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We all know that diversity of thought in teams is important. The problem is, most of the discussion around diversity and inclusion happens at a high level. People talk about changing an organization’s culture as if it is an easy task. In fact, it is as simple as fixing the office printer, a labyrinth of increasingly frustrating challenges.

That is the focus of this article, to highlight simple changes that will negotiate a more inclusive company culture. Throughout this article, discrimination is referred to as the bad habit that humanity has developed over centuries that we are trying to correct in a few short years. Fixing every bad habit begins with one simple step: a desire to move forward. Implementing these suggestions to your everyday office function can lead to a happier, more productive, and innovative team without busting the office budget.

  1. Recognize Your Own Bias

We all have our bias. Yes, even you reader. 
Bias are actually a great thing that every human has. Your bias is a learned memory. Implicit bias is a learned behavior. The recognition that hunting a deer versus a bear was a safer choice is an example of a learned bias transmitted through generations. This concept of selection bias was an adaptive strategy for generational survival. We learned how to hunt and gather the correct foods to feed ourselves. This is the root of where bias came from. (Abrams, Abigail, “Yes, Impostor Syndrome Is Real. Here’s How to Deal With It”, Time Magazine,  June 2018)

Fast-forwards a few hundred centuries and these biases are still present in our society with good and bad implications. Biases are ingrained in us to help us make every decision, without even being conscious of it. The only way to control your bias is to be aware and recognize it. The more educated you and your team become about bias the more cognisant you can be of correcting the habit.

  1. Break Down Traditional Organizational Structure

    In today’s organizational structure is segmented to produce solutions and products in the most efficient way possible. But how often does the finance team and the human resource team talk, let alone collaborate? How often do top directors and front-line workers chat about strategic decisions? Often we miss what an outside opinion can do because they are not deemed relevant to the task.  You never know what knowledge and experience someone has until you ask them. Start to take initiative to break down the traditional structure and learn from different people in your organization. They may just teach you a thing or two.

3. Lead By Example

How many times have we listened to a CEO preach about diversity and inclusion, but the board of directors looks like a game of spot the difference?

First, a point of correction, looking at a board of directors will not let us know what diversity of thought they are bringing to the table. We can not know what the experiences, backgrounds and skill set of an individual is based on what they look like.

Addressing the need for equity, diversity and inclusion can start with a single person, making a single difference. Diversity of thought is about the people you surround yourself with. Thus, the most obvious way to diversify is to bring in new members with different perspectives and experience.  Presenting more opportunities to people of culturally diverse backgrounds such as education and promotions to provide the opportunity and ability to champion more diversity across the organization. Diversifying educational workshops offerings and guest speakers are phenomenal methods to role model diversity within your organization efficiently. Hiring speakers from diverse backgrounds will also broadcast their messages and stories of underrepresented groups in the corporate environment. 

Creating a more inclusive work environment can begin with something as simple as making an effort to use progressive language to role model the standard you hold your team to. Small gestures such as recognizing other people’s cultural celebrations and practices can make a team member feel more welcomed into a workspace. If you are unsure of how best to make your team member feel comfortable and welcome, simply asking and starting a dialog will lead you to the correct answers opposed to assuming incorrectly.

  1. Offer Flexible Workspaces

Whether you are getting the kids to soccer practice, or have a weekend getaway booked, everyone’s schedules are hectic. The diversity in our teams also means that we all have different schedules and priorities. Offering flexibility to your employees can create a happier and more inclusive workplace. Remote work opens the opportunity to succeed and create a healthier work life balance by allowing employees to work when and where they are comfortable.

Despite major advancements in workplace cultures, parents still often struggle to raise a family and maintain a career. Women are especially susceptible to feeling the social pressure both financially and socially to quit her career to raise their family. Removing this pressure by allowing parents to choose when they work creates a more inclusive environment because parents who would have previously quit their jobs can succeed at both raising a family and their professional career. Encouraging employees to utilize a flexible schedule to allow for family duties will result in happier and more productive employees as they can work when they feel they are most productive. No one needs to explain how much more a happy employee is worth opposed to a new one.  

  1. Communication, Communication, Communication

If you have heard this line once, you have heard 1000 times. It is the root of all success and the downfall of all failures. Communication. When managing for diversity, good and frequent communication is the key to blending a diverse team together. Convey the diversity of your team not just to the world but to your own team. Working to communicate the diversity of your team unify their differences to create a cohesive team. Broadcasting success stories of other employees in leadership, educational and mentoring opportunities available to people of culturally diverse backgrounds can elevate and inspire your team to achieve their personal and career goals. 

Thank you for reading and we at Veza Global hope you found this educational and entertaining. Please let us know what you think of this and other blog posts at hello@vezaglobal.com.

Veza Global is an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) organization advocating for equity and equality for underrepresented groups with a focused lens on the leadership journey of people of culturally diverse backgrounds.

Diversity of Thought and Inclusive Culture are the pillars of the approach that Veza takes to build capacity for organization to execute on their EDI strategy. Veza offers EDI Assessment and Audits, EDI strategy development and Inclusive Leadership Training and Coaching.

Through Veza’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Assessment tool, companies can identify under an hour where they are on the EDI Maturity Model and receive a list of detailed recommendations and actionable next steps for their EDI strategy to move forward to a more inclusive organization.