Inclusivity should be for everyone, not just the experts

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) have, quite rightly, become a central focus for many workplaces around the world. Increasingly experts are being brought in to deliver training sessions and talks, or to review company policies. New signage may be put up and changes made to the layout of the office. 

But we need to ask, is this really enough? 

What do we mean by Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging?

Before we answer this question, let’s take a look at what we mean when we’re talking about ensuring there is diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace. 

  • Diversity – This refers to the range of unique characteristics that make the human race so diverse. Or, more specifically an awareness of these characteristics. The ones that most businesses generally focus on are race, disability and gender. However, I believe it’s crucial to go beyond these and consider the hidden and more commonly overlooked characteristics of your workforce. These include education level, sexuality, socio-economic background, relationship and parental status and neurodiversity. 
  • Equity – Equity doesn’t mean that everything should be equal, rather that everyone should have equal opportunities and treatment. That no one’s characteristics that I just mentioned should hold them back or cause them to be discriminated against. 
  • Inclusion – Inclusion is how we respond to other people. Whether you decide to include someone or not is a personal choice, though not always an overtly conscious one. At Maze, through our training, we aim to make sure that your employees are welcoming and inclusive as the norm. At every level of the organisation. 
  • Belonging – On the other hand, belonging refers to how we feel. An individual’s sense of belonging, of acceptance, can’t be forced. It’s what we need to aim for as through this sense of belonging and connectedness your workforce will be happier, healthier and share a sense of purpose.  

It’s important to recognise that, particularly in the workplace, none of these are more important than the others. Without an equal emphasis on each, none of them can exist. Their existence is reliant on each other. 

Are businesses doing enough?

At the start of this article, I asked the question of whether the usual approach to DEIB is enough and, as you may have guessed from the title of the blog, my answer is no. My argument is that Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging shouldn’t be the domain of experts. Or, the responsibility of the management and leadership team. It needs to go much further than that. 

These values and behaviours should be instilled as an intrinsic part of the organisational culture at every level of the company and by only by doing so will the desired effects and full benefits be realised. 

Unfortunately, hybrid and remote working has brought about new challenges with implementing DEIB and creating the desired connectivity and sense of belonging. We’re even finding that some clients who have worked hard to develop a diverse, equitable, inclusive workplace are having to revisit some of the key areas. Thankfully, once the appropriate culture is already in place it is a lot easier to introduce measures to reinforce it. 

How do we make this happen?

We’ve found that one of the main barriers to a truly inclusive and supportive workplace is that employees aren’t able to be vulnerable at work. In addition to their own unique range of diversity characteristics that every person must live with, they also have to navigate the various situations and challenges that life throws at them, such as the death of a loved one, a breakdown in a relationship, or dealing with the symptoms of the menopause, among many others. 

Whilst many companies are now proactively trying to support people through difficult circumstances by appointing specialists to share wisdom and increase understanding of the topics, however you need more than knowledge you need to be able to support others in these situations. And, without support you can not be vulnerable.  

Through our training we aim to remove this lack of support, and encourage vulnerability, by empowering every member of your organisation with the ability and confidence to support their peers in a workplace-appropriate way.   

We do this by teaching participants that they don’t need to be an expert in DEIB or have shared that person’s life experience to be able to support them. In fact, it’s often as simple as listening to the person without judgement and advice. 

In our Create an Inclusive and Supportive Workplace training course we train people on how to do this by putting their heart before their mind, showing tolerance and empathy by using active, effective listening. 

If you’d like to find out more about this, or any of our other training solutions, we’d love to hear from you.

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