Tolerance beats intolerance, but it is merely “putting up with.” We must move to valuing and appreciating difference – not tolerating it.
Better decisions really do come from diverse groups. The comfort of being with those like ourselves makes us pay attention less; having even one person who is different from the group norm makes people process information more carefully. There is more creativity and innovation, and outcomes are better and more sustainable.
The link between inclusion and better business results is about engagement. Higher engagement is linked in research to higher productivity and profitability. Engaging the bulk of workers is complicatedi n today’s diverse workforce. Engagement, which involves a sense of belonging, must be wide and deep. Employees who spend energy on “fitting in” are spending energy that leaders need to be focused on doing great work. Leadership skills of inclusion are about getting the best work out of more of the diverse workforce.
I am in the business of increasing understanding, of reducing judgment, which gets in the way of inclusivity. It’s like light and dark. Light dispels darkness; understanding dispels judgment (which often exist below conscious awareness). Men and women judge each other; members of different generations judge each other. When we understand differences and why we are different, we can set aside judgment and find ways to work together. Understanding enables people to think and act more inclusively, especially if new ways of thinking are reinforced and one practices new behaviors.
Diversity in the workplace is unlikely to be either successful or sustainable if the culture isn’t inclusive. Inclusion is about how people experience the workplace. It is inclusive if as many people as possible feel valued, sense they belong and feel they can succeed. I suggest practicing inclusion on one group, women, who remain “minorities” at the upper levels of business. Leaders should determine if there is gender diversity or if retention and promotion of women is an issue. Study the numbers, turnover rates, engagement and causes of women’s disengagement.