Hot Topic: Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is such a hot topic everywhere in the workplace and in organizations right now. As it should be of course. But does everyone understand what it really means, or how to implement it in their organization?

A few years ago, the hot trending topic was “company culture and employee engagement.” It was a mentality of “What is our company image/personality” (often influenced by “cool” tech company cultures). What “culture” was being defined as was “how can we keep people happy?”. Ping pong tables, catered lunches, and a certain “personality” type of employee became how companies identified their culture. And then companies set out to hire employees who specifically fit this culture.

What I find really interesting right now about D&I, is that in many ways, the “Inclusion” aspect is in direct challenge with the thinking around “culture”, that organizations haven’t yet realized. This definition of company culture, and finding employees that fit this company personality type, has led to very cookie cutter hiring - only wanting to hire people that fit this specific mold of what a company thinks makes a good employee. Which is the direct opposite of diversity. Most people understand diversity in terms of gender, race, geography, sexual orientation, but lose sight of the concept in terms of a diversity of personality types (i.e. diversity of thought).

How we should be looking at defining a company’s culture is - have we created an environment supportive of breaking the cookie cutter mold? Recognizing and managing unconscious bias of the entire organization, to create this space inclusive and welcoming of diversity of thought. This is a cultural mind shift, as it means breaking out of the mold of hiring for “personality type” - not just someone who thinks and acts like the rest of the company. Because this diversity of thought is how innovation happens.

Inclusion is the space created for this. This is a company culture built around the space for someone to feel safe, to feel heard, and to feel self-actualized within the organization - giving all employees a sense of belonging - which is where their best work happens.

This requires a bit of a mind shift for companies around their D&I implementation. And of course D&I has a major impact on recruiting and hiring. Organizations should be looking at more objective (vs subjective) hiring practices, getting more clear on job requirements vs preferences (managing unconscious bias), and really focusing on finding employees who not just fit the other defining factors of diversity (gender, race, etc) but assessing all candidates for someone who has the skills for the job, shares the company core values, but who maybe pushes the envelope for how the company currently does things, vs following the same mold.