Diversity and inclusion is not just a ‘nice to have’. It is essential to a successful business with thriving culture. It isn’t just something for HR to tick off. It comes down to the very essence of your business and needs to be front of mind in everything that you do.
It isn’t just a one off training or a feel good initiative. It is a culture change. So how does a culture change occur?
Culture change starts with individuals. Diversity is a deeply personal issue, everyone has their own beliefs which people more often than not are happy to share, especially if they go against what a business is trying to do. If a business says “let’s get more people of colour into leadership roles”, the pushback “we shouldn’t see colour and should promote based on merit” is quick to follow.
Individual understanding is essential to the success of any diversity & inclusion push in a business.
Individual understanding may start with a seed being planted during a seminar, but it continues as each person goes about their day. The key to this ongoing learning is providing individuals with things to look out for during the day. “Listen out for people using the word ‘gay’ as an insult”, “notice how often someone’s ethnicity is mentioned if their ethnicity is non-European” or “watch when a woman’s voice is talked over”.
This daily incidents are tiny, but it is the culmination of them that creates a workplace culture that is not inclusive of every employee.
Giving individuals the skills to notice these small things is the single most important thing your organisation can do to advance diversity & inclusion.
At the core of these everyday incidents is the unconscious belief we ALL have that tells us that people of a certain colour, gender, sexuality, age (to name a few) are all SIMILAR. Millennials are lazy and entitled. Women are nurturing and sensitive. Asians are hard working and timid. The list goes on.
Our human tendency to group people together based on one aspect of someone’s identity is never ending. And it is damaging. This is the underlying issue. Our inability to see every single person as a complex individual with different (and often conflicting) beliefs, needs and personalities.
This doesn’t mean that everyone should be treated the same. Eventually, when we finally let go of these stereotypes (if that day ever comes...), it will. But not yet.
At the moment, this fence still exists. We cannot treat everyone exactly the same in a workplace (first image), because minority groups and women still need additional support to succeed (second image) due to discrimination (the fence). Until we get rid of these beliefs a.k.a the fence, we do have to treat people differently.
This means there is a fine line between treating everyone as a complex individual while still acknowledging that some people are more disadvantaged than others (therefore giving them extra support). This line can be complex and difficult to navigate.
The starting point? Teaching people how to pick up on those small ‘insignificant’ everyday moments that put people in a box.
Micro lessons are snippets of information that teach people this skill, giving them suggestions on what to look out for and ways to appropriately respond. The micro nature makes each lesson easy to digest and remember.
This is a sustainable way to build an organisation that not only values but actually lives diversity & inclusion. Check out more about these powerful micro lessons here.