“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” I first heard this tagline during our company’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) campaign. I am blessed to be a part of an organization that highly values respect for people. As a matter of fact, respect for people is one of our company’s core values and I am proud to share that respect has been embedded in our culture. My first-hand experience of “being invited to the party” was when I was nominated to be a part of a project composed of mostly Western and Middle Eastern employees. I knew I was “asked to dance” when I was given the role to lead a critical part of the project. I felt included and valued throughout the project and even after its completion as I knew that my inputs were appreciated.
Based on my experience, diversity is simply being there while inclusion is feeling that you are indeed there. On a general note, I think inclusion should not only be in the wish-list of an organization but rather should be in the must-have list. Studies have shown that it takes more than a hefty paycheck to make an employee stay in a company. Some of those factors are the company’s environment and culture.
Do managers really understand the importance of an inclusive culture to its employees? I like to believe that the current generation is shying away from biases. But looking closer, individuals compose the organization and the unconscious biases of these individuals can contribute dangerously to the shaping of the corporate culture. Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (IAT) which aims to help people identify their unconscious biases showed that 80% of the people who have taken the test prefer younger people over old ones and 75% of them prefer white people over minorities. These unconscious biases can manifest through micro-inequities when one excludes those viewed as outside the “in-group.”
Imagine if you are the one who is being excluded. How would that make you feel? This is where an organization’s culture come into play. Companies need to take measures to spread awareness of D&I and ensure that this mindset is inculcated among staff.
Diversity and inclusion consultant Verns Myers shared that embracing inclusion requires “the institution’s ability to fully integrate its understanding of and appreciation for the diverse cultures and backgrounds of its employees.” I am proud to share that our company goes the extra mile to understand its people. The People Survey is conducted annually to hear the staff’s feedback. The survey includes a portion on D&I where staff can express their sentiments and insights and provide suggestions on how to improve the workplace atmosphere. The results of the survey are reviewed and included in the strategic planning of the management team. The survey can also serve as a handrail for supervisors on a team-level and can pave the way to deepen the conversation within the team members to address any D&I issues and to further promote D&I. Additionally, there are HR policies in place against D&I violations, D&I campaigns, such as road shows and symposiums, are hosted annually, and platforms such as town halls and e-mail blasts are available for employee appreciation.
More often than not, people are hesitant to raise their hands and admit that they feel excluded. To empower employees, our organization has implemented the “fruit ninja” by encouraging staff to say “banana” if they feel excluded in any way or “pineapple” if they feel offended by a colleague. This serves as a subtle reminder to the employees to respect colleagues and has thus far proven to be effective in our organization.
Yes, we have come a long way towards having a truly diverse workplace but we are not there yet and there are still opportunities. I have shared some of our practices and I hope that they can serve as a handrail for your organization with you as the change agent. Gandhi once said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Intervening on someone’s behalf can go a long way. Something as simple as not laughing at offensive jokes can improve relationships. Do not single out people and be an ally.
Have you been asked to dance? Have you invited others to dance?
Marcelle Galera is an MBA student at De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This essay was written as part of the requirement in her Strategic Human Resource Management class.