A NUMBER of organisations are promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies because it is generally understood that diverse and inclusive organisations promote employee participation, nurture talent and perform better.
Historically systems, policies and practice have created inequitable outcomes that have led to discrimination or exclusion in the work environment.
Such experiences include; systemic racism, employees feeling undervalued, unsafe work environments, implicit biases, unjustified terminations, underpaying staff, discrimination on the grounds of disability or gender.
Employees avoid reporting on such disparities because they fear losing their jobs or intimidation.
While some actions are implicit, they affect the employees’ physical and emotional well-being and ultimately their performance.
Research shows a correlation between diversity, innovation and performance;however, experiences indicate progress towards improving diversity has been slow or just on paper.
Negative attitudes have affected inclusion in the work place. In an environment where the organisation is experiencing challenges, diversity matters even more.
Organisations need new skills in order to remain relevant, scalable and sustainable. Organisations that are diverse, equitable and inclusive promote a sense of belonging and a culture that is supportive of the individual and group differences.
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It acknowledges the differences in work force by age, gender, abilities, religion, disability, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, level of education and more.
More broadly diversity can take into account capabilities and how people think, which brings different perspectives and enhances decision-making.
An organisation makes a deliberate effort to recruit employees with wide-range of characteristics or attributes, which enhance innovation and brings new perspective to the organisation but that doesnot mean diversity does not bring its challenges.
Implementing diversity in the work place requires commitment and alignment to the organisational objectives. The reason why most organisations fail to honour long term diversity commitments is because they lack leadership commitment to champion implementation of the policiesin addition to lack of dedicated resources to support the process.
Diversity does not happen in silos and requires cooperation from the entire team for it to be successful hence, training is required to maintain the same level of understanding.
It focuses on how people are treated as guided by the values, culture, norms and policies. It is understood that employees are provided with fair and equal opportunities that meet their individual needs and enables them to thrive.
Every individual is unique and the values, norms and practice will enable alignment and promote fair treatment among employees.In a society that is disproportionate and characterised by vast disparities, equity addresses the imbalances by creating opportunities.
It is difficult to achieve inclusion and diversity without achieving equity, hence organisations need to understand what it takes to create an equitable work place. Employees should be provided with opportunities and resources that enable them to achieve their full potential.
Addressing the gender gaps in employee pay and advancement should be prioritised and this includes addressing the bias that negatively impacts on decisions, mindsets and behaviours.
Promoting equity will widen the pool of employees who are able to grow and lead a diverse team in the future. It requires an organisation to invest in the employees, thereby increasing retention and engagement.
It refers to how employees interact and are accommodated in the work place. It evolves around day-to-day interactions, which require employees to embrace inclusive actions.
Inclusion is diversity in practice and a key to growth, which relies on leadership support and grassroot energy.
Organisations should embrace, support, respect and value all employees and encourage them to participatewhile promoting a culture that embraces new ideas, perspectives, experiences and people.
Organisations can decide to be diverse but they should further promote an inclusive culture where employeesfeel welcome and their voices heard.
In some cases, employees resign from their jobs because they donot feel included and feel their organisations are not making an effort to be diverse or inclusive.
Promoting inclusion will enable employees to have access to learning and development opportunities that enhance aspirations and growth.Inclusion creates a sense of belonging among employees and positively influences productivity, innovation and decision-making. Promoting inclusion starts with leadership and they should interpret inclusion and demonstrate their commitment to achieve an inclusive work environment.
Inclusion should be integrated in the organisation culture and aligned to the strategy and it will be easier to commit and demonstrate. Empathy is the heart of inclusion because it enables the leader to connect and provide the platform for achieving inclusion.
Inclusion is what connects the employee to the organisation.
Promoting inclusion will pause its challenges, however, the commitment and consistency will create an environment where employees feel included, recognised and appreciated.
DEI should not be an after thought but organisations should integrate diversity, equity and inclusion in policy and recruitment, addressing the systemic bias.
The values are inter-connected and it is believed their synergies position an organisation to better respond to the dynamic context and challenges.
DEI is more than a human resources issue and should be embedded in the organisation strategy, clearly articulating the opportunities for change.
A strategic approach is more effective because a once off training will not achieve behaviour change.
The approach should include skills development and awareness over a period of time, gaining an understanding of diversity from individuals, across groups and the organisation.
Clearly defining and communicating the DEI policy will make a difference, including establishing a consistent way of monitoring and reporting deliverables.
Organisations should be mindful ofDEI policies and deliver on the long-standing disparities and avoid duplicating initiatives that have not been effective in the past.
There is need to be fair and transparent, and promote equality of opportunities. Organisations should be deliberate in tackling any bias or discrimination in the work place.
Identifying the barriers that prohibit DEI and the challenges associated becomes imperative.
Beyond developing a DEI policy, it is important to discuss DEI in the work place in order to get experiences and identify areas that need attention or improvement, including setting clear targets.
Every initiative is bound to face internal resistance, and a big challenge to bring everyone on board.
While it is difficult to hold management accountable, management should take the lead in championing DEIto generate individual and collective commitment to DEI initiatives.
This also entails availing resources to achieve the intended out comes.
DEI can be viewed as sensitive and hence a collective approach to accountability makes a difference, however collective accountability starts with self-accountability as part of the commitment towards systemic change.
Every employee should contribute towards the organisation culture, which influences DEI.
Therefore, learning about DEI through self- development, learning groups and fostering a culture of collaboration becomes mandatory.
However, it is important for leaders to acknowledge the disparities and differences in order to better respond to the needs as part of the foundational efforts towards achieving DEI.
Tigere is a development practitioner and writes in her personal capacity. These weekly New Horizon articles, published in the Zimbabwe Independent, are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). — email@example.com or mobile: +263 772 382 852