Inclusion is a slippery subject. It is why most people avoid it much less comment on it in blog posts. The goal posts for inclusion are constantly changing. Is it something the law requires me to do? Is it the right thing to do? Is it good for my business?
Without a doubt, civil rights laws and regulations have created a framework for inclusion. The representation of women, persons with disabilities and people of color have increased due to an emphasis on creating workforces that look like our population. However, these prescriptions only address the diversity side of the inclusion equation. What we have learned is an organization can be diverse, fraught with differences but not inclusive. The obligation of diversity gave us the mix. What it has failed to do is to ensure that the mix works well.
Brain science has shown us that thinking about inclusion as a required policy, program or procedure is essentially a left brain activity that occurs in the slowest and smallest part of our brain. It only addresses the knowing part of inclusion which does not necessarily translate into doing inclusion.
Others feel that inclusion is a values proposition. It is simply the right thing to do. The advantage of this approach is the allowance of all the differences we bring to the workplace particularly those not fully addressed by law. Personality, sexual orientation, leadership style, and generational differences to name a few are now part of the new mix. Diversity is now redefined as everything that makes us different.
The advantage of a values approach is it allows us to embrace inclusion on the right side of our brain where our principles are located along with our biases, behaviors and perceptions. It is in this section of our brain, the fastest and largest part, where we can actually start doing inclusion if we can overcome our personal histories with differences that cause alarm and fear.
Our private sector brothers and sisters embrace this concept. They reason that their profits will soar if their workforces look like their customer base. Since their number one goal is to maximize market share, they are dependent on a diverse workforce to deliver goods and services to a diverse marketplace.
I think diversity and inclusion is a mixture of all three methodologies. They feed off themselves making the other more potent. Although you may have a bias toward a certain method, a stand-alone approach without the help of the other two techniques is unsustainable.
In the final analysis, the requirement, values and incentive approaches to inclusion are like the Trinity. They cannot be separated. They are distinct yet connected. Individualized yet grouped. Unique yet linked. Successful in their own right, but invincible when working together.
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