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Diversity and inclusion isn’t an option. Celebrating National Inclusion Week
The 25th October marked the start of 2017’s National Inclusion Week; a celebration of the benefits of diversity and inclusion across the workforce. It’s a theme which we are passionate about, running as it does through business culture, innovation and engagement.
It’s also an area which is still rife with myths and misunderstandings; one which is still driven far too much by quotas and reporting, rather than by attitudes and behaviours. For example we’ve previously reported on the UK’s successful drive to increase female representation in the boardroom through education and peer pressure rather than through imposed quotas.
Admittedly there is still some way to go but it does show the value of positive publicity and the sharing of success stories over box ticking and form filling. And yet whenever the subject of diversity comes up then ‘collecting data’ seems to follow. Now we’re not saying that having an understanding of the potential level of representation may not be useful, but data does not equal culture and collecting data will of itself get business no closer to having a strong and inclusive culture.
Then there’s the question of hiring for cultural fit. The myth says that this is somewhat akin to bringing clones on board, people who will buy into the groupthink and not rock the boat. That is far from the ideal. Hiring for cultural fit in its true sense means bringing in people who will enhance the positive culture of the organisation, bringing something more to the business in order to help it to deliver its strategy. And that’s not going to happen if all you hire is ‘mini-me’s.’
If you want to enrich your organisational culture you have to bring in people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse skills. Then you have to encourage and empower them to bring the best of themselves to the business, to make the most of their skills and to grow their abilities. That takes leadership and commitment, not only being prepared for people to stand up and actively contribute but creating the conditions in which people can do so.
And top of the skills list if you are looking to encourage active contributions is communication. Building listening and questioning skills; helping people to step outside their comfort zone and to actively build understanding is only the start. Equally important is creating the conditions which encourage interaction and networking; enabling fluid and flexible teams to form and reform in response to the needs of the business.
That’s why we were particularly excited to see the theme for this year’s National Inclusion Week is ‘connect for inclusion.’ The organisers are challenging everyone to step out of their familiar daily networks in order to gain “new perspectives and ideas that may help us grow stronger and reshape how inclusive our organisations can be.” Not only should such an approach lead to greater understanding of the benefits of inclusion, by mixing with others the chance for innovative new approaches and solutions comes ever closer.
Make no mistake, diversity and inclusion isn’t an option. Rather it is an imperative in today’s interconnected and innovative world. As Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in 2010; diversity is “the only business case we need.”