Just when you thought you understood diversity, you realized your workplace wasn't actually all that inclusive.
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Hilton is celebrating 100 years in business, a pretty remarkable feat. Yet the corporate centenarian hasn't stuck with antiquated management practices. In fact, Hilton is leading the way by becoming an award-winning employer known for a superior inclusive working environment.
Companies don't need a century of experience under their belt to excel at inclusivity. However, their leaders do need to understand how to foster a workplace community in which diversity and inclusivity aren't merely buzzwords but are part of a deeply embedded working philosophy.
Moving beyond appearance.
You've probably heard the business reasons for seeking diversity. McKinsey has reported businesses with diverse employee representation are 35 percent more likely to outcompete their industry rivals. Another study from academic researchers concluded greater team diversity can be linked to improved corporate innovation.
Unfortunately, nearly half of companies have missed this memo or not taken action. Per one Gallup study, just 55 percent of businesses promote and celebrate inclusion. This means 45 percent of business leaders should reconsider the way they hire and nurture talent because they're risking long-term obsolescence.
In the recent past, organizations could rely on the physical appearance of team members to improve their diversity scores. But inclusivity is about more than numbers. As Sarah Clark, CEO of leading integrated PR firm Mitchell, asserts in an article for CEO World, "true diversity is a cultural state." She says truly diverse entities never shy away from open thinking, instead "embracing new ideas and creating a culture that fosters innovation by valuing these differences." Inclusive companies set the stage for greatness to happen organically.
Rethinking diversity for the modern workforce.
Think your company's diversity efforts could use a bit of improvement? Try a few of these measures to encourage a culture of inclusivity instead of just checking boxes on a survey.
1. Reconsider your definition of "cultural fit."
When you interview prospective employees, do you expect people to fit automatically into your group? If so, you may be limiting diversity or excluding those who bring differing opinions and voices. The expectation of an instant or obvious cultural fit shouldn't be the primary indicator of applicant qualification because it perpetuates uniformity. Instead, concentrate on what candidates bring to the table and how they can rev up your company's innovation. Hire people who show the desire to work hard and learn about others. Foster an environment where everyone--including those in the C-suite--embraces uniqueness, seeing it as a driver of invention.
2. Play up your team's one-of-a-kind strengths.
Like a fingerprint, your team is one of a kind. Ideally, it's constructed of people from a wide variety of backgrounds who come together to solve problems, meet goals, and achieve great things. Just as you value your own singularity, value the singularity of your team members. Watch out for bias and unintentional discrimination, which can take the form of leaving someone off a project they would really enjoy. If your workplace lacks a method of uncovering and promoting individual worker strengths, consider implementing strengths coaching, which supports individual awareness, belonging, and team collaboration.
3. Encourage active participation by all team members.
Often, employees who feel marginalized will take the back seat in meetings and on projects. This behavior makes sense, but it pushes them further away from their peer group. Managers should work to identify hesitant contributors and find ways to enable them to be a part of the team's solutions. Introverts might be encouraged to submit their suggestions in writing, for example, rather than being put on the spot during a meeting. Look for any and all opportunities for marginalized workers to share their abilities to support the corporate mission. You chose them for their talent and abilities. Now give them a supportive path to exceed your expectations.
4. Lead by example on diversity and inclusivity initiatives.
Adding a sentence or two about diversity and inclusion in your company mission or strategic plan isn't the end. It's the beginning. Your job is to lead with these values, rather than hiding behind corporate statements or assuming others will act inclusively by nature. Start by conducting an honest review of your own leadership habits. As you find areas of improvement, make it your mission to change. Be transparent with a few team members, asking for their help and encouragement. When you lead by example, you might be surprised at how quickly the desire to be more inclusive spreads.
The next time you stay at a Hilton hotel or attend a conference in one of the brand's hospitality locations, take note of how their employees behave and interact. See something you wish you could replicate at your own organization? Don't be afraid to implement some new initiatives. Inclusivity isn't as unattainable as it sometimes appears but it does take effort. The rewards to your business are well worth it.