Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever. The United States “is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau. From age to race, gender, ethnicity, disabilities and language differences, a diverse workforce is here to stay. Yet, in many environments, inclusive cultures are not fully realized. While organizations roll out diversity education programs for awareness, achieving a cohesive, inclusive culture is still a challenge. Weaving diversity and inclusion activities into the workday can help.
The value of diversity has been on the radar of many organizations for years. However, a diversity and inclusion study by the Korn/Ferry Institute on behalf of the Diversity Council Australia reveals that diversity efforts are stalled when leadership is not engaged. One way for making progress is to engage leaders and to put accountability systems in place to ensure that diversity and inclusion activities are given priority. Leadership acceptance coupled with accountability helps to normalize an organization's diversity and inclusion efforts.
Use Activities That Educate
Training centered around diversity usually addresses goals and initiatives, and is aimed mostly at those charged with implementing diversity programs. The training does not typically address means of inclusion. Providing opportunities for managers and employees to learn about and to improve skills in inclusive activities is a way to achieve a more inclusive environment. For example, an actionable step taken by Norton Healthcare is offering employees the opportunity to attend inclusion training events, such as “conferences, symposiums, lunch and learns, networking events and celebrations.”
Establish Opportunities to Connect
While diversity celebrates differences, some employees, especially new hires, may feel that they don’t fit in with the team dynamics because of their differences. A way to combat this is to enable workplace situations for new employees to connect with existing employees of varying backgrounds. According to a report by Oracle regarding their efforts, organizing a company-sanctioned platform for networking and socializing promotes inclusion and engagement, and helps employees “feel part of a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
Provide Opportunities for Dialogue
Providing an opportunity to openly talk about how to demonstrate inclusive behavior is another diversity and inclusion activity. Inclusion requires a deliberate effort that considers individual opinions and knowledge as part of an organization’s framework for diversity and inclusion action. Hosting and encouraging open dialogue is one way for individuals to learn about and value each other’s talents, despite differences. The NASPA Foundation -- an organization that works to advance the student affairs profession -- lists "facilitating dialogue effectively among disparate audiences” as a basic means of encouraging diversity and inclusion.
Create a Mentoring Program
Mentoring programs provide opportunities for organizational leaders to engage with diverse individuals across all company levels. For example, creating mentoring opportunities is one of several activities the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada lists as part of their diversity and inclusion framework and implementation plan. A properly implemented mentoring program provides regular opportunities for a diverse pairing of individuals to interact, thus allowing mentees to be included in career and professional development support they might not receive otherwise.