How To Leverage Recognition to Promote Diversity and Inclusion

Recognition is probably one of the best strategies you can use to promote diversity and inclusion.

I will explain why and how to leverage recognition to support diversity and inclusion.

Recognition should be a way of life in your organization and not just a programmatic offering. If this is the case where you work, then appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do will be the great equalizer.

Look at some inherent problems we create for ourselves with recognition that is not diversity minded or inclusive.

Creating Problematic Dichotomies

You may have this in your own organization where you divide people into two broad groupings of employees.

For example, I have seen it where employees have been categorized into groups like: 

  • Faculty and Staff
  • Physicians and Staff
  • White-Collar employees and Blue-Collar employees
  • Office staff versus Plant workers
  • Management vs Employees
  • Male employees and Female employees
  • Online employees and Offline employees
  • Regular workers vs above and beyond workers
  • Innovative workers vs standard workers

In reality, these categorical divisions create a polarity viewpoint that leads to a them versus us attitude. This puts one group at one end of a spectrum and the other group at the other end. It creates a viewpoint that one group is better than the other. 

While there is a reality that certain groups of employees need, or respond differently to, different types of recognition than another, you need to make sure you personalize all recognition to be meaningful and effective for either group, or to each individual employee.

Suggestions to minimize the dichotomies and enhance diverse and inclusive recognition: 

  • Use more inclusive naming of your employees such as healthcare team to include physicians and staff.
  • Provide opportunities for projects and work teams to comprise employees from across the different work functions.
  • Review all of your recognition practices and programs and audit whether there is equality with the intention for how you recognize different groups.

Bridging the Recognition Gap 

From a diversity perspective, always acknowledge the differences that occur for various employee groups. You must also be inclusive in following the same principles of recognition across each group.

For example, with the physicians and staff it is important to respect that physicians would not respond favorably to point-based recognition and reward programs compared to healthcare and support staff at a hospital.

However, physicians, like most high performing professionals, like recognition but of a different kind. They like to be recognized for the schooling and sacrifice they make with their time and level of care they provide. Recognition that appeals to them follows the principle of prestige where they are recognized amongst their peers for their professional expertise, research and academic papers, and puts them on a pedestal.

When it comes to healthcare staff and physiotherapists there is already a greater camaraderie amongst their peers, because of their close working relationship, and frequency of connection that doctors don’t experience very often. Healthcare staff respond positively to receiving E-cards, comments on social recognition newsfeeds, and receiving points-based rewards. 

Build on these positive connections and celebrate achievements, social events, and helping one another or going above and beyond, even if with a small event.

Both groups, like physicians and staff, want to be acknowledged and recognized for what they do. Both groups like opportunities to celebrate with their peers. This is the commonality that allows recognition to promote diversity and inclusion.

Suggestions for bridging the recognition gap: 

  • Acknowledging that work roles and titles are diverse and may be grouped into dichotomous labels, so have each group responsible to recognize someone from outside of their profession annually.
  • Promote and make all celebration events visible for all groups of employees and allow representatives from different groups to attend.
  • Use celebrations as a wonderful uniting force for using recognition to promote diversity and inclusion. 

Recognizing People First

Using recognition to promote diversity and inclusion comes about by having the inherent goal to respect and appreciate people for who they are, no matter what job title they have, and recognizing them for what they do.

It’s all about valuing people and valuing their contributions no matter what role position they hold. People want to know that you have seen what they do. That want to be noticed. Their efforts, no matter how small or how big, should be counted and valued.

One way to do this is by connecting diverse groups in teams. Find ways where they can assemble for meetings at a frequency comfortable to both groups. Whether these get-togethers or meetings are for formal work or business matters, or for social reasons. Orchestrate these gatherings such that the different employees truly mingle and get to know one another, rather than isolate themselves by their work functions or titles.

Quality improvement and innovation ideas can come from everyone. Creating quality work teams across diverse groups of people provides another opportunity for participation and recognizing the contributions of everyone. 

The outcome from these working groups creates positive results that merits being recognized. Team leads can immediately recognize the group’s efforts along the way and celebrate project completion. Managers or team leaders can also submit a well-written nomination for any annual awards categories that the organization may have.

Suggestions for recognizing people first: 

  • Make sure you recognize anyone and everyone for living your organizational values and working towards your vision and mission. This should be every employee’s purpose and cause. 
  • Integrate gratitude into your recognition practices and programs so that all employees can stop and express what they are grateful for.
  • Brainstorm what cultural recognition practices you want your organization known for, whether it’s a branded clothing item or a special cheer at events.

Allow diversity and inclusion to be drivers of your recognition initiatives, and then you can guarantee recognition will promote diversity and inclusion in your organization.

Recognition Reflection: Is recognition in your organization promoting diversity and inclusion the way it should?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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