Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is top of mind for many companies, whether in the context of ensuring representation at the top or in boosting diversity and inclusion capabilities throughout the org. This focus is for good reason: Diverse and inclusive teams are not only more creative and engaged but also make better decisions and produce better results.
Diverse and inclusive teams help foster a sense of belonging for all parties involved. People feel they can show up as they are and their perspectives will be valued. According to recent Culture Amp research, a sense of belonging is highly correlated to employee engagement; specifically, a person’s commitment, motivation, and pride from being part of their organization. By focusing on creating a diverse and inclusive environment, managers then also benefit from a more engaged, more productive team.
Beyond recognizing and appreciating the distinctive aspects that come with racial, social, economic, gender, and religious identities, diverse and inclusive teams also tap into each person’s unique background and experiences as strengths to the collective. These teams benefit from a much richer set of collective knowledge; as a result, they are better at thinking outside of the box, avoiding blind spots, and making better decisions that produce better results.
While most managers inherently know the importance of diversity and inclusion, intention does not equal to consistent actions. Managers often fail to strategically, systematically embed this mindset into day to day activities of the organization. Here are some tips to activate an inclusive mindset that helps leverage the benefits of diverse teams:
1. Recognize unconscious bias
Recognizing unconscious bias is a way to “stress test” how inclusive your team and organization truly is. These biases easily sneak into all aspects of daily operations – how hiring is done, how teams are formed, how ideas are selected, how people are rewarded, and on and on.
A good way to “make the unconscious conscious” is by asking simple yet powerful questions:
- How are diverse perspectives and needs acknowledge, recognized, and represented?
- What am I doing to create a safe environment for diverse perspectives to emerge?
- Are there any structural biases within the ‘status quo’?
Here’s also a nifty survey tool that can help you understand how inclusive your team and its processes are.
2. Offer resources and encourage open dialogues
Proactively research tools that can help educate and enhance you and your team’s understanding of inclusion topics and behaviors. For example, here’s a great tool for understanding why gender pronouns are important and how to use them appropriately. Webinars, like this one on laying a foundation for diversity and inclusion as you scale, are also great educational resources.
Rather than leaning on compliance policies aimed at “what not to do,” managers can proactively build diversity and inclusion capacity into their team to drive positive change. By sharing resources and encouraging open dialogues, managers can help teams increase awareness, create shared learning opportunities, and co-create an inclusive environment of mutual respect.
3. Bring clarity and tangibility via transparency
In addition to creating opportunities for open dialogue, demystify standards and expectations help people translate intentions into actions. One way managers can do that is by engaging the team to collaborate on a set of operating principles as well as calling out specific mindset, behaviors, and actions in alignment with these principles. This can provide clarity and increase transparency for how people are expected to behave and engage.
Again, some powerful inquires to jumpstart the dialogue:
- What does a diverse and inclusive culture look like for us as a team?
- What might that diverse and inclusive culture look like – mindset, behaviors, actions – in our day-to-day?
- What are the important guiding principles that can keep us aligned?
- Where are we doing well? What are our opportunities?
4. Design “diversity” to all levels of the organization
Managers have an opportunity to purposefully design diversity and inclusion capacity into the organization’s operations, deliberately factoring in design choices to remove biases and blind spots. For example, at Culture Amp, the head of diversity and inclusion is a rotating position. Another example of designing in D&I could be through introducing a shared leadership model to run team meetings. This encourages the team to embrace and different leadership styles and equalize power dynamics and biases.
Managers can bring out the best in their teams
One of the most innately fundamental human needs is to be recognized, understood, and respected as a unique individual. By creating a diverse and inclusive environment, managers have a huge opportunity to bring out the best in their people and channel differences into unique assets for their team. By recognizing the uniqueness in each individual (beyond generalization, segmentation, etc.) and embracing differences, teams and organizations can not only have a greater sense of belonging but also achieve better outcomes!