Diversity or Inclusion? Effective Organizations Aim for Both

August 24, 2017

Group of coworkers team-building

In our ongoing efforts to model organizational excellence, EnCompass is dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, for our clients and as a company. Much of the current conversation considers these terms together, as “D&I.” But having a diverse workforce doesn’t automatically create an inclusive workplace; rather, inclusivity is a prerequisite before an organization can leverage its diversity. Grasping this relationship requires reflection and a deep understanding of these intertwined elements of organizational excellence.

What makes a workplace diverse and inclusive?

Research from institutions such as the Stanford Graduate School of Business shows that diverse workplaces have better organizational performance, and better opportunities for creativity, innovation, and growth.1 Diversity in this understanding goes beyond traditional considerations such as gender, ethnicity, and race, recognizing the multidimensionality of individuals and a fuller range of human experiences.

But, inclusivity is not automatic, no matter how diverse the workplace. Inclusive organizations encourage employees to feel valued for their individual capabilities and support a sense of genuine belonging. As Ferris State University aptly puts it, an inclusive workplace appreciates “the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members.”2 Inclusion is about fairness and respect, growing out of a diverse workforce.

To more fully understand this interplay and how to foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace, EnCompass interviewed industry leaders and experts from a range of sectors—NASA, Deloitte, EY, the University of Maryland, to name a few. Two themes stood out for us from their insights:

  • Acknowledging unconscious bias. We all have bias—inclinations or prejudice in favor of or against something—which can be conscious (explicit) or unconscious (implicit). Everyone holds unconscious beliefs, and therefore biases, about various social and identity groups. These biases stem from our natural tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.
  • Practicing cultural humility. Through this lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique— which we think of as cultural humility—we not only learn about another person’s culture, but also examine our personal beliefs and cultural identities in the work setting, and recognize the organization’s dominant culture.3 This is “more than just self-awareness, but requires one to step back to understand one’s own assumptions, biases and values.”4 Cultural humility gives us a new perspective on “cultural competence,” acknowledging that there is always something to learn, in every setting and culture, and being open to that learning through a willingness to question our assumptions and examine our reactions. 

Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion at EnCompass

The first step toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive workplace is to examine our own assumptions as individuals and as a company. With that in mind, we have launched a company-wide conversation on this topic. Diversity and inclusion is a key theme at our company-wide retreat in September, where we will explore ways to deepen our understanding and better value our clients, consultants, and each other. In our ongoing efforts to model a diverse and inclusive workplace, EnCompass will continuously foster cultural humility, recognize our unconscious bias, and strive to create equitable work environments for everyone.

 

Sources:

1. Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Diversity and Work Group Performance,” Insights by Stanford Business, November 1, 1999, https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/diversity-work-group-performance

2. Ferris State University, “Diversity and Inclusion Definitions,” https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/administration/president/DiversityOffice/Definitions.htm

3. Tervalon, M., and J. Murray-Garcia, 1998, “Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education,” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 9(2):117–125. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/hpu.2010.0233

4. Kumagai A.K., and M.L. Lypson, 2009, “Beyond cultural competence: Critical consciousness, social justice, and multicultural education,” Academic Medicine 84(6):782–787. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181a42398 (as cited in 4. Yeager, K.A., and S. Bauer-Wu, 2013, “Cultural humility: Essential foundation for clinical researchers, Applied Nursing 26(4):251–256. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834043/#R19).

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About the Author

Caroline "Carrie" Zwicker is a Senior Learning Specialist with expertise in instructional...

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