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  • Writer's pictureTony Gilliard

Confusion: Two Definitions for Diversity

As a Diversity and Inclusion practitioner, I go into companies around the world and base my training on the fact that when I use the term Diversity, I am referring to every employee, customer, supplier, etc., regardless of background. I define Diversity and give examples to support this premise. I then move to help participants understand that with this increasingly more diverse workforce, workplace and marketplace, that our focus and strategy will be centered around how we begin building a process of creating a culture of inclusion and belonging.

As I’m doing my work, specifically in the United States, these same companies have Talent Acquisition teams that are working diligently with a directive to recruit “Diverse” talent. The difference is, the “Diverse” talent they are charged with identifying, is narrowly defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and subsequent articles that prohibit discrimination. In other words, compliance.

Diversity for legal compliance and Diversity and Inclusion are two very different cousins. Given smart Talent Acquisition professionals, they can hit the metric for compliance every single time. Doing the work to comply with the laws may increase your Title VII Diversity, but it does nothing to create a culture of inclusion and belonging, which is at the core of D&I. Your D&I strategy must be significantly broader than what is outlined in federal, state, or local statutes. In other words, we are much more than our race, gender, and other dimensions outlined in the statutes. D&I should be viewed as a business decision to help get the most out of every employee, support every customer, and drive business results.

Try looking at it from this standpoint. The statutes set forth by the government were not designed to help you build or grow your business. These statutes are in place to “right” past discrimination and to prevent future discrimination. It is my view that D&I programs are a business decision designed to create an inclusive environment to get the best out of all employees, engage employees, and create a sense of belonging, resulting in better performance. In other words, D&I is about helping you drive business results. There has been tremendous work done by McKinsey, Korn Ferry, The Executive Leadership Council, and others that support the link between D&I and business results.

Doing the work on the front end from a Talent Acquisition standpoint and being compliant is only half the battle. Developing and retaining that talent is where the other half of the opportunity comes into play. As you focus on your business, it is important to understand that you have nothing without people. The thing to understand about people is that people are diverse. All people. As a result, your D&I strategy must take into consideration all of your people and provide them with the education and tools to create a culture of inclusion and belonging that paves the way to greater results. For example, a single dad has similar needs to a single mom. The visually impaired, the wheelchair-bound and you, may have different abilities, but you each have requisite skills to do your jobs and were hired because of those skills. Irrespective of our similarities or differences, we all come to work every day in order to support ourselves and or our families. As a result, ideally, we would like the work environment to be one where we can be our authentic selves, feel included, valued, respected, and feel a sense of belonging. So, the question for leaders, managers, and co-workers is how do we create this environment of inclusion recognizing that there are similarities and differences that exist between us? Not necessarily right, wrong, good or bad, just similar or different. Here are some things to consider:

· Be Self-aware – Self-reflect and understand your personal biases and recognize that everyone doesn’t see things the same as you, and just as you want to be heard, so do others.

· Become an Active Listener – You may not see your blind spots, though those close to you most likely point them out to you often.

· Get Comfortable with Your Discomfort – Interact and socialize with people who are “different” from you. While doing so, recognize that to them, “you too are different.”

· Challenge Your Bias – We all have bias. When you sense your bias kicking in, ask yourself, “is it them, or is it me?”

· Be an Ally – Stand up, speak up, and advocate for others.

· Show Respect – Differences in approach, style, point of view, job level/function, etc., are simply differences; these things are no reason to show disrespect.

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