The new buzz term of the past year or so, aside from those related to COVID (i.e. "pivot"), is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, also known as DEI. This week I went to an amazing presentation by local entrepreneur, James Proby, owner of the Men's Exchange here in Colorado Springs. This blog post is inspired by the dynamic conversation that James facilitated with the Leading Edge Strategic Planning class to which I belong. I am grateful to be part of such an amazing group of local problem-solvers, make-it-happeners, and dream-biggers.
What is "inclusion"? According to Oxford Languages, the first two definitions are (1) "the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure", and (2) "the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups." Both definitions are relevant here. This is not just about skin color, although that is within any discussion on inclusive business practices. This is about anyone who is "different".
I don't share this often publicly, but my oldest child is medically disabled. He is in college and working and learning to be an adult. When he applied for his first job, he was afraid to disclose his disability as he didn't expect it would impact his ability to work there any more than an average worker. I commend his employer because they have been phenomenal at working with his limitations, when they arise, and praising him for his good work. You see, his illness is episodic. Sometimes, he is just like everyone else, and sometimes he can barely stand and function, and he has little-to-no control over those changes. Does that make him unemployable? (I'm just going to ask that question and let y'all ponder it.)
Why should you care? Well, first of all, if you are interested in being a good human, inclusion has value in your life. Including others who are different from you, in your life, will provide you depth and richness that you will not experience otherwise. This is not just my opinion. According to EasterSeals' Erin Aguilar's whitepaper "Some of the benefits of inclusion for children with (or without) disabilities are friendship skills, peer models, problem solving skills, positive self-image, and respect for others. This can trickle down to their families as well, teaching parents and families to be more accepting of differences." (https://www.easterseals.com/blakefoundation/shared-components/document-library/the-benefits-of-inclusion.pdf ) And guess what people, we are all different from one another!
In terms of business, there are several benefits to being inclusive, thus the mountain of articles in reputable sources, such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, CIO, Wharton School, and others. A simple example of this is the article "Five Major Benefits Of Increasing Diversity & Inclusion In Your Organization". The five points are:
Higher Social Consciousness
Positive Paradigm Shift
Better Bottom Line
Who doesn't want those impacts on their business? Ultimately, if you want to run your business appealing to customers who mirror you, then you are excluding a portion of potential clientele. If you chose to hire a workforce that has been chosen through similar to me bias... yes, that's a real thing... then you are sacrificing potentially better workers and broader skill sets. But the biggest take home from this article may be that employees are more willing to invest their time, passion, and energy into work if they feel respected, accepted, and included by their peers and their employer. (Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbes-personal-shopper/2021/04/09/best-sales-online-right-now-this-weekend/?sh=50a02018354f )
This isn't about creating a new imbalance. This doesn't mean that you should only hire people who have a disability to fill your next open position, or should only consider female, or minority applicants. This means that you need to consider your strategies in how you source, attract, and retain your high performers. Are you reaching out to schools that cater to students with disabilities to post your jobs? Are you cutting out female applicants because you believe they may be interested in having a baby, or that their responsibilities in the home will interfere with work? Are you excluding men when hiring in a mostly female environment because you're concerned they wont "fit in"? Again, this isn't just about skin color, or ethnic background. It is about recognizing that in order to be truly equitable and inclusive, we have to reach beyond what we have always done and make changes toward including groups we have not in the past.
Bottom line: it's better for your business's bottom line AND it's better for your sleep quality at night knowing that you are doing the right thing in your community. Customers prefer to do business with companies who are the best at what they do AND have employees they can identify with, and homogenous workforces do not accomplish those ends. Just the facts, friends.
Consider your sourcing strategies for your employees and the demographics you are attracting as clients. If you need help navigating this sometimes delicate subject, reach out to us. We are here to help you manage changes to your business in the direction you want to go. Together, we can make a better place for all of us to live.