COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Companies often interchange the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ In reality, I believe diversity is the mix, and inclusion is making the mix work. In other words, many companies have gotten very good at getting the right mix of people in the door, but have been unprepared for how to make that more complex mix work once it comes together. Companies have been good at creating a workforce that looks different, but they aren`t adequately prepared for a workforce that thinks differently. They`ve fallen short when it comes to understanding how to develop a corporate culture where all employees feel included, respected, comfortable and able to do their best work.
―Andres Tapia, Chief Diversity Officer, Hewitt Associates
Peter Drucker, one of the best-known and most widely influential thinkers and writers on the subject of management theory and practice, predicted that inclusion would become a matter of organizational survival in the 21st Century. He understood that diversity and inclusion are critical elements in any organization’s long-term success. Organizations need to learn to leverage the differences that exist in their employees or face the reality of becoming irrelevant.
Michael Hyter and Judith Turnock in their book, The Power of Inclusion: Unlock the Potential and Productivity of Your Workforce, challenge the underlying belief that only some employees have the potential to be highly productive contributors. They believe it’s possible to create a culture of inclusion and development that unlocks employee potential and productivity throughout the organization.
To understand why a culture of inclusion is critical to organizational success we need only look to the advances seen in technology. These advances and the availability of just about any product or service imaginable, makes the quality of employee performance the key differentiator in every organization. The key competitive advantage in business is the employee’s willingness to devote their best efforts toward meeting and exceeding organizational goals and objectives.
Organizations, societies and cultures that fail to recognize and appreciate every employee, diminish their chances for success. Some organizations still see their employees as costs rather than appreciable assets that need to be developed, nurtured and empowered to meet the growing challenges of the 21st Century.
Hyter and Turnock emphasize that “Through an inclusive approach to development that provides all employees with the opportunities usually reserved for a select few, organizations could maximize potential and productivity.” They go on to say:
We do not equate development with advancement. It is neither realistic nor feasible for a company to have every employee on a track to the top of the organizational ladder, or even a management-level position. At the same time, we strongly believe there is untapped potential in all employees, and developing all of them through the leadership, managerial and human resources policies and practices…would exponentially increase the number of engaged, valued employees who have the knowledge, skills and opportunities to contribute to organizational success.
It makes sense that organizations that maximize the performance potential of every employee also maximize organizational performance. Exclusion limits organizational performance while diversity and inclusion enhances performance.
Most successful people weren’t necessarily born talented. Most successful people received personal development opportunities. Others succeeded without special attention largely due to high levels of self-confidence, personal and professional ambition, and maybe even a little luck. Hyter and Turnock contend that, “When we afford all people the same development attention that we give to those selected as the talented few; we discover a huge reservoir of untapped potential.”
Dramatic demographic changes in the workforce will see a much more diverse workplace in the near future. Organizations that aren’t hospitable or refuse to see the value in all their people will find it difficult or even impossible to survive. So how do we embrace inclusion as part of an organizations culture? According to Hyter and Turnock we can embrace capacity building initiatives such as:
- Recruitment that selects candidates with capacity to learn and willingness to expend effort
- Deliver the best possible training for all employees
- Conduct evaluations with high standards and developmental objectives in mind
- Assignment rotations given to a broad base of employees as a routine part of the developmental process
- Promote based upon explicit objectives to develop a broad base of employees; promote from within
We know that in today’s service and knowledge based economy, every person has the potential to impact the bottom line. People therefore represent our compelling competitive advantage. We ignore that advantage at our peril. Diversity and inclusion are directly linked to organizational success.