Diversity at the workplace implies an organization that employs a diverse team of people that directly reflects the society in which it exists and operates.
True diversity entails identifying all of the elements that makes us distinctive from one another and respecting and appreciating what makes each of us unique in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and nationality.
Diversity allows for the exploration of differences in a secure, positive, and caring environment.
“We need to both embrace and celebrate the rich dimensions of diversity constituting each individual and place a positive value on diverseness in society and the workforce.”
Inclusion, on the other hand, is about belonging. Inclusive cultures provide a support mechanism and commitment to everyone, so that they can perform their best at work. The dynamic process of inclusion encourages each individual to feel valued as an essential part of an organization.
This cultural aptitude engages and retains employees, while functioning at full capacity in a warm, nurturing atmosphere, where motivation and morale soar.
In organizations that do not embrace diversity and inclusion, employees tend to feel disengaged and discouraged from not being treated fairly and equally. It’s understandable why people eventually lose faith in the leadership in those environments.
Proactive organizations consider diverseness and equality as great opportunities to reform and develop organizational quality and efficiency.
“Treating people fairly and appreciating each individual promotes enthusiasm, unity, and loyalty in the workforce at all levels.”
Ageism is real and becoming more and more an evident form of discrimination in the workplace. It can adversely affect professionals long before they start to approach retirement. Prevalent stereotypes about older workers include the idea that they can’t keep pace, or cannot be digitally savvy, and this can have significant consequences.
Cultivating and advancing the concept of diversity and inclusion is a must in the workplace in order to value everyone for their strengths, capabilities, experience, and potential. Having a philosophy and policy of equality in an organization that is followed by both its leaders and employees, is the core foundation of a progressive and ethical workforce.
Age-diversity can offer multiple advantages for modern organizations, just like any other kind of diversity at work. While younger employees are sometimes favored for being more tech-friendly, it’s important to remember that digital skills can rapidly become obsolete.
Consistent learning opportunities are essential for workers of all generations, including older employees who are more eager to learn, and often have learned to curtail their egos as well.
Training and up-skilling aging employees can help companies avoid the costs of hiring new ones and retain institutional knowledge. It is the responsibility of leaders to make it easy for employees of all generations and at all levels to access learning resources without stigma.
Though some people can’t wait to retire, many of them are still eager to keep contributing their talents and experience to the workforce because of their loyalty and commitment to an organization.
“To utilize all the benefits of a multi-generational workplace, ageist attitudes must be actively suppressed wherever they appear.”
The Invisible Diversity
Another form of diversity that is not common enough in the workplace are people with disabilities. Disability is often misunderstood as only being something visible like someone in a wheelchair.
Disabilities are both visible and non-visible. They include chronic illness or conditions, developmental disabilities, and mental health disorders. This common misunderstanding of disability is usually overlooked by employers, which leads to several negative connotations being associated with them.
It is essential to make employees comfortable with opening up about their disability. A culture of inclusivity should be encouraged in the organization by raising awareness of disability issues, including presentations by external speakers, panel sessions on disability-related topics, and training on different disabilities.
Companies need to create a dialogue and a safe space within which employees can address their concerns regarding how a disability affects individuals at work. For unconscious biases and negativity to be rightly questioned and for disability to be given visibility in the workplace, the leaders need to develop a culture of inclusivity proactively.
Organizations should be deliberate about including other people’s points of view. Encourage constructive conversations among employees for the sake of understanding. We live in a polarizing time with very strong views and opinions. Sadly, more and more people are challenging opposing views with threats of isolation, and shame tactics, instead of being open to learn why differences exist.
This is creating the need to go beyond sensitivity training. There is a need for training people to be grateful and be respectful, but to also give more recognition. As people become more aware of the need to appreciate each other, and recognize each other, they learn to see differences as opportunities to learn and grow, instead of being threatened by them.
Recognition from the top down isn’t going to create a more inclusive environment. It has to be practiced and managed among peers. This will require a more emotionally intelligent approach to working relationships among people.
Moving away from top-down hierarchical structures will also go a long way to create an empowered workforce where people are seen and heard equally.
Ultimately what people want is a sense of belonging, and to be able to have impact on their surroundings. Enabling self-managed environments rooted in mutual respect will go a long way to improve inclusion at work.
“Organizations who invest in emotional intelligence training, will fare better in creating a more inclusive work environment due to the benefits of increased self-awareness and gratitude among employees.”
To facilitate the concept of diversity and inclusion, leaders in an organization must bring individuals from different backgrounds, listen to other peoples’ experiences, and be dynamic in their approach.
What’s needed is an eagerness to create an environment for learning. Encourage the humility to accept mistakes, and the courage to implement necessary changes to create a more accepting way of being. This will foster an environment of equality, encourage motivation, and strengthen a close-knit team.