Today, more than ever before, businesses are seeking help in this area. Data demonstrates a more diverse workforce and leadership team provide advantages over those which lack diversity. Revenue, innovation and employee retention are some of the areas in business that are positively impacted by the companies that have made changes to creating a more diverse and inclusive culture.
It is standard practice to have online Diversity and Inclusion training modules nowadays, just as when sexual harassment training videos became required in the workplace. Some companies have had Keynote speakers share messages of D&I, while some have full day trainings. There are major conferences which focus on D&I in business. So, with all this training available, why do we still battle with this? With all the emphasis around embracing change and creating an inclusive culture, why are we hearing companies struggle to create the change?
I believe education is the first step to understanding what diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging means to individuals within a company. Training falls under the umbrella of education. Keynote speeches, all day trainings focused on the whole topic or pieces of this broad topic are critical to begin to open the mind to possibility. But if we perseverate at the education level, we will never realize the change we want to achieve.
The model has to be education then application. We have to provide people with the bridges that help close gaps. Let me explain. We all have bias and many of us are blind to our own biases. Therefore, when we hear the education we can see where “other people” really need to change. But it is extremely difficult for us to look at ourselves and say “oh, this is my bias and now that I know this, I will change forever.”
So, the bridges we need to create are changes in behavior and how we communicate with each other. But in order to see the change we need, the relationship dynamics need to change.
Let me clarify: We need to agree on how to interact differently with each other so we can become aware of the biases we have and how they have impacted others. For example, I am a team leader and I tell my team that I would like to set up an agreement that if we feel negatively impacted by a biased behavior, then we agree to share that experience with the person directly, respectfully and with the assumption they didn’t mean to hurt. With the last piece in place, we are more apt to come to the conversation without strong emotion but instead with a mindset of sharing experience. This newly agreed upon interaction will reveal our biases and their impact on others so we can remove our own blinders.
We not only need education which opens our minds to think differently, but we also need to apply these messages to ourselves. When each person sees him or herself in the solution, that makes change possible.