5 questions to improve diversity and inclusion
01 May 2019
#MeToo. Generational divides. Political differences. Views on cannabis. Workplace trust. Virtually every major issue confronting us in the work world today is rooted in challenges around lines of difference.
We can do better
Being able to work effectively with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives is important. Our differences may stem from:
- Age or generation
- Race or ethnicity
- Geographic roots
- Sexual orientation
- Family background
- Educational background
- Work experience
- Ability or disability
- Socioeconomic status
- Other cultural factors
As leaders, we may already be striving to do better. We may want to engage more diversity. We may want to cultivate a greater sense of inclusion. We may want fewer messy, unproductive conflicts. We may be trying to build a stronger team that can use difference to better advance our mission.
For most of us, the challenge isn’t about being well-intentioned; it is about knowing where to start.
Where do we start?
What we learn and internalize from the groups to which we belong shapes the way we experience the world and conduct ourselves in it. We can embrace diverse perspectives, connect with others, and achieve a healthy and strong group or organization. To do so, we need to start asking the right questions:
- What do we know about our diversity? Diversity refers to the mix of individual differences that can affect how our group or organization performs or how our members interact. For some, diversity is a matter of business development and service quality. For others, it is a simpler matter of being a good corporate citizen. Either way, many groups and organizations are aiming to improve diversity. We begin to assess diversity by looking at demographic numbers.
- How do we value and engage difference? While diversity focuses on the mix of people, inclusion is about making the mix work effectively. To see positive results from diversity, people must feel safe and encouraged to take part and share—without minimizing or surrendering the “different” aspects of their identity. Our groups or organizations benefit from diversity when people can truly leverage their diverse backgrounds and perspectives. We begin to assess inclusion by looking at certain key indicators and overall “climate.”
- How do our people perceive and respond to differences and commonality? The ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people of varied backgrounds and experiences is known as “intercultural competence.” Intercultural competence is the bridge between diversity and inclusion. The reality is, most of us overestimate our intercultural competence. Defensible assessment tools can readily identify where we are in our intercultural development—individually, as a group, or as an organization.
- What culturally-influenced conflict and communication styles do we use? We all have tendencies for how we communicate and how we deal with disagreement. While these patterns are culturally-influenced, our individual approaches may or may not align with the approach that is characteristic of our community. By learning about our own patterns and tendencies—and how they compare to those of others—we can better bridge differences. Intercultural conflict style can be easily assessed.
- What should we focus on right now? When it comes to diversity, intercultural competence, and inclusion, we are at different points in our journeys. The key to meaningful development lies in targeting opportunities that fit our own individual, group, or organizational stage of development. Otherwise, the activities we invest in could be useless (or, worse, stunting). By better understanding our context and goals, we can help focus our efforts on what matters most.
That which is measured, improves. If you are struggling to answer any of these 5 crucial questions in your own group or organization, or if you are embarking on your own journey of cultural development, we are here to help. With the right tools, taking the next step is easier than you think.
Assess what matters. Know how. Know Principia.
Blog post submitted by Chamber member Principia Assessments Ltd