Diverse teams make better business decisions and deliver better results. They are more creative, produce greater innovation, and, ultimately, have better outcomes.
But when we have diversity without inclusion, we miss opportunities. Imagine building a talented, diverse team – with people of different races, ethnicities, genders, religion and more – only to have some team members feel like they weren’t welcome or didn’t belong?
Diversity and inclusion often are lumped together. It’s easy to think that one automatically leads to the other. That’s not the case. Diversity is about representation – things like different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences represented on your team. This includes people of different races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, physical abilities, ages, educations and social classes.
But inclusion is tougher to quantify. It’s about bringing our whole selves to work. And, making connections to our work by creating a safe space to embrace what makes each person unique. It’s leveraging the differences and similarities.
So, if we consider “the inclusion journey,” you need to create the conditions for acceptance first. When diversity and inclusion harmoniously work together, that’s when you unlock the power and potential to change lives and move businesses forward.
There are three actions that can help advance inclusion in your own organizations.
1. Commit. It starts with an intentional commitment. Inclusion must be intentional; if you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude. You can’t just “hope” it happens – hope is not a plan.
I’m personally invested – it’s not something I can assign someone else to do. It takes commitment from the entire team. Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiables. That includes recruiting, hiring and staffing diverse teams, and ensuring that we operate on a daily basis with an inclusive mindset.
In the insurance industry, we know we need to cultivate an inclusive culture that attracts and retains top talent. More than 60% of the insurance workforce is comprised of women, yet women hold only 11% of named executive officer positions. We need to do better.
2. Communicate. We can’t underestimate the power of communication. That’s why we’re actively creating opportunities for dialogue and discussions across Westfield.
Between the pandemic and social unrest, we recognized many on our team were coming to work with heavy hearts, so we started by initiating “dialogues.” Our intent was to ensure people felt they belonged and that their voices were heard. These dialogues have been eye-opening, inspiring and have created deeper connections among colleagues. It wasn’t easy – at times, it’s downright uncomfortable – but the conversation has made us a stronger organization.
We also launched unconscious bias training, which has been eye opening. Did you know our brains are wired to be biased? We all have unconscious biases that kick in to help us go faster, avoid danger and feel good about ourselves. But, these biases can work against inclusivity.
Like similarity bias: We intuitively prefer people similar to us. Or expedience bias: When we’re rushed, we make the obvious choice or decision. And experience bias: We naturally prefer our own ideas based on our own experiences.
When you’re aware of these biases, they’re easy to spot and mitigate.
3. Celebrate. Celebrate the differences and uniqueness of your teams.
Earlier this year, we dedicated an entire day to sharing unique attributes about ourselves with our colleagues. We held a mixer and learned things we might have never uncovered, and it gave us the opportunity to celebrate what makes us different. It was inspiring and a lot of fun.
Be motivated to build an environment that’s inclusive and diverse — where everyone brings their whole selves to their work every day.
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