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Diversity without inclusion is useless

February 13, 2019
Diversity & Inclusion

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Under Armour (UA) CEO Kevin Plank gave an exclusive interview to Footwear News on Thursday, addressing the company’s missteps and claims of a toxic work culture. The company recently let go of two long-time executives, Ryan Kuehl and Walker Jones, following a report that UA employees were expense tripping visits to strip clubs and that the work environment was not inclusive to female employees. In addition, there have been claims that employees have been declined advancement based on race or gender. Despite an allegedly toxic work culture, Plank insists that the company is largely comprised of women, with females representing a portion of the board of directors (22%) as well as the company’s leadership (about 33%). Plank did not quite address claims that UA’s work culture does not foster a sense of inclusiveness for diverse employees, but insists that UA is “a company that will fight for you. We’re a company for the little guy.”

Plank’s interview sheds more light on a common issue that companies face in the quest for diversity and inclusion. Diversity is often mistaken for inclusiveness but the two terms are not synonymous. You can have diversity but not be inclusive, and that is often what organizational leaders fail to realize. Representation is just one piece of the puzzle. If the organization is not doing anything to create a sense of belonging for all employees, it cannot call itself a diverse and inclusive company. Although UA, like many organizations, has diverse representation in their leadership, they may not do enough to create an equitable environment for all employees. Once you have diverse talent, what can be done to create a workplace that helps to foster equity and inclusivity?

  1. Create more opportunities for dialogue. It is critical for organizations to create opportunities for employees to voice any of their concerns regarding the organizational culture. For some companies, this may be an anonymous suggestion box, and for other companies this could mean scheduled “listening sessions” where organizational leaders invite employees to share what they’re feeling and experiencing. Some companies conduct town hall-style meetings to allow staff to voice their opinions and concerns. The first step towards change is conversation. Often times, leaders are completely clueless to the organizational issues that employees face, so opening up avenues for dialogue can be an effective strategy.
  2. Implement solutions to workplace issues. The importance of listening cannot be overstated, however, listening without action is counterproductive. Once a climate check has been done regarding the company culture, steps should be taken to address any issues that arise. If dialogue is happening with no action, this may leave employees feeling discouraged and demotivated.
  3. Frequent audits should be conducted. There is no inclusion without diversity. Lack of diversity may point to problems with inclusion. It’s nice to say your company is comprised of a large portion of female employees, however if these female employees are leaving the company within one year for example, this may point to a larger problem. There should be frequent audits of company pay and promotions, conducted annually or semi-annually. Turnover and tenure figures should be evaluated as well.
  4. Bias training should include goal-setting. Research indicates that implementing goal-setting into diversity training may be the key to positive and long-lasting results. This should include having employees develop goals related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Research indicates that the setting of specific and difficult goals can increase performance on a number of different tasks, so the idea of implementing goal-setting into diversity and inclusion efforts can prove to be an effective way to foster inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion are words that are often used interchangeably but it’s important for companies to understand that they are two exclusive terms. You can have diversity without inclusion, so the goal should not just be to have diverse talent within the organization. Leaders should strive to create an environment where they are able to not only attract diverse employees but are also able to retain them.

By Janice Gassam

Source: Forbes

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