By Gracie Johnson-Lopez, Diversity & HR Solutions
It’s a scary topic that means different things to different people. It involves people looking at themselves and others, and acknowledging our differences. We tend to get hung up on surface-level diversity when the more important conversation is about how organizations can benefit the most from deep-level diversity, or diversity of thought. The way to tap into deep-level diversity is by accelerating the hiring and retention of a diverse workforce. In order to work collaboratively and create a sense of belonging, we will need to build a culture of inclusion.
Diversity and inclusion means recognizing and embracing our differences at all levels. It means acknowledging our biases and engaging in authentic and courageous conversations. How can we possible do this within a politically charged climate where people simply do not know what they can and cannot say at work? How do we go about launching and growing employee resource groups? How can I become a more culturally competent leader? What is an ally and how can I become an ally for women and my LGBTQ+ co-worker? How can I navigate the evolving world of gender identities? How do I ease the fears and anxiety of white employees during the equity conversation? Can I ask more questions of the underrepresented populations than the majority to help raise awareness? If we intentionally change the makeup of the room to include gender, race and age, are we not discriminating against the majority? How do we start the equity work as an organization? How can I bring along my older employees when the millennials are changing the way we work?
This work is huge and can become overwhelming if we try to tackle everything at once. You cannot flip the switch and make everything perfect. We are all at different places on this journey and each person has different needs within this work. Some keys to getting started:
- Start with one or two initiatives
- Leverage your teams to build employee resource groups
- Use more inclusive and shared language
- Ask for help from those who have done this in other organizations.
Gracie Johnson-Lopez is president and diversity strategist at Diversity & HR Solutions. Her organization hosts an annual Diversity & Inclusion Conference for leaders to learn more about D&I tool kits, resources, strategies, and best practices.