DIVERSITY VS. INCLUSION
In the modern age, most companies are well aware and on board with the concept of diversity.
A more diverse workforce offers a foundation for dynamic conversations and new perspectives. Simply put, diversity equals representation. Having a diverse workforce means there are many unique groups of human-beings present in the room. However, inclusion is the magic sauce
that takes diversity to the next level. Inclusion is necessary to have an actively engaged workforce, innovation and idea generation & meaningful connections, which ultimately lead to business growth and a culture that attracts a talented and diverse talent pool.
Diversity is easy. It’s simply about getting a diverse group of people in a room. Inclusion can be a more challenging goal to produce and measure. Inclusion is a byproduct of how people feel as a result of being seen, heard and understood for who they are and what strengths they bring to their role and their company.
There are a few key principles that lay the foundation for inclusion. They are authenticity, empathy and vulnerability — which all lead to the meaningful connections and deeper sense of belonging that allow inclusion to foster and grow naturally within an organization.
When someone feels accepted and championed for who they really are — their real, raw and whole self — they are far more likely to take calculated risks, propose new ideas, think outside the box and champion others for being their authentic selves. Authenticity is the bedrock of fostering a culture of inclusion. It cannot be a “check the box” core value. Leaders, managers and employees at every level need to know and feel that they can be themselves everywhere — from email, to the break room, to meetings and performance reviews.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others — to put yourself in their shoes even if you’ve never been in their situation or circumstances. Empathy fuels connection. And connection is what drives feelings of belonging. When someone reacts to something you said or did with intense emotion — pause, take a deep breath and ask yourself where might that emotion be coming from? When we shift into this mindset, we create the space necessary to respond mindfully, instead of reacting immediately from a misunderstood emotion. One of my favorite methods to increase mindfulness in the workplace is deep breathing. A quick and simple exercise of 4 counts on the inhale through the nose and 4 counts on the exhale through the mouth is powerful enough to take us from a sympathetic fight-or-flight response to a more thoughtful parasympathetic rest response. It’s from this restful state that we can make grounded decisions and have open and empathetic conversations.
Vulnerability is having the courage to open ourselves emotionally in situations where the outcome is uncertain. Vulnerability is the bridge from disconnection to connection. It’s what allows us to relate to others on a deeper emotional and human level that builds trust and furthers feelings of connection and inclusion. In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” When we accept others for who they are, we invite them to do more of the same for themselves, which creates an amazing and beautiful ripple effect.
A culture that truly embodies authenticity, empathy and vulnerability will be one that also fuels connection and inclusion. Diversity is wildly important. But if we stop there, we miss the mark on creating a culture that invites deep connection and inclusion. We miss the very element of the human experience that we are hard-wired to crave so deeply — an unshakeable sense of belonging.
CEO & Founder, Modern Health Pros Dedicated to helping businesses & their employees transform their relationship with stress, build resilience and live boldly