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Beyond Diversity: Employers Focus on

1/29/2013 By Steve Bates

Remember when diversity was a hot topic? More recently, HR professionals have started
referring to diversity and inclusion (D&I), broadening the concept. Today, in many
organizations, inclusion is taking the lead.
Just what is inclusion? And how does it differ from diversity?
While many practitioners say that diversity and inclusion are intertwined, some make critical
distinctions between the terms. In the most basic sense, they say, diversity is about counting
people, while inclusion is about making people count.
Organizations are making people count by taking advantage of the mix of races, ethnicities, ages,
gender identities, religions and life experiences in their workforce. Leaders are going out of their
way to solicit employees opinions. Some are even insisting that workers contribute honestly
during meetingsand guaranteeing that they wont be punished for saying something that
management might not want to hear.
Inclusion is the new diversity, said Fiona Citkin, Ph.D., managing director at Expert MS Inc.,
an intercultural diversity-consulting firm based in the New York City area. You still need
traditional diversity, but its in the background.
Inclusion is providing a sense of belonging to all members of the organization so they feel
welcomed, respected and valued and can contribute at the highest level of their individual and
team capabilities, explained Deb Dagit, president of Deb Dagit Diversity, a consulting firm in
Washington, N.J.
People understanding from the frame and perspective of the other person is how Mary-Frances
Winters, president and founder of the Winters Group, a consulting firm in the Washington, D.C.,
area, describes inclusion.
Inclusion is for everybody, including white men, added Martin Davidson, Ph.D., a consultant,
author and professor at the University of Virginias Darden School of Business. It can work
internally, and it can work externally.
Making the Business Case
Some diversity-and-inclusion practitioners say the business case for inclusion is strongerand
easier to presentthan the business case for diversity. The reason, they say, is that diversity is
what organizations need to do, such as comply with laws and regulations and ensure that a
workforce is representative of the labor market.
Inclusion, on the other hand, involves a diverse workforce to improve engagement, productivity
and the bottom line.
Its diversity of perspective, diversity of thought, said Halley Bock, president, CEO and owner
of Fierce Inc., a training and coaching firm in the Seattle area. Its where an organization needs
to be mining to gain a competitive advantage. Its hard for a lot of leaders. Its not really an
inherent skill that people come to the table with. Moreover, it cant be delegated, she said.
Inclusion is the way we make sense of a global economy, said Shirley Englemeier, CEO and
diversity and inclusion strategist at InclusionINC, a consultancy in the Minneapolis area. Its
not really an add-on. This is not fluff and stuff.
Inclusion is increasingly important to organizations that haveor seekdiverse customers. And
its crucial for companies that hope to succeed across national borders.
Having the right people in place is essential. Look at your target markets and demographics,
said Ray Hernandez, an education instruction specialist at the University of Arkansas who also
runs a marketing firm. Define where youre going to find the talent, and redo the way you
acquire talent.
Commented Citkin: Want more customers? Your people need to be more inclusive.
When you connect it to the bottom line, leaders tend to get it, said Winters.
A March 2011 study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that striving for
an inclusive culture was part of most companies people strategies. However, the study reported
that few organizations were linking inclusion to business performance in a meaningful way.
Inclusive Culture
The Orlando, Fla.-based restaurant group Dardenwhich includes Red Lobster, Olive Garden
and other brandsis among the companies that see inclusion as essential. Its a way of doing
business where everyone is expected to be all in and to use their life experiences to contribute
to the companys success and their own success, explained Samir Gupte, Dardens vice
president of culture. We think this is a competitive advantage for Darden.
Creating an inclusive workplace is not always easy, experts note. And organizations will travel
different paths to attain this goal.
Getting senior leaders to buy in to inclusion is an important, but sometimes challenging, step.
Diversity-and-inclusion professionals can educate senior leaders about the value of inclusion and
assure them that it is achievable through a number of relatively small changes.
Its as simple as calling on people and having offline conversations with them, said Michael
Bach, KPMGs national director of diversity, equity and inclusion in Canada and founder and
chairman of the Advisory Board of the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion.
When this is accomplished, said Fierce Inc.s Bock, You start to see a culture where people are
willing to provide candid feedback without saying that someone else is wrong. Then you find
answers in the room.
Every single person in the organization needs to take ownership of diversity and [help create]
an inclusive work culture, added Bach.
However, Its not a two-hour kind of thing, like routine diversity training, Winters cautioned.
And although employee surveys are one way to gauge the degree of inclusion and engagement in
an organization, some surveys dont ask questions that provide clear indications about how well
the business reaches out to employees.
A lot of times what people put on paper is not what theyre really feeling, said Marc Brenman,
a board member and co-chairman of the Diversity + Inclusion Committee of the Chicago-based
Organization Development Network.
Dagit observed that inclusion tends to be more prevalent in organizations that are less
For example, one small nonhierarchical organization that emphasizes inclusion is Virtual Work
Team LLC, an administrative-support company based in Homewood, Ill. Everybody on the
team should be a brand ambassador, said the owner, Shilonda Downing. We have knowledge-
sharing meetings where everyone has to present.
It opens up a better line of communication, added Teri Williams, a virtual assistant at the
company. When we walk into that meeting we know that we have that moment to speak truth
to power.
Tips for Boosting Inclusion
Practitioners offer the following tips for enhancing inclusion:
Model inclusive behavior.
Incorporate inclusion into the leadership agenda.
Cultivate a high-touch, high-engagement culture.
Train managers and employees at the same time.
Reward questioning and risk-taking, but include a safety net for when mistakes occur.
Train executives to recognize unconscious bias.
Measure and report diversity-and-inclusion progress.
One thing to keep in mind about inclusion is that it is not going toward consensus, said Bock.
It is about asking opinions and finding solutions, regardless of who suggested them.
However, If you ask [opinions], you have to be prepared to listen and do something with [the
information shared], said Englemeier.
Darden Restaurants Gupte summarized the need for inclusion simply: Leaders dont have all
the answers.
Steve Bates is a freelance writer and a former editor for SHRM Online