The Human Experience: Diversity & Inclusion
The importance of diversity and social cohesion in the workplace
Shifting demographics, the Me Too Movement, expanding LGBTQ+ awareness, sensitivity to the needs of working and new parents– each of these matters is rapidly shaping our larger culture and, by extension, the expectations of today’s workforce. The job search website company, Glass Door, found that 67 percent of job seekers consider diversity a factor in their decision about where they choose to work.
That particular insight is also edifying to organizations seeking to create social cohesion – a workplace culture where all employees share a common mission and vision, a rich, engaging environment where innovation and successes are celebrated and failures learned from. Do you know the degree of social cohesion within your organization? Would your employees recommend employment with your organization to a family member or best friend? Where a strong sense of social cohesion exists, the same prospective employees the organization seeks to hire and retain - those who value diversity and inclusion – will answer positively.
While awareness has certainly been raised, it’s rare to find an organization with no need to push diversity and inclusion, an assertion that applies across all industries and ultimately, one that isn’t going to change tomorrow. Those slow to initiate change will likely experience some difficulty 5-10 years from now.
Still, the business community is responding. Glassdoor found an increase in organizational resources devoted to improving diversity. Thirty-five percent of hiring decision-makers expect to increase investment in diversity and inclusion efforts. The Glassdoor report, conducted among 750 hiring decision-makers in the U.S. and U.K., also finds that job candidate demographics are one of the most important recruiting metrics. The report also shows recruiting is less effective when companies do not invest in diversity and inclusion programs. Nearly three in five (59 percent) hiring decision makers report that a lack of investment in diversity and inclusion is a barrier or challenge their organization faces in attracting quality candidates.
That said, large organizations need time to implement new hiring policies, develop workspace plans (e.g. rooms for nursing mothers, gender-neutral bathrooms), institute flexible work and holiday schedules to accommodate different religious traditions and expand employee pathways to leadership. That last point is noteworthy because achieving a diverse workplace isn’t the sole measure of diversity; diversity won’t be fully realized until the representation of groups like women, people of color, people with disabilities and military veterans is evident in the company’s leadership structure.
For all its upside, a push toward greater diversity does come with its share of growing pains. The same room full of different perspectives that lead to greater innovation can also increase conflict, putting the onus on leaders to foster a working environment grounded in trust and social cohesion – again, not an overnight task. There is no single path to social cohesion, however, it is important to observe a few fundamental principles.
Social cohesion will allow for the change necessary to cultivate a more diverse workplace. However, the opposite is not true – a diverse workplace will not necessarily bring about social cohesion unless everyone feels comfortable to speak their mind and listen to what others have to say. Acknowledge again that change will be slow, but necessary, and celebrate the small wins (the diversity that does exist within the company).
- Even the smallest steps can have a great impact. A complete strategy is not necessary to begin building greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Make sure each person knows how their contributions help the company reach not only its business goals but its mission and vision as well.
- An organization that is more comfortable with change is more sustainable in the long-run than a stagnant organization.
- Each of us has room for growth in this area since all of us were raised with unconscious biases through social stereotypes.
- Practice teamwork at all times. Utilize each individual’s unique strengths and always communicate openly and effectively.
Regional Workplace Manager, West Coast Lead