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23/03/2018 06:48 SAST | Updated 23/03/2018 06:53 SAST

What Truly Inclusive And Diverse Organisations Do Differently

Hint: Intentions don’t guarantee success.

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My previous article talked about why an organisation that successfully attracts, welcomes and integrates individuals across myriad demographic spectra makes business sense.

Even organisations that need no convincing on this point are able to implement the diversity agenda with varying degrees of success. The yardstick I use to categorise an organisation as truly inclusive or otherwise is a simple one: A resounding, unequivocal YES to the following three questions:

Is everyone represented?

With the best of intentions, most organisations end up creating demographic concentrations in certain parts of the organisation. There are those where the only black faces I have seen are at reception or among the foremen on the shop floor. Yet others end up creating gender ghettos in functions such as human resources, which have an overrepresentation of women. Truly inclusive organisations have a more diverse mix across all departments.

Yet others end up creating gender ghettos in functions such as human resources, which have an overrepresentation of women.

Is everyone integrated?

Do ethnic minorities tend to stay in your company as long as the rest? Are members of the LGBTQI+ community as engaged as the rest of the organisation? There's a plethora of research to show that most organisations are far more successful in recruiting women than in facilitating their growth within the organisation. Truly inclusive organisations ensure a level playing field and successful integration of employees from all backgrounds.

There's a plethora of research to show that most organisations are far more successful in recruiting women than in facilitating their growth within the organisation.

Does it show?

If your organisation is able to get the above right, it should reflect in your sales, revenue, profitability and growth numbers. If you need to look for the first hint that not all is right with your diversity programme, look there. They will give you all the clues you need.

READ: The 'Business Case' For Creating A More Diverse And Inclusive Company

What do truly inclusive organisations do differently?

They don't try too hard

Some of the most inclusive organisations I know don't run formal initiatives directed at diversity. Most leaders in these organisations tell me that their focus is more on ensuring that the company's systems and processes are designed to eliminate conscious and subconscious bias and that the norms are enforced rigorously. A charity that I worked with in the United Kingdom ran their recruitment ads through all ethnic groups among their employees and sought their views on the media to air the advertisements. This was meant to ensure that their image as a potential employer was consistent across all ethnic groups.

Some of the most inclusive organisations I know don't run formal initiatives directed at diversity.

They are, nevertheless, obsessed with diversity

According to a senior leader in one of these organisations: "We are constantly watching over our backs and questioning ourselves on if that is bias at play." The leadership in these organisations has an almost obsessive interest in ensuring that:

  1. They set the right personal example in creating an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome, valued and respected.
  2. All processes and systems reflect the intent.
  3. The ergonomics of the workplace are inclusive of people of all capabilities.

They put the individual first

Talented individuals often become prisoners of stereotypes, both positive and negative. While you may think that the former is an unqualified blessing, all it should take to dispel that myth is a talk with that female colleague of yours who is weighed down by the expectation of always being the harmoniser in a cantankerous group.

Truly inclusive organisations allow individuals' capabilities, personalities and viewpoints to find full expression. Being viewed as a member of an ethnic, religious, sexual or gender group often gets in the way.

To these organisations, the individual isn't the token black face or the token member of the LGBTQI+ community, but the skills and talents by virtue of which they hold their position.

Truly inclusive organisations allow individuals' capabilities, personalities and viewpoints to find full expression.

They have strong institutional guardrails

Without exception, these organisations have zero tolerance for deviation from rules. They invariably aim for standards decidedly higher than statutory compliance with regard to not only rules directly linked to inclusion (prevention of sexual harassment, for example) but also compliance with the Code of Conduct, Quality Policy, Conflict of Interest Rules or Customer Policy.

It's simple. Failure of the diversity agenda in any organisation has one root cause: inconsistent enforcement of rules. If rules are selectively enforced in one area, nothing can stop the malaise from spreading.

They call BS on Cultural Relativism

The diversity agenda is never furthered through apology. The organisation's values and cultural norms are paramount and every individual is expected to comply. There are no excuses, regardless of who one is.

The diversity agenda is never furthered through apology.

They believe that diversity adds to, doesn't subtract from a meritocratic culture

The diversity agenda of the most inclusive organisations is not focused on selectively hiring and promoting people from demographic groups but in ensuring that all factors that impede inclusion- conscious and subconscious bias or lack of infrastructural support are eliminated.

This itself ensures that they have a vibrant, diverse mix of talent across the organisation. Does it help? The results tell their own story.

The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of HuffPost India. Any omissions or errors are the author's and HuffPost India does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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