Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a hot topic at the moment. So how does a company reach to make an equitable work environment for everyone? Is it about racial diversity in employees? Is it about gender diversity? How does a workplace meet the requirements of what is considered a diverse and inclusive culture?
The truth of the matter is that it doesn't, and shouldn't, matter what a person looks like, who they like, what color their hair is, what god they pray to (or don't pray to) or any other number of ways to identify a person. The fact is that job performance has absolutely nothing to do with any of that stuff. Can this employee do the job? That's the one and only question that should determine whether or not someone gets a job.
Ok. So how do we now make sure that everyone has the same opportunity to get that job? One might take a look at your employees and see if there are any prejudicial hiring practices, sure. But this would be like looking at a symptom, not the cause.
If your skin is very dry, you could wonder why and try to moisturize, or you could take a look at the fact that maybe you need to drink more water every day. And speaking of skin, if you only have employees of one skin tone... well, you know the rest.
The key is having an attitude of equality -- treating everyone with kindness, and that no one person is any more special than any other. Because the truth is that if they are there on the same terms as the rest of the team, and the group is functioning at a high level as a whole, then they are all special.
There are obviously Human Resources issues that cover certain aspects of work life, and not getting into the personal business of a colleague as a matter of privacy, but even those types of things are covered by the idea of being kind in general.
To create a culture of inclusiveness, it’s vital to lay the groundwork by creating a culture of kindness, and this starts with leadership. Inclusiveness and kindness are qualities that go hand in hand, especially in the workplace.
If radiating kindness is not a part of your company culture, then it should be. To radiate means simply, to create or send out waves of something. Kindness obviously means being friendly, generous, and considerate not to hurt others.
Radiating kindness will make everything grow that you would want to grow. Radiating kindness will help grow positive relationships, it will help grow more positive energy in the world. Radiating kindness will help grow more kindness and kindness will help happiness grow. Radiating kindness will help love grow.
This isn't some pie in the sky idea, it's actually quite practical. Let’s radiate kindness in everything we do and also practice radiating kindness every day so that the things we want to grow in this world can be harvested by all.
Ok, so how does one radiate kindness exactly?
Making every one of your colleagues and employees feel that they have value, that they’re part of a team, and that they have something to contribute that helps the group as a whole — that’s a workplace a lot of us would want to be a part of.
Acts of kindness cost you nothing and it’s the little things that add up to a sum greater than its parts, and those little things have enormous positive effects.
Look for ways to make people around you feel more comfortable. For example, you can hold or open the door for others, answer questions for new employees in a respectful way, compliment someone on a job well done, or wave or say hello in passing.
Be patient when someone is learning something new, be genuinely interested in what someone has to say, listen to a problem that someone is experiencing — ask if they want help with a solution or just someone to listen.
Empathize with someone who trusts you enough to talk about what they’re going through, allow a colleague or friend to vent their frustration with a situation on you, give someone a ride when they need it, let someone know when they have something in their teeth.
Buy someone a meal. Help a coworker when they have a question. Let someone know when they do a good job or do something that helps you out.
Treat others how you would want to be treated.
Extend a helping hand. Run errands for someone who doesn’t have the time to do it themselves. Say hello, acknowledge someone’s presence — make them feel seen.
Granting someone the importance and value that they inherently have goes a long way to cultivating a culture of kindness and inclusiveness in a workplace, and life in general.
Smile. Be courteous. Be kind. It is one of the most important qualities in someone who takes on a role of leadership. Leadership is not short or quick or easy. It is work. A lot of work.
It is dedication to serving others and doing so because you care for others, not because you expect anything other than the people who you are responsible for raising their game, increasing productivity, and improving their lives. It is rewarding and it is challenging.
Leadership is simply a decision, and it is a long-term commitment, not something you should “try out.” Other lives and careers depend on good leaders. So, if you decide to lead, lead.
What is leadership? This is one of those words that gets assigned many meanings that are not really the actual definition or meaning of the word.
Leadership is simply “the action of leading a group of people.”
Interestingly, leadership is a simple word. But the root word “lead” is the one with many definitions.
So what does “lead” mean?
- To cause a person to go with one by holding them by the hand. (guide the way)
- Be a reason or motive for someone. (motivate)
- Be in charge or command of. (organize, plan, and direct)
- Have the first place in a competition. (win)
- Have or experience. (a way of life)
So, when we talk about leading a group of people. We are talking about doing the following five (5) activities:
- Guide the way
- Organize, Plan, and Direct
- Allow those around you to experience a way of life.
Many people think of leadership as this “thing” you either do, know, are born with, or are “good at.” The fact is that leadership starts on the first day of your career. You guide the way for yourself and for those around you from the start of your career through to the end, and to guide with kindness is the best way to create a culture of inclusivity at your workplace.
So don't get distracted with questions like "Do we have enough [insert type of person here] on the payroll?" That's only going to focus your attention on the result, rather than the underlying cause. If you have built a culture of kindness and an amazing workplace then the numbers will reflect not only those who are well qualified to contribute to the team, but also those who appreciate and practice the same culture of kindness in their own lives.
It doesn't matter what your background or preferences are at that point. Diversity and inclusion will reflect naturally in the people who are attracted to your workplace.