What “Inclusion” Means In Diversity and Inclusion

The Harvard Business Review recently ran a piece about the deficiencies of diversity policies. I think that particular issue is so dense that it could never be truly explored in the few hundred words allowed in the piece, but it did get me thinking about a related issue. Human resources professionals are well acquainted with the abbreviation D&I – diversity and inclusion, but the public at large (which includes the folks in the C-suite) still has a very incomplete understanding of the goals D&I initiatives.

Creating diverse workplaces is necessary for modern businesses. Most leaders realize this and, at the very least, take nominal steps toward building a diverse workforce. Unfortunately, a major issue that still persists is the assumption that diversity begins and ends at hiring. This limiting view could not be farther from the truth and actually impedes the efficacy of your business.

This brings us to that all important I in D&I – inclusion. You could have a workplace filled with the most knowledgeable, competent and diverse employees ever assembled, but if they don’t feel like they are a part of the team, you’re sunk before you ever even start.

Inclusion is one of the most important goals for any organization, because it allows you to tap into the power individuals as they relate to teams. It doesn’t matter what an employee’s background is, if he or she feels alienated from his or her peers, then he or she is going to lose job satisfaction and be less effective.

In order for your business to thrive, you need to make a concerted effort to help everyone feel valued and included. This is no easy task. The mix of personality types, work ethics and communication skills among all of your employees is going to vary – which means that you may not even realize that someone feels excluded or underutilized. That’s why the most important thing that a manager can do is see each employee as an individual. By building personal relationships with your employees, you’re better able to put them in a position to excel, and help your business run more smoothly.

So, if you’re a leader, rather than focusing on diversity and inclusion as a monolithic business necessity that must be met, you should instead seek create diverse teams of employees that you truly value and get to know. As you develop real relationships with your employees, you’ll discover new talents and opportunities that would have remained hidden without a focus on inclusion.