Creating a Culture that Supports Diversity and Inclusion

by Lisa Grout, SHRM-SCP
Senior HR Advisor at HR Elements, LLC

How does your organizational culture support diversity and inclusion? We hear a lot of discussion around diversity and inclusion initiatives these days. Research suggests successful diversity and inclusion initiatives have a positive impact an organization’s recruitment outcomes, retention, ability to innovate, overall culture, and employee experience. Organizations must understand the difference and the relationship between the two terms to create a supportive culture.

Often “diversity” and “inclusion” are paired together, but the terms are not synonymous as you may think. Diversity refers to actual representation in a group, or the demographic makeup of your workforce. Diversity includes the experiences and backgrounds each person brings. Inclusion is the feeling of belonging in a group and feeling valued for your unique perspectives and strengths that you bring. Organizations can be diverse, but lack inclusion. Successful diversity and inclusion strategies must focus on both components. Here are building blocks to help you create a workplace culture that supports diversity and inclusion:

  1. Assess the current environment of diversity and inclusion in your organization. Does your organization value diversity and inclusion? Start with honest discussions across your organization and solicit feedback from employees about your current values and culture. Employees can give valuable insight where misalignments lie, helping to identify areas of focus. For employee demographics, compile and analyze data for trends and areas that need attention.
  2. Identify key strategies. Based on your assessment of diversity and inclusion in your organization, determine where to focus diversity and inclusion efforts. Use employee feedback to help decide what needs the most attention and prioritize strategies from there.
  3. Get buy in from leaders at all levels. Organizations must have buy-in from all levels, starting with leaders. Leaders must intentionally lead the charge to champion diversity and inclusion initiatives and model the way for employees.
  4. Educate and train employees. Educate employees about what diversity and inclusion looks like in your organization and the alignment with your values and initiatives. Train employees on topics such as unconscious bias, effective communication, and appropriate ways to call out situations and behaviors that are inconsistent with organization’s initiatives. Communication lines should be open, especially in times of conflict and differing perspectives to help foster inclusion. Employees need to feel they are safe to speak up, and that their voice matters.
  5. Integrate diversity and inclusion into organizational processes and decisions. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are not simple tasks you can check off on your to-do list through a one-time training. True culture transformation happens through the persistent, intentional actions and behaviors of employees that reinforce and emphasize the organization’s values, goals, and initiatives.

Culture change is a journey, even in the best-case scenarios with clear objectives and strong buy-in from employees. As your organization progresses along the journey, celebrate the wins, big and small. Remember: “We start by setting the course, we succeed by staying the course.”- Carece Slaughter