How To Shape Diversity and Inclusion With Recognition

There is a lot a talk lately about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

A simple search of the combined terms yielded results of over 148 million references.

And I was recently asked a question about how employee recognition comes into play with both diversity and inclusion.

I think the question being asked was more about whether effective employee recognition practices can have any impact on diversity and inclusion.

Here are my thoughts.

Quick Orientation on Diversity and Inclusion

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines diversity as “the collective mixture of differences and similarities that include, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviors.”

SHRM professionals further break down diversity into two categories, namely: (1) visible diversity traits and (2) invisible diversity traits.

Visible diversity traits are the more typical and visible areas associated with diversity such as race, gender, physical abilities, age, and body type.

Invisible diversity traits include areas less visible such as sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, education, and parental status, among other things.

SHRM also defines inclusion for us as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”

A Few Contextual Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion

In an article by McKinsey’s research team of Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton and Sara Prince on “Why Diversity Matters”, they found that gender-diverse companies are more likely to outperform their peers. On top of that, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to beat out their competition.

Let’s take a look at the corporate boardrooms.

Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of female board directors.

Then Deloitte Australia dug deeper into the need for greater inclusion accompanying the importance of diversity. They discovered when employees think their organization is committed to, and supportive of diversity and they feel included, then performance results improve.

  • Employees in this kind of environment report 83 percent uplift in business performance in terms of their ability to innovate;
  • Diversity and inclusion brought about 31 percent uplift in responsiveness to changing customer needs;
  • And team collaboration saw a 42 percent uplift.

It is essential for leaders to demonstrate and commit to positive inclusion practices along with diversity for them to really pay off big time for companies.

Where Recognition Adds Value

 Real Recognition is about appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do. And for recognition to be effective and meaningful it is always founded upon the value of respect.

Recognition is mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgement and valuing of an individual or team, for their positive behaviours, their personal effort or contributions they’ve made.

This is where recognition adds to diversity and inclusion by valuing people for their actions and contributions.

Check out these three ways recognition can help lift your diversity and inclusion initiatives.

1. Valuing People: What should first be on everyone’s mind is that we are talking about people here and not labels.

Do we appreciate people just for who they are independent of anything they do? There background, life experience, personal qualities, talents and abilities.

The key is learning to intuitively understand and ponder the value these factors bring to the workplace. Then it is taking time to express appreciation for these attributes.

Add value to recognizing a person by the addition of something unique and special that is you and yet values them.

For example, you love books so you find the perfect book to give to a person and write words of appreciation inside. Or you find out the employee’s most favorite performing artist and you work connections to get the singer to autograph a CD cover for them.

2. Valuing Contributions: Everyone makes a contribution whether small or big.

Like the company janitor who keeps the restroom clean and consistently replenishes the toilet paper. Or the CEO who writes an open, heartfelt farewell letter thanking employees and customers, past and present, on the demise of the airline he founded.

Each person wants to know that whatever their contributions are in life that they are valued and appreciated. Make time to reflect on your day and on all the people who make a difference in your life.

Now plan 20 to 30 minutes into each day to reflect on people’s contributions. Up your recognition ante by handwriting well thought out thank you notes to these people. Or leave a personal voice mail message after an employee has left work acknowledging their contributions that day.

3. Valuing Differences: The late Stephen Covey said, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

Too often, when we form teams, we draw upon people who we like, know and trust and who – from our biased approach – are just like us.

Work on getting diversity of thought onto a team by requesting interested people from different departments. You have the opportunity to make your project team better. Different thinking leads to ideas never thought of before. And that’s when innovation happens.

By involving people outside of your circle of comfort and familiarity you are indirectly recognizing the people in your company for being people who want to make a valuable contribution.

Have a project coming up? Purposely solicit the viewpoint of people from different professions, departments and backgrounds. Recognize the importance of differences.

Recognition can be a great tool to reinforce people who support an inclusive, diverse and respectful workplace.

Use recognition to reinforce behaviors that focus on valuing your people and valuing the contributions they make each and everyday.

Question: Where have you seen recognition used as a positive practice for influencing diversity and inclusion behaviors?

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