Diversity and Inclusion has become a hot topic in many organizations. This is because many organizations have realized that inclusion is critical for their success. More specifically, affirmative action programs are not enough to leverage and retain a diverse workforce. Rather, affirmative action ensures a diverse set of individuals is hired. But what happens after that? Research suggests that subtle forms of discrimination may exist that exclude individuals from historically disadvantaged groups (Shore et al., 2018). Thus, inclusion is a requirement to ensure the success of all parties.
So, what is Inclusion and why is it that organizations care so much about what they call “D&I”? Inclusion is the extent to which, “people of all identities and many styles can be fully themselves while also contributing to the larger collective, as valued and full members” (Ferdman, 2017 p.235). Inclusion can be further broken down into three sub-facets: (a) integration of differences, (b) inclusion in decision-making, and (c) fair treatment. Integration of differences refers to the extent to which an individual’s unique attributes are valued in the workplace. Inclusion in decision making is the notion that an individual’s perspective is sought out and utilized even if it goes against the majority perspective (Ferdman, 2014). Lastly, fair treatment involves the just distribution of resources and opportunities across all individuals regardless of their demographic subgroup. The reason that organizations should care (if they do not already) is because inclusion (or lack of) has been tied to many organizational outcomes such as higher job satisfaction, increased performance, and decreased group conflict (Mor Barak & Cherin, 1998; Sabharwal, 2014; Nishii, 2013).
So, what can organizations do to ensure they have an inclusive environment? The answer may lie in Inclusive Leadership (Randel et al., 2018; Merlini, et al., 2019). More specifically, inclusive leadership is “a set of positive leader behaviors that facilitate group members perceiving belongingness in the work group while maintaining their uniqueness within the group as they fully contribute to group processes and outcomes” (Randel et al., 2018 p. 191). Randel and colleagues (2018) identify five dimensions of Inclusive Leadership that are essential for building an inclusive climate. Inclusive leaders should:
- Engage in behaviors that demonstrate you support your group members.
- Work to ensure justice and equity within your work group and the broader organization.
- Facilitate and encourage shared decision making within your work group and amongst your colleagues.
- Encourage diverse contributions. Ensure you are allowing individuals to provide solutions that may challenge the status quo.
- Enable group members to fully contribute by removing all obstacles.
Making sure your team members are treated equally and fairly is imperative to building a positive work environment. Following the five suggestions above will help to ensure success for you and your teams.
Ferdman, B. M. (2014). The practice of inclusion in diverse organizations. In B. M. Ferdman, & B. R. Deane (Eds.), Diversity at work: The practice of inclusion (pp. 3–54). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Ferdman, B. M. (2017). Paradoxes of inclusion: Understanding and managing the tensions of diversity and multiculturalism. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 53(2), 235–263. doi: 10.1177/0021886317702608
Merlini, K.P., Caylor, J., Merlini, P. G., Bupp, C.P., Nguyen, D. N., (2019). Making Room for Everyone: Development of a Measure of Inclusive Leadership. Symposium conducted at the 34th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Washington, D.C.
Mor Barak, M. E., & Cherin, D. A. (1998). A tool to expand organizational understanding of workforce diversity. Administration in Social Work, 22, 47–64. doi: 10.1300/J147v22n01_04
Nishii, L. H. (2013). The benefits of climate for inclusion for gender-diverse groups. Academy of Management Journal, 56, 1754-1774.
Randel, A. E., Galvin, B. M., Shore, L. M., Ehrhart, K. H., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., & Kedharnath, U. (2018). Inclusive leadership: Realizing positive outcomes through belongingness and being valued for uniqueness. Human Resource Management Review, 28(2), 190-203.
Sabharwal, M. (2014). Is diversity management sufficient? Organizational inclusion to further performance. Public Personnel Management, 43(2), 197-217.
Shore, L. M., Cleveland, J. N., & Sanchez, D. (2018). Inclusive workplaces: A review and model. Human Resource Management Review, 28(2), 176-189.