Workplace dynamics and tokenism - diversity without inclusion

The need for diversity has become such a pressing matter, it is no longer a conversation that’s merely entertained at a business level. With discussions around this topic underway in parliament, the dire need for more inclusion can no longer be ignored. Thus far, the quotas in place have proven to be little more than a stepping stone towards actual change, as no profound difference has been felt despite the fact that most businesses are successfully complying. 

The need for inclusion

The disparity of wealth, resources, a sense of security in life, and opportunities for economic progress continues to impact our social infrastructures. In fact, the need for more inclusion isn’t only to relieve some of the social challenges modern society faces, there’s a great potential for improvement in the business and economic spheres too. It’s a win-win if only we can start to implement the changes that will bring about a true shift. The need for change has become so glaringly apparent and pressing, that businesses now have quotas they can aspire to fulfil in order to provide opportunities for previously marginalized sectors of society. 

A critical review of the impact made by quotas

The quotas seek to increase employment opportunities and opportunities for promoting women, Firsts Nations people, members from LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities. While these measures have increased the number of marginalised groups being employed and promoted, the impact has been largely tokenistic. When you review the effects of these measures on society as a whole, the disparity has remained largely unchanged, as a whole. It’s not surprising, since quotas only require businesses to tick the right boxes. Instead of empowering and uplifting those who need it, their mere presence in the company earns the company recognition and compliance. It leaves the question: if quotas are merely a starting point, what will it take to bring about true change?

Inclusion is deeply connected with culture

When change happens organically as a result of compassion and a genuine desire for change, it is impactful. When change occurs as a reaction to a new requirement, it is done in order to satisfy the instruction. Consider an employee who must be instructed on every element of the job as opposed to an employee committed to achieving the goal that comes with completing the job. 

We can conclude that simply having diversity quotas in place looks good on paper but true change is far more involved. Inclusion is deeply connected with culture. 

While the process is going to require a great deal more strategy, a start to creating real change may lie in these 3 practical actions: 

  • Take a look at your leadership team - 

Your company’s values and mission is driven and implemented by your leaders. In order to go beyond ticking boxes and making quotas, you need to ensure the leadership team embodies the culture and behaviours you want to see in your business. This means investing in training and development for your senior staff and leadership team. 

  • Listen to employees - According to a study by DeHaas, Brent Bachus and Eliza Horn, it was found that engagement is the key to lower staff turnover and higher productivity. Conducting employee listening sessions allows staff to give insight into the current culture of the business. We recommend sourcing external HR consultants to perform listening sessions, as employees are more willing to open up and be honest if they have anonymity. 
  • Actionable inclusion builds community  - Inclusion can’t only be something you achieve on paper. Inclusion also stems from action, which directly builds community. Immerse the company in other cultures and get involved in social issues. Participate in LGBTQ initiatives, charities that support disadvantaged race groups, work with communities with disabilities, and take real action. 

The future of diversity and inclusion

Tokenistic change opens the doorway to discussions; it’s effective when we view it as the first step in a long-term plan to bring about true change. While you may begin your D+I journey with quotas, it is imperative that inclusion is embedded in your D+I strategy in order to move far beyond compliance. Inclusion is the key to ensuring change is in motion and is realised in your business. 

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