Diversity and inclusion can go too far

6 inspirations for more diversity and inclusion in everyday work

It's about building a workforce from people with different perspectives, experiences, worldviews, ethnicities, genders, skills and age groups - sometimes with mental and physical limitations - in order to come up with different approaches.

You should also not neglect the social changes in this context. For almost three years there has been a greater awareness and understanding of the differences and unequal treatment between people. The #MeToo movement was created in 2017 and draws attention to the extent of sexual harassment and sexual assault to which women are sometimes exposed. The movement has contributed to the fact that socio-political structures are heavily discussed in public discourses and continuously questioned. Likewise, the # BlackLivesMatter protests in 2020 raised awareness of ongoing discrimination against blacks. Thus, inclusion and diversity have moved to the fore of the dialogue in the workplace, because many employees are affected by discrimination. According to the international “Diversity & Inclusion Study” 2019 by the job and recruiting platform Glassdoor, more than a third of the interviewed workers in Germany have already experienced or observed discrimination in the workplace. Many companies have already become active and have integrated diversity management into their companies. It is a corporate management concept that supports the heterogeneity of employees and generally regards this as something positive. It's not just about the tolerance of individual diversity, but companies also secure competitive advantages because different potentials complement each other.

Diversity and inclusion need to be differentiated

Diversity - or diversity - and inclusion are often confused. They are very different terms, but they are related to each other. Diversity means different. Employees differ in their visible and invisible features. These include differences in appearance, origin, gender, due to physical or mental limitations, but also differences in life experiences, values ​​and beliefs, education and preferences, and behavior. Inclusion, in turn, means making diversity possible in specific contexts such as at work and creating a culture of equality. This means that all people naturally belong and are involved - regardless of what skin color they are, what gender they belong to or whether they have a disability. Companies create a work environment in which everyone feels that they are treated fairly and respectfully. Every employee has equal rights and can be himself. Different perspectives, skills and experiences can lead to positive changes in collegial cooperation and enable new ways of implementation.

New employees can already find inclusion in the company due to heterogeneous vacancies and adapt to the corporate culture - but there is more. You and your company should take an active part in ensuring that the company culture turns to the employees and that a mutual learning process develops. Inclusion and diversity bring different perspectives together. Mixed teams can also generate innovative product ideas. If you and your colleagues manage to look at different perspectives and allow critical questions openly, an integrative working atmosphere can arise, which can have a positive effect on discussions and ultimately also on decisions.

Six inspirations for your company

Forbes names six ways you can build a corporate culture that creates more diversity and inclusion in everyday work.

1. Create change through education

Employees have sufficient education from school, universities, workshops and team building measures. However, it is important to make them aware of their subconscious prejudices. To show you how to overcome discrepancies, create new perspectives and strengthen relationships. HR departments should therefore provide extensive learning programs for their managers and employees and encourage them to take further training. Firms could also set up an inclusion council and help to address underrepresented employee groups. The council should be led by a diverse group.

2. Promote a supportive and safe space

To get a better relationship with your employees, don't be afraid to ask awkward questions, get feedback, and engage in discussions - all while creating a safe space. Employees should feel heard and at the same time feel comfortable being able to express their feelings, opinions and worries freely - without having to fear punishment. Because your employees should be sure that they are supported at work and, with their differences, are accepted for who they are. Joe Bailey, My Trading Skills Management Consultant, says:

To do this, employers need to encourage everyone to speak up and advance joint decision-making.

3. Rely on the principle of shared responsibility

Every corporate culture has its rules that everyone must adhere to in order for cooperation to work. Anyone who disregards the rules regarding diversity and inclusion must expect consequences - no matter what rank or title he or she has. If you just look away, it will make the situation worse. Executives and management have a special role model function in this area, because employees, applicants and business customers observe carefully whether executives really implement what they are promoting.

