Diversity and Inclusion has become a top priority for many organizations in 2017. Increasingly, companies are seeing the value of a more diverse workforce, and are investing in achieving that. Many organizations have created formal and informal networks to support and promote gender, racial and social diversity in the workplace. And it’s not uncommon to see serious initiatives with the aim of increasing the amount of women on boards or recruiting more BAME candidates.
In some respects however, Diversity is the easier part of the Diversity and Inclusion equation. It is—at least—quantifiable. For a diverse workforce to thrive, there also needs to be an inclusive culture. And as many organizations are experiencing, culture change does not always follow a shift in headcount.
Take the post-work pub trip. It’s a common enough staple in most work cultures—at the end of a day everyone goes around the corner to blow off steam and have a drink. But if this is the only way a team can bond, there will be those who inevitably get left behind: people who don’t drink, those who can’t afford it, women whose culture prevents them from socializing with men in pubs—the list is endless. This particular example is something I’ve noticed across working in India and the UK. I was surprised how a seemingly innocent team culture could leave so many people behind. It’s not intentional, nor is it a tradition you would want to dictate from the top down. Which is why—if it is proving to be a barrier to inclusivity—it can be a tough issue to resolve.
Culture is what allows people to feel a part of the team. But culture is hard; it’s formed slowly, from habits that develop over the years.
Ultimately it comes down to leaders and leadership (at all levels of the organization). The more leaders foster inclusive practices, the more inclusive the organizational culture becomes. Inclusive leaders are mindful of those who don’t join in team drinks. Or why only certain people have a confidence to speak up, while others don’t voice their opinions at all. Inclusive leaders help people to feel part of the team, and perhaps part of the organization.