How do we encourage DEIB at work? We talk a lot about these issues and how best to encourage diversity in thoughts, actions, and ideas as well as how to help staff feel included in our culture. But do we mean it?
We often get caught up in the idea that we must treat everyone the same to ensure fair and equal treatment, but the reality is in treating everyone the same, we’re not being inclusive or encouraging diversity. We’re expecting and encouraging homogeneity. And that can seriously hamper creativity and innovation.
Unfortunately, human resources professionals can get caught up in this as much as anyone. If we set clear rules and boundaries and expect everyone to stay within those boundaries, we may inadvertently feed into this. We teach our managers sameness, often under the illusion that this is a safer course of action. But in the meantime, we look for a variety of skills and experiences in our staff to enhance our workforce. Then, when differences come out, we may squelch the opportunity to learn or try something new.
So what can we do about it? First, we need to acknowledge that diversity requires some flexibility. We need to encourage managers to consider that when working with their staff, they need to determine how best to bring out the individual skills sets and strengths we perceived in hiring. We need to work toward ensuring staff feel heard and supported and that we’re open to questions or suggestions and the opportunity to do things differently.
When mistakes are made, rather than looking for blame, we need to determine what led us down this path. Were we clear in our expectations? Did we offer the right training/resources? Were we open and approachable to questions? If the results weren’t what we expected are they wrong or just different? And, most importantly, what can be learned from the experience?
One of the quickest ways to discourage someone from trying something new is to make it clear we’re unhappy with them and/or frustrated by the results. We must find ways to welcome issues as chances for us all to improve and grow. This doesn’t mean people can make mistakes with no consequences, but we need to determine how to encourage and celebrate diversity and enable all of us to learn and move forward.