4. Review the application and selection process

You should check the current recruiting process in the company. In Germany, for example, the law does not allow employers to discriminate against applicants based on their gender. Determine where there are potential barriers to attracting diverse talent. For example, what you can do:

  • Go through job advertisements again and pay close attention to the choice of language. Since 2019, for example, job advertisements have to be gender-neutral and also advertised for the third gender (m / f / d)
  • Check the company website and social media to see whether photos, videos and language selection support diversity
  • Get resumes with information like names, dates of birth, or schools removed
  • Find sources where a wide variety of candidates can be found

5. Appreciate and respect the differences between employees

Businesses should regularly evaluate their corporate culture and ensure that it is in line with the brand and goals. For example, what you can do to promote inclusion and diversity:

  • Hold a celebration for the different nationalities represented in the company
  • When designing the office, include furnishings (pictures, lamps, decorative elements) from different cultures in order to broaden the employees' perspective and stimulate discussions
  • Support small organizations or businesses with business lunches, donations, and more
  • Organize a book club to encourage discussion on sensitive and diverse topics, such as LGBTQ + inclusion

6. Be honest about goals, progress, and weaknesses

In the past, companies left their employees in the dark about what was happening internally. As a result, employees never felt they were valued because they weren't kept up to date or included in the decision-making process. However, engaging employees increases productivity, improves morale, and creates a sense of belonging to the company.

Employees can also help identify weaknesses that might otherwise have been overlooked. For this reason, leaders should not only be proactive in communicating diversity and inclusion goals, but also clarifying how those outcomes will affect the mission, culture, brand, and bottom line of the organization.

Three requirements are important

Any strategy used to promote diversity and inclusion should, according to Gallup Research, meet the following three requirements:

a. Treat all employees with respect

An inclusive culture develops out of respect. Employees must be treated with respect. Likewise, they should treat others with courtesy and decency themselves. Knowing that respect is part of workplace policy encourages employees to speak up and share new ideas.

b. Appreciate the strengths of your employees

A Gallup study has shown that employees who have improved their personal strengths in a CliftonStrengths coaching include all other people much more closely. Plus for companies: Effective collaboration should increase productivity and profitability.

c. Managers do their jobs correctly

To create an inclusive culture, leaders need to have clear intentions and values. They also have to create a working atmosphere in which employees have the feeling that they can address special concerns openly and confidentially.

Lead by example

There are numerous companies that deal with diversity management. To date, 3,500 companies and institutions have signed the Diversity Charter of the employers' initiative of the same name. You are campaigning for an appreciative and unprejudiced work environment.

One company that started doing this very early on is the IT company Abitz in Berlin. Since 1989, the managing director Dieu Hao Abitz has made it her business to promote a strong family policy within the company. Children can be brought to the office in emergencies and employees can work from the home office if they are sick. This enables employees to concentrate better on their work. This would result in good performance and great loyalty to the company.

Important in the area of ​​diversity management is the company-financed weekly two-hour individual German course for employees who showed deficits in the German language at the start of their employment. One of the two teaching hours is counted towards the working time. Communication within the company and with business customers would improve. And there is also provision for young professionals: Above all, many students with a migration background would be interested in working together.

Think about the future

If a company is currently not pursuing a strategy for more inclusion and diversity, this can diminish its reputation with customers, business partners and potential applicants - and in case of doubt even be perceived as discriminatory. In addition, companies miss out on the numerous social benefits that result from a heterogeneous workforce. Likewise, the economy needs more elderly people, people with disabilities and people from other countries to cope with demographic challenges. Social diversity helps to compensate for the shortage of skilled workers. Companies are therefore well advised to specifically promote the inclusion skills of their executives in order to enable tolerance and equal opportunities and to secure business goals in the long term.

Viola Klingspohn is a trained editor (trainee) and graduate designer (FH). She worked in newspaper editorial offices and was editorially responsible for a family magazine. She has been working as a freelancer in graphic design and text communication since 2011.