By Adam Etzion, HR Analyst @ Gloat
March 3, 2021
By now, it’s clear that diversity, equity and inclusion are an important part of every business function – but to do DEI right, having a diverse and inclusive workforce isn’t enough, nor is it enough to tackle and routinely address biases towards under-represented groups.
True equity and inclusion demand a change in something much more fundamental, that touches on the very way we think about what a workplace is – and implementing it can revolutionize and improve every aspect of your business.
When we talk about DEI, the main benefits that are usually brought up are the critical added perspectives members of under-represented groups can bring to the table, in addition to their professional expertise.
This kind of contribution can catch and address potential problems with a product or a business approach early on, thereby saving time, effort and money in a ripple effect that can ultimately influence company bottom lines in otherwise unforeseen and unexpected ways.
But when you let professional expertise be the only criteria which dictates how teams are formed in the first place, you’re missing out on two important DEI factors.
The first is that even within companies with robust DEI programs, bias still exists, and can still be reflected in diversity within a given profession. So while you may have a DEI program that’s attempting to address bias by promoting diversity, a team of engineers on the ground may still be quite homogenic from a DEI perspective.
That means that until the DEI program attains its planned results, your teams and your products will still suffer from a lack in that critical added perspective.
The second is that DEI works better as a holistic approach.
This means that it’s not enough to just have a diverse team of similarly trained professionals; what you really want is a team and process that are informed by various perspectives, both personal and professional.
A truly DEI-minded enterprise will therefore include support professionals in its product design process, QA specialists in their marketing efforts, and so on and so forth.
By doing this, companies can not only ensure a more diverse and inclusive workforce that’s fully involved in and informing all of their activities – they can also ensure professional diversity, which lends itself to a deeper understanding of all processes within the company, as well as creates greater potential for original solutions borne out of shattering silos and heightened interdisciplinary thinking.
But how can companies systematically create these professionally diverse teams? After all, randomly lifting a professional from their established work environment and dropping them in a team doing something else entirely is likely not going to be very effective or helpful for anyone involved.
The answer lies in aligned interests.
At the heart of DEI lies the understanding that employees and professionals are, first and foremost, people. And just as people want equal opportunities to be seen and to influence their environment, it’s important to remember that people are also dynamic, with developing and changing aspirations in their personal and professional lives alike.
That dynamism is a major driving force behind career development and professional interests – and when done right, it can be harnessed to drive DEI and professional diversity efforts as well.
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So when you’re looking to diversify the professional and personal backgrounds of previously homogenous teams, overlooking personal aspirations as an engine in that diversification process does more than just deprive your company of new perspectives and opportunities – it’s wasteful from an organizational standpoint as well.
So when you’re considering DEI efforts within your organization, don’t just think about diversifying personal backgrounds; think about how you can diversify professional backgrounds as well, and how creating personal opportunities for employees can drive that process.