Tabi on racial matters: Culture of inclusion at work, are we there yet?

| January 17, 2022

It seems like the world has had a crash course on Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) since the start of 2020 with the effort to make our world a more cohesive and kinder place to be.

The corona-virus pandemic (Covid-19) came to interrupt our already chaotic and fragile world of climate change issues and societal issues.

We can’t forget the brutal killing of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd in US either. This senseless act echoed across the globe and many people risked their lives and abandoned social distancing rules in solidarity, to protest.

The world’s current events have given us a glimpse of what a different pace of life might look like, perhaps a little slower and even a rare opportunity to reset!!

Many exclusionary practices in racism, sexism, ableism, gender, and other workplace problems which have gone on for generations are now being called into question.  Many workers across the globe are asking specifically for changes to be made to cultivate a culture of Inclusion where Everyone is given the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Old assumptions and current research

Many people believe less diversity in staffing means fewer problems, less cost, and a stable business. There is still this belief that, if an applicant looks the same, sounds the same or comes from a similar background to the interviewer, then they are more likely to be offered the job, the opportunity for progression or training and therefore forgoing other possible suitable applicants for the job.

This “gut feeling” way of employing or selecting applicants for progression, research tells us, over 90% of the time fails to recruit the most suitable and the high performing candidate for the organisation.

A recent review by McGregor-Smith in the UK indicated that Black Africans and other ethnic minority groups are significantly under-utilised in workplaces.

In Australia, the story is similar. In 2019, Diversity Council Australia researched Discrimination and Harassment in the workplace and found 28% of culturally diverse people were impacted by discrimination and exclusion.

There is significant evidence that, lack of diversity encourages poor culture and (bad behaviour) for businesses. But businesses with diverse staffing models perform better and are more competitive.

So, why aren’t businesses harnessing inclusion?

The short answer is, Businesses don’t know how to cultivate inclusion as a competitive edge.

The long answer has something to do with the lack of Understanding Racism. True Inclusion helps business to think and behave differently can’t happen without first understanding why exclusion exists in our organisations and Institutions.

Understanding racism helps us to see what is wrong with our current system that perpetrates exclusion. It helps us to understand why capable and talented people are historically marginalised. And finally, it empowers us with the right tools to do something strategically about it.

Structural racism is responsible for all exclusionary practices in the workplace.

Therefore, you will be hard pressed to see Black women in a position of power and Black men are heavily scrutinised. Structural racism also creates an unlevel playing field for those the system has marginalised and creates significant barriers for them to achieve a successful career.

Unless there are deliberate business interventions to address racism, Inclusion will not succeed in any workplace.

I believe businesses by their nature, have the capabilities to cultivate equal opportunity for growth, provide tangible acknowledgement of differences, and support a clear vision to level the playing field, otherwise the culture of Inclusion is just a smoke screen.

Five steps from awareness to new possibilities

When business make deliberate decisions to become aware in the way in which racism causes workplace ills, stunts growth, and excludes everyone who is not from the dominated culture then new possibilities will emerge.

Five critical steps for effective engagement of all employees are adopted from Robert Livingston’s research. They are:

  1. Problem Awareness,
  2. Root-Cause Analysis,
  3. Empathy,
  4. Strategy and
  5. Sacrifice.

Research tells us that even if businesses have diversity policies in place, they also need to take deliberate actions to address racism specifically with problem awareness. Recognition of this fact will pave the way to address workplace discrimination and can aid to register an awareness in staff.

Once business leaders are aware of problems and can accept how they exist within their policies and practices, then the next question is whether they have the desire to do something about it.

Empathy will propel organisations and their people to act and bring about social justice through exposure and education. An organisation that makes it a priority to include racial equity in its core values and model the behaviour from the top down, will influence both institutional policies and individual attitudes.

Businesses that are vigilant to support Inclusion through recruitment and retention combined with safeguards in training, mentorship and promotion will reap the benefits. Staff could also reach out in ways that adds value to morale and contributes to business goals.

Now is the time for deliberate actions to cultivate Inclusion to reap the benefits for business recovery.