalities, etc. in a group or organization. An instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities: an instance of being diverse.”
Over the years, we’ve learned that when organizations are diverse, they generate higher revenues, are more innovative, and experience lower rates of employee turnover than their less diverse competitors. The response to the call for diversity is a noble one and much needed, however, getting into action on DEIB requires a thoughtful strategy that when implemented well can transform the culture of an organization and engage employees at every level. What gets in the way of successful DEIB implementation is that so many organizations are committed to the cause that they may miss the mark for understanding diversity, what it means to their organizations, or where to start.
What it Means and Where to Start
Start with defining the culture of the organization. What are the shared behaviors, beliefs, and values that have been established, communicated, and reinforced, which ultimately shapes employees’ perceptions, behaviors, and understanding of the organization? Does the organization encourage innovation? Is the organization collaborative? Is there an emphasis on people and teamwork? There are a host of questions to ask, however, whatever questions asked should lead to the core of the organization and what it stands for.
Once the culture is defined, find out what diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging mean to employees and the organization. In other words, if the organization considered diversity an imperative, what would the landscape of the organization look like? What could be achieved? What would be the impact on the organizations’ products, service offerings, and bottom line? This means soliciting feedback from employees and perhaps customers, clients, or patients (depending on the industry) to obtain a greater understanding of what people value and how it will benefit the organization.
Whatever the method for discovery, defining an organization’s culture and how diversity shapes it is the key to developing a diverse, inclusive, and equitable culture where people are included and know that they belong.