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Outcomes, not optics, the key to a truly inclusive organization

By Kim Tabac

Diversity and inclusion – two words that are becoming increasingly important in the corporate landscape. As HR professionals, we know that while related, these terms mean very different things. What we’re seeing, though, is that too often organizations are still using these words interchangeably, confusing their meaning and thereby watering down their definitions.

Simply put, diversity is about differences, measurable facts that can be counted, tracked and ultimately reported. Inclusion is about behaviour, creating an environment where people feel a sense of belonging and a sense of comfort. As we know, in the corporate landscape, it is significantly easier to count differences than measure feelings, which is why organizations often fall back on tracking inclusion by leveraging diversity statistics.

What many fail to realize is that this misrepresented mindset can create a false sense of progress on inclusion. We know diversity is a necessary precursor to creating inclusion; however, diversity alone – without an inclusive culture that creates a true sense of belonging – will not unleash the true potential of an organization’s talent. By focusing on the external appearance of an organization, and not the internal culture, organizations deliver more in terms of optics than real outcomes for their people.

Unite to include: Inclusion in 2018 and beyond

Millennials and Gen Z are considered the “inclusion generation.” They are more likely to notice the absence of inclusion in a workplace than when it exists. As such, their viewpoint has shifted what inclusion means in a corporate culture. In their eyes, inclusion is more about a reflection in varying ideas and work styles than it is about skin colour, religion or ethnicity. Stretching beyond demographic and socio-cultural traits, inclusion – now more than ever – is about being able to share a diverse set of views, backgrounds, education and experiences.

Deloitte strives to create a deep sense of belonging where people can bring their whole selves to work. The company wants those who choose to walk through the doors every day to feel not only included, but also inspired. When all ideas are on the table, it sparks inspiration and creates an inclusive environment, one where employees are valued and feel that they have an opportunity to provide input and lead at every level.

Undeniably, we need more diversity in corporate Canada, but diversity alone will not build more of the inclusive organizations we need. Organizations that focus on maximizing the potential of each of their people win in this market. In the war for talent, inclusion in 2018 and beyond will be a competitive advantage.

Take the time to review and examine unwritten rules and norms, such as hiring based on cultural fit, which may be attributing to exclusion.

Creating a more inclusive culture for your organization

It’s time for organizations to move from a mindset of counting differences to seeing strength in our unity. So be bold, and take the following actions to move your organization from optics to real outcomes when it comes to inclusion for your people:

  • Set expectations for inclusive leadership behaviours and live by them.
    It’s important leaders “walk the talk” and model inclusive behaviours on a daily basis. We owe it to our talent to hold leaders accountable on this front, meaning both rewarding inclusive behaviours and confronting exclusive ones.
  • Drive diversity to protect against backlash.
    Create an environment where diversity is the norm, not the exception. Develop people as individuals, and tailor growth according to their needs and aspirations to create an environment where each person can thrive – personally and professionally.
  • Enable your people to help shape what an inclusive workplace looks and feels like.
    Let your people have a voice in preparing for the future of work. Engage your employees to rethink what inclusion means for your organization and industry. Like the “inclusion generation,” (now the largest generation in the workforce) think about how people with different backgrounds, skill sets and mindsets can work collaboratively together. Research tells us that this positively impacts both the front lines in terms of talent experience, and the bottom lines on our balance sheets.
  • Remove unintentional biases by reviewing processes and systems.
    Use tech tools, like blind screening, to help remove bias from the recruitment process. Take the time to review and examine unwritten rules and norms, such as hiring based on cultural fit, which may be attributing to exclusion. Cultural fit, after all, infers hiring more of the kind of employee that your organization already has.
  • Become an inclusion champion both inside and outside the office.
    Speak candidly about what is and isn’t working in your organization when it comes to inclusion. Having open conversations with clients, suppliers and other network connections can assist with building a truly inclusive workplace.

Creating an inclusive culture requires organizations to think about the ways they can enable their people to connect, belong and grow. Harnessing the unique strengths and capabilities of individuals – all individuals – is the key to building better workplaces, and a better Canada, as long as we have the courage to unite to include. 

Kim Tabac is the chief talent officer at Deloitte Canada.

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