In today’s fast-paced and changing business landscape, leaders are challenged to stay relevant to ensure the longevity of their organizations. Understanding and accepting inclusion and belonging is a critical piece of the puzzle. Much emphasis has been placed on diversity, with a disproportionate focus on race, gender, gender identity, disability, and the LGBTQ+ community. To be clear, dismantling systemic barriers, addressing biases, and inequitable practices that have resulted in hidden and visible discrimination against underrepresented and historically marginalized groups is not up for debate; those fall into the “that goes without saying” category.
Until we address those barriers, we will fight to attract and retain ALL talent, not just minority talent. That said, focusing solely on “fixing” things to improve diversity is the first step in a much longer journey. The demographic composition of our society is changing; as a result, the workforce will inevitably become more diverse in the years to come. This means that organizations will need to be intent on building a culture that celebrates differences and empowers people to thrive. Celebrating people requires a mindset shift that starts at the top of the organization and permeates the entire business.
The data is clear Miscellaneous teams:
- make better decisions
- Make decisions faster
- Make more ethical decisions
- Process the facts more carefully
- They are more innovative
Diversity alone does not drive these results; inclusion is required to benefit from diversity, which requires both intent and intentionality. Intent is the culture you envision for your organization—how you want working for your company to feel. Intentionality, on the contrary, is the action you take to achieve that goal. In other words; is to lead by example, as leaders and organizations.
Leaders must have a long-term vision for D&I that goes beyond simply meeting diversity goals or checking compliance boxes. It is about understanding that D&I is a fundamental aspect of creating a successful and sustainable business that adapts and evolves with changing times. Diversity isn’t just about employees: customers are becoming more diverse, along with their customers and clients.
I’m talking about a holistic mindset shift that understands that inclusion is not a static concept. Instead, it is dynamic, evolving, and requires continued attention, intention, and effort. It means being open to change and willing to adapt as the needs of the business and the world change over time. It requires a willingness to listen and learn from various perspectives as a leader and actively work to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
The benefits I listed above are the result of tapping into those diverse perspectives and experiences. For many, not just minorities (although they are disproportionately affected), there is a reluctance to share ideas that fall “out of line.” Have you ever wanted to ask a question, but held back for fear of being perceived as stupid? Or do you choose to remain silent when you disagree with an idea for fear of being seen as difficult or uncooperative? Unlocking different ideas and inviting different perspectives requires psychological safety. Psychological safety is believing that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. It is a pillar of inclusion. Without it, people will not feel “show” themselves. Creating safe spaces invites and empowers employees to bring new ideas and problem-solving approaches, leading to better decision-making and innovative solutions.
When inclusion is driven by intent, the result is ownership. And that’s where the magic happens! To belong is to feel that you are part of a team where your organization and your colleagues accept, value and appreciate your uniqueness. It’s that intangible yet unmistakable feeling of connection and trust where you feel comfortable enough to be genuine (think: authentic), vulnerable (think: open), brave (think: direct), and transparent (think: honest) in the job. A study of better up found that companies where employees who felt a sense of belonging saw:
- 56% higher overall job performance
- 50% reduction in turnover risk
- 75% reported taking fewer sick days
gallup found that companies with more engaged employees are 21% more profitable. According to a study of Deloitte, organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial goals. These data highlight the correlation between inclusion, belonging, and positive business outcomes. Which begs the question: With such clear data, why aren’t we seeing large-scale change across the profession? Change can be uncomfortable, and some leaders may be resistant to embracing diversity, inclusion, and belonging due to fear of the unknown, misconceptions about its impact on business results, or concerns that come from relying on correlation over causation. .
The uncertainty lies in knowing what changes to make to drive those results. This will require leaders and managers to think differently, try something new, and be comfortable making a few mistakes. This brings us back to the point: valuing diversity, embracing inclusion, and understanding belonging are “board games.” They are strategic needs for leaders looking to create longevity and stay relevant in their businesses. Demographic trends toward a more diverse society require leaders to adapt to the changing landscape or risk falling behind their competitors and failing to attract and retain top talent.
By fostering an inclusive environment, leaders can cultivate a culture of collaboration, creativity, and adaptability that drives their organizations forward. Now is the time for leaders to reflect on their biases, challenge the status quo, and actively advocate for diversity, inclusion, and belonging. By doing so, they will ensure the longevity and relevance of their businesses and contribute to a more equitable and prosperous future for all. Embracing diversity and all it takes to realize your potential is a transformative journey that requires ongoing effort. Still, the rewards in terms of engagement, innovation, profitability, and employee retention are well worth the effort.