Diversity and Inclusion. The two are typically seen together as a phrase with a merged, overall meaning. The words blend together as we create strategies to include them in our workplace. However, not recognizing their differences and individual power may just be the very reason they fail. 

According to a Harvard Business Review article, “diversity equals representation.” Having people on your staff of different ages, genders, races, sexualities, religions, abilities, etc. is how you achieve Diversity. 

However, for Diversity to stick and be impactful in your workplace, you need more than just different types of people. What you need is Inclusion, which isn’t simply a result of Diversity. 

Inclusion means more than just hiring diverse talent. Inclusion means stimulating and engaging with Diversity. Inclusion means recognizing differences and leveraging each individual perspective, experience, and approach to pursue the company’s mission. Inclusion means making all the various people feel accepted, respected, heard, valued, and empowered.

Without Inclusion, Diversity holds little value. 

The Dangerous Gray Area of Tokenism

Let’s talk about what Diversity looks like when Inclusion is not present. You can have one without the other – it just doesn’t look pretty. In fact, this type of situation is known to cause diversity backlash. 

What results from Diversity without Inclusion is called Tokenism, which is defined in a Vanderbilt University article as, “the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.”

Tokenism is a mask that creates a false image of equality and allows companies to enhance public image and look good on paper as an “inclusive” workplace, but without exerting any effort to achieve greatness through variety. 

Diversity in the workplace has become a movement not because of numbers and percentages but because of what minority individuals and a diverse talent pool can bring to a company. Businesses only dedicated to diversity statistics without allowing minorities space to grow and succeed are not only participating in tokenism but also missing the very point of having Diversity in the first place.

Getting the Ball Rolling with Inclusion

While organizations or leaders may think they’re providing an inclusive workplace, their efforts may fall short of what realistically needs to happen. However, without knowing where to change and improve, not much progress can be made. 

Opening up opportunities for workers to speak up and share their workplace needs and concerns is vital in creating a truly inclusive space. Whether through an anonymous suggestion box, individual meetings with managers, or group sessions in which everyone contributes ideas, the only way to begin building something great is knowing the parts that need work. 

But the work doesn’t stop there. Just as Diversity is pointless without Inclusion, listening to suggestions is also pointless without any real intention or action being taken afterwards. Hold yourself and others accountable for making each suggestion come to life. Employees will begin to grow trust in the company and their coworkers when they know they’re heard, and their ideas come to fruition. The danger of not implementing solutions is “[leaving] employees feeling discouraged and demotivated,” according to Forbes. 

Besides starting open and productive conversations and implementing solutions, another testament to Inclusion is having minorities rising within a company and creating longevity. Sponsorship is one way to encourage minority employees to feel inspired and engaged in their work. HBR defines a sponsor as “a senior-level leader who elevates their protégé’s visibility within the corridors of power, advocates for key assignments and promotions for them, and puts their reputation on the line for the protégé’s advancement.” With the help of a sponsor, employees are more likely to feel satisfied with their career journey and advancement pace. 

If your company has a diverse talent pool and needs some help creating an inclusive environment, I encourage you to begin with the suggestions listed above. In the wise words of diversity advocate Vernā Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” For a more individual and detailed approach, take a look at some of Knowted’s products and services. We’re here to teach you how to dance.

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