Inclusivity in the Workplace

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Christine M. Riordan has pointed out some subtle factors that can contribute to a lack of inclusivity even in workplaces that want to be diverse. In an inclusive work environment, all employees have access to similar opportunities and feel valued and respected. Employees who are part of a minority group, including people with disabilities, want to experience the same sense of belonging in a workplace that members of the majority group do.

Creating a work environment where people feel a sense of belonging can improve work culture as well as business outcomes, reduce turnover and improve employee engagement. Inclusion can be difficult to promote because social norms can be difficult to change. Riordan outlines several factors that can work against inclusiveness and presents some possible solutions.

The first problem is that people tend to gravitate toward others like them. This can lead to very similar people being hired because it is perceived that a specific type of person will succeed. Business leaders can look at patterns in their organizations and intentionally seek to change them. Another issue is that bias can be subtle, resulting from unconscious mindsets and stereotypes. For example, members of certain groups may have to meet higher standards of performance to have their contributions acknowledged. Proactive review of opportunities to which employees have access and specific training to reduce subtle biases may be necessary.

Members of minority groups may try to downplay their differences, which minimizes the benefits that come from true diversity; conversation acknowledging employees’ perspectives is crucial. But members of majority groups should also be engaged in discussion about inclusion so they also feel accountable and don’t perceive initiatives as reverse favouritism. Business leaders can start the conversation about the importance of inclusion and make it a priority for their organizations.

To read the full article and other articles about diversity from the Harvard Business Review, click here.