Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a commitment. It’s a way of being and a way of leading. It’s a continual commitment to make it safer, have better conversations, deeper conversations and continually raise awareness of the different experiences all of us are having.
Today we interviewed Annemarie Shrouder, an expert on DEI shares with us how to make your organization more caring, more empathetic and more inclusive as you Team Anywhere.
Diversity & Inclusion Meaning
For business, Diversity and Inclusion is an organizational commitment to ensure that all employees feel included, valued and an essential part of the team regardless of background, religion, race or sexual preference. Most leaders think of diversity and inclusion as just another program, but it is more than a program – it is a commitment. It’s the type of commitment that empowers all employees to be their most authentic selves so that they can perform at their highest level.
Diversity and Inclusion work requires two elements: a growth mindset and working from the heart – something that is extremely difficult in many corporate environments. Inside Diversity and Inclusion work we understand other people better, get to know each other more, and use that awareness to create a greater sense of belonging, connection and community. This is why Diversity and Inclusion is heart work. Heart work is building the skills of connection, compassion, and empathy.
Why Diversity & Inclusion is Important
When it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, one of the most important elements of achieving strong results is ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders. Many people, especially leaders, are often not bought-in on the real value of Diversity and Inclusion work.
A common response Annemarie gets is, “We ARE inclusive; everyone is welcome here; why do we have to talk about it?” Annemarie explains that although leaders might have this perception, they need to remember that two people can be in the same situation and have a completely different experience.
Depending on who you are in the world, how you show up, and your level of power and privilege, it’s very easy to assume that you have an inclusive environment because it’s a space that’s safe for you. When it’s a safe space for you, it’s easy to make the assumption that everybody else feels the same way.
Consider reflecting on inclusion on a personal level. There has probably been a point in your life (and if you haven’t, you’re pretty lucky) where you didnt feel included. What was your reaction? Then, remember a time in your life when you felt included. How does NOT feeling included hinder a cohesive and collaborative work environment? After reflecting on this, it’s likely that increasing inclusion is something you want to foster in your organization. We want our employees to feel valued and seen when they walk into work every day.
If you still think that you have a strong environment of Diversity and Inclusion in your company, here are some crucial questions to consider:
- How do you know that everybody’s having a good time in your organization?
- How do you know that everybody feels a sense of belonging? Have you asked?
- Did you ask if everyone feels a sense of belonging anonymously or in person?
- Did you ask in a way that people could authentically respond?
It’s critical to consider your data points to ensure you are coming up with the right conclusion when it comes to achieving a safe space at work. Leadership and management can experience the organization in one way, and the rest of the employees can be having a completely different experience. This is why it’s important not to base your conclusion off of solely your own experience and perception. Feelings of trust, support, safety, inclusion, and a sense of belonging can all fluctuate depending on our position, identities, and reasons for coming to work.
Leaders who continually commit to Diversity and Inclusion work create spaces where people can show up as themselves, and where the entire organization can experience the benefits of different perspectives and knowledge. The only way you experience those benefits is if you have an environment where everybody feels safe, valued, and acknowledged. When people feel this way, they are able to have better conversations that create change internally or externally to benefit their customers.
The D & I Conversation Remote Vs. In Person
Remote Diversity and Inclusion meetings create a layer of removal that–when used well–can have positive results. Since COVID, the mission and purpose of Diversity and Inclusion remains the same, but the execution of it is now different.
Remote conversations provide a layer of safety for some people, especially when it comes to hard conversations. When in our own environment, we can mute ourselves or turn off our video if we’re feeling strong emotions and don’t feel comfortable showing them. The remote atmosphere allows people to lean into difficult conversations – and take breaks when needed.
Additionally, remote video meetings have allowed us to really see inside people’s lives. This new information creates a level of space that allows vulnerability.
Diversity & Inclusion Workplace Activities
Creating inclusion can be done in many ways; here are a few ways Annemarie has seen:
Online Socials- Some companies do cooking classes together online. In these classes, somebody cooks and shares a recipe, and everyone else follows them. In these cooking classes or online socials, everyone is doing something fun and non-work related together.
All Hands Meetings – Remote all hands meetings create a different sense of community compared to in person meetings. In remote meetings everybody can hop online regardless of where they are and there is an added layer of inclusion when the entire staff is together online. Everyone hears the same announcements at the same time. They are able to unmute and ask questions.
We have to have the right conversations and get leaders to make Diversity, Equity and Inclusion more of the norm. We also need to create the space, structures, and groups that want to meet to help create the change that is needed. Setting up groups where different people in the room talk about differences and inclusion have been useful in changing the organization.
About Annemarie Shrouder
Annemarie Shrouder – international best-selling author of Being Brown in a Black and White World: Conversations for Leaders on Race, Racism and Belonging – has spent more than 20 years in the field of Diversity and Inclusion as a facilitator, consultant, and international speaker.
A Diversity & Inclusion expert with a Masters in Bias Awareness, Annemarie assists in the creation of healthy workplace communities through her Signature Methodology and Inclusive Leadership Program. Organizations turn to Annemarie when they are looking to build environments where people can learn and are supported, and where they are seen, heard and valued. She also delivers presentations and keynotes, and can be booked for speaking engagements that inspire people to see more, and raise awareness about the importance of inclusion.
Annemarie works with diversity broadly and specializes in racial equity; she is passionate about healing the racial divide.
For information about the Annemarie and the book, please visit: http://annemarieshrouder.com
To learn more about D&I Work on Hybrid Teams, download this episode now.
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