Respecting and Valuing Differences: Corporate Diversity Programs Must Be Inclusive to Be Successful

February 2, 2015

[ikon images/corbis]
[ikon images/corbis]

The strength of diversity is set in motion when we respect and value differences. Diversity is not a program or a marketing campaign to recruit staff, and thinking of diversity in this way relegates it to its compliance-driven origins. A diverse workforce is a company’s lifeblood, and diverse perspectives and approaches are the only way of solving complex and challenging business issues. Deriving the value of diversity means uncovering all talent, and that means creating a workplace characterized by inclusion.

Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.

In order to unleash the potential of workforce diversity, a culture of inclusion needs to be established. This should be a culture that fosters enhanced workforce integration and brings latent diversity potentials to life; a culture that is built on clarified normative grounds and honors the differences as well as the similarities of the individual, self and others. Diversity is about balancing this natural tension in different organizational and cultural settings.

Diversity is the measure and inclusion is the mechanism. High-performing organizations move beyond diversity and focus on inclusion. This requires them to examine how fully the organization embraces new ideas, accommodates different styles of thinking (such as whether a person is an introvert or an extrovert), creates a more flexible work environment, enables people to connect and collaborate and encourages different types of leaders.

Organizations that support diversity and also make employees feel included are much more likely to meet business goals than those that focus on diversity and inclusion in isolation (or focus on neither).

One essential component of building a strategy of inclusion is recognizing the biases in how each of us receives and processes information, and the historical biases in our systems of work. Addressing these biases is critical because leaders who experience high levels of inclusion often do not understand levels of alienation in an organization.

When we talk about a culture of inclusion, we think about an organizational environment that allows people with multiple backgrounds, mindsets and ways of thinking to work effectively together and perform to their highest potential in order to achieve organizational objectives based on sound principles. In such an environment, different voices are respected and heard, diverse viewpoints, perspectives and approaches are valued and everyone is encouraged to make a unique and meaningful contribution.

The vision

To create an inclusive organizational culture, the vision needs to address and implement the following aspects:

• Incorporate diversity and inclusion into your organization’s strategic goals.

• Create a work environment that is free from any harassment and is based on respect for everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, social or cultural origin, religion, disability, lifestyle, organizational level or circumstances.

• Build a culture of communication — where inclusion and trust are the norms — by integrating different perspectives to decision-making and problem-solving processes, listening to and trying to understand different opinions, valuing contrary opinions and arguing positions fairly and looking for the better argument among the validation claims.

• Provide equal opportunity for each employee to achieve their fullest potential and to speak openly.

• Appreciate the contributions that each employee can make by bringing his or her own perspectives, viewpoints and ideas and by demonstrating solidarity.

Y'Anad Burrell
Y’Anad Burrell is the CEO of Glass House Communications and president-elect of PRSA’s San Francisco Chapter. She is a San Francisco native with more than 10 years of experience in public relations and strategic communications.


Tracy B. says:

Diversity and Inclusion does have everything to do staffing, social learning, and acceptance. It means your company or organization would seek to hire older workers, foreign workers that might have different religous beliefs. It means the entire company becoming culturally aware and in sync with other nationalities with differences, yet talented. It's not a diversity campaign or diversity looking published materials. Diversity starts in hiring. Then becomes inclusive in all parts of the organization.

Feb. 10, 2015

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