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The Competitive Advantage of an Inclusive and Accessible Workplace

Sentinel Group recently hosted a webinar with SHRM’s Delight Deloney to discuss discrimination and bias in the workplace, as well as strategies to cultivate a more supportive environment. Delight unpacked the importance of inclusion, diversity, equity and access (IDEA) and how to incorporate more welcoming practices in your organization.

When IDEA is prioritized in an organization, the company earns a competitive edge in many aspects of business. Individual teams are strengthened, which in turn creates a stronger employer brand. People feel free to express their different views, leading to increased innovation and collaboration. Teams are more effective and make better business decisions. Companies are generally more responsive to customers’ needs, and overall financial performance improves. Prioritizing IDEA is a must in order to remain one step ahead of the competition.

We compiled and unpacked Delight’s key points to ensure you have the resources necessary to better the diversity and inclusivity of your workplace.

In order to recognize how discrimination and bias can prevail in a workplace, it’s important to have an understanding of microaggressions and how they can occur. Microaggressions are acts that serve to stereotype the recipient. While they may not always be intentional and are often subtle, the impact they have on an individual or workplace culture as a whole can cause a lot of harm.

Bias and discrimination can spread through phrases that “other” the recipient by highlighting their differences and playing into stereotypes. Some examples given by Delight include phrases such as “You’re so articulate!” and “When I see you, I don’t see color.” Speaking like this to someone tells them they shouldn’t be themselves and are not considered credible, which can have negative consequences for their well-being. If an employee feels their well-being is compromised when they bring their authentic selves to work, there can be lasting damages to the organization.

If you find yourself being the recipient of such messages, Delight recommends you practice the BAR approach: breathe, acknowledge, respond. By taking a moment before responding to the harmful comment, you can take some time to better process your feelings and thoughts. If microaggressions continue to be a problem in the workplace, HR must ensure the workplace is conducive to having difficult conversations in order to elicit change.

The prevalence of microaggressions and discrimination in the workplace can directly lead to employees covering their authentic selves in order to feel included and accepted in the workplace. Covering can occur when a workplace appears to promote and welcome diversity, but in reality, expects people to conform to its pre-existing culture upon arrival.        

Delight discusses four dimensions to covering: appearance, affiliation, advocacy and association.

  • Appearancealtering how you present yourself in order to blend into what is mainstream
  • Affiliation: avoiding behaviors that are typically associated with your identity
  • Advocacy: choosing not to stand up for a group you are a part of in order to deemphasize the connection
  • Associationavoiding contact with other members of one’s group

If employees feel pressured to cover up their authentic selves in the workplace, they may start to feel dissatisfied with the organization. By suppressing the individuality of its employees, the organization misses out on the very differences that could help it thrive.

In order to mitigate these problems, one must consider the workplace culture as a whole and whether or not it is promoting IDEA every day.
Why IDEA is Important

With today’s tight labor market, it’s important that your company maintains a competitive advantage, and IDEA is crucial in achieving that. When an inclusive culture is prioritized, employees feel safe to bring their whole selves to work and put their best foot forward. Companies are leaving money and resources on the table by failing to foster a diverse and inclusive environment.

Employers that prioritize diversity have four qualities in common. They establish resource groups to provide different populations a voice and encourage meaningful conversation. They are focused on mentