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3 Ways Companies Can Help Workers Feel Included in D&I Discussions

  • Diversity & inclusion (D&I) is meant for marginalized people but some say it doesn’t represent them.
  • Expert Cherie Caldwell said people often do not get the connection between D&I and business results.
  • But speaking openly to employees and learning about them is one way to rectify unconscious bias.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) should always have been a priority for organizations but the Black Lives Matter movement has helped spark wider interest in related data and policies.

The Unmistakables is a consulting agency in London that helps create evidence-based insight into D&I for organizations. The agency conducted a study in 2021 that found the people that D&I is meant to support are likely the ones that feel most excluded from the conversation.

The purpose of D&I is to ensure that the organization is comprised of diverse individuals and to foster an environment in which all employees feel respected, accepted, supported, and valued.

DE&I is similar but also focuses on equity, which involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems.

DE&I champion Cherie Caldwell told Insider that “diversity includes differences in perspectives, values, beliefs, and experiences and so to assume that people have a common definition without checking and establishing ignores the point of diversity.”

Caldwell works at Salesloft, a sales engagement platform. According to her observations, people do not get the connection between D&I and business results.

Caldwell struggled to understand how organizations wouldn’t see the benefits of D&I, however. “Productivity and profitability drive innovation and creativity, which leads to better problem-solving skills and exponentially improving results – why would anyone step over that?” she said.

Writer Nina White, who has


, told Insider that she also feels excluded from D&I conversations: “Assumptions are made about what you need,” she said, “and there isn’t much dialogue with underrepresented groups like those with disabilities or mental health conditions. It feels like companies and organizations are trying to tick a box.”

Professional services network PwC surveyed business leaders, HR professionals, D&I drivers, and employees across 47 countries. It found that employees were unaware of efforts underway to create a more inclusive culture. According to their survey, 80% of leadership engagement on D&I remains at basic or emerging levels.

The report said: “Despite widespread corporate investment in diversity, inclusion, and equity in recent years, this pattern of markedly lower D&I opinions among Black or African American workers has worsened since 2019.”

Researcher and writer Pearl Kasirye has researched ways to spot performative diversity. She told Insider that marginalized people need to be allowed to represent themselves: “Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords that companies like to use now and then but few people have a clear understanding of how to implement inclusive policies in the workplace to champion diversity,” she said. 

Here are three ways for organizations to improve, according to Caldwell and Kasirye.

Have employee check-in systems 

Have frank conversations asking for insights into what the company is doing well, where things could be improved, and what is important to them. This will not only help the organization improve but will ensure that employees know this is a priority. 

Caldwell said leaders must be willing to unlearn and face their unconscious biases: “Because we don’t know how to have those conversations, we make more mistakes — it results in shutting down conversations.”

Have D&I facilitators

Put a team in charge of upholding inclusive policies, which has the power to suspend employees who use prejudice against one another. What matters is that employees are being held accountable. 

Create a safe space for employees to speak openly

This will make underrepresented people feel like they’re not alone. This support is important because it makes them more comfortable reporting future discriminatory incidents. 

Kasirye said: “If underrepresented people were encouraged to share their experiences and thoughts openly, then it would foster a more conducive environment for people to speak with each other more freely.”

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