Most companies today earnestly encourage diversity in their workplaces. Professionals evaluate and refine policies, practices and talent sourcing to create diverse work communities. Whether for principle-based or regulatory-based reasons, the intentions to create diversity are in practice.

Still, organizations often struggle with diversity once they have it. Why?

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, scratched the surface of this question when he said: “Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice.” He’s right: diversity is a reality. In our globally connected world, it is more accessible than ever.

Still, is inclusion a choice? I propose inclusion is a competency.

Many people say they want diversity, however, once they have it, they don’t know how to either live with it or take full benefit of it. Reported issues for members of diverse teams include:

Reported Issues by Diversity Executives (%)

The challenge here is two-fold.

Trust quotient must be high. The currency of organizations is trust. Diversity requires a deep sense of trust with people who are different from each other. Since history, brain science and psychology teach us we are not naturally wired to trust, this does not come easily. Studies show our vulnerabilities when faced with diversity, as people develop:  1) exogenous shock, 2) unconscious and conscious bias, 3) emotional numbing, and 4) sub-groups of clichés that “get one another”.

Diversity means WORK. To work with people who think differently, we need a deep set of skills to master diversity and take advantage of its potential.  We need to become exceptionally competent in: 1) social fitness, 2) ability to hold courageous conversations on topics about which we disagree without compromise to our integrity, authenticity and moral reasoning, 3) appreciative inquiry, and 4) listening without judgement or inference.

At a team level, we know group effectiveness requires a dedicated improvement in four important capabilities: integrative, impactful, influential and diplomatic abilities.

Integrative: comfortable reaching across boundaries to bring people together; convene otherwise strangers; set aside natural mistrust

Influential: convincing people to try what they might not otherwise without force, mandates or coercion; strive for higher aspirations; establish and validate norms based on earned trust

Impactful: Able to make things happen; make more than noise and produce results based on a clear, articulate vision of a potential future

Diplomatic: Able to be use a balance approach between means and ends for long-term value and best outcomes; manages both candor and appreciative inquiry

It takes dedication to season these competencies.  If we unlock the power of diversity by developing our inclusiveness, it seems we should shift our focus on just that.

It seems we need to put the emphasis on inclusion. Let’s change the phrase to “Inclusion and Diversity”.

It’s Worth the Commitment

The more we study its influence, the more we learn its potential value to ideation, problem-solving, creativity, innovation and performance. The latest publication, Differences That Make a Difference,  by Jorge Titinger and Pedro Espinoza, reports  more than 3000 of the largest publicly traded companies in the US show a causative link between inclusion practices and better innovation of  products and services, improvement in financial performance, improve returns in hedge funds, and higher corporate valuations. *

Thus, inclusion is a competency. At the same time, Trudeau is right, since we make a choice whether to commit to becoming wiser and more able at inclusion.

Include Us!

Are you looking to find a professional for your team who has these competencies in spades?

Our recruiting service team can help. If you need executive coaching to deepen such skills in key people, reach us to learn how we work on this. If your organization is committed to developing these proficiencies for employee teams, call us to learn more about our development programs to address this to improve group performance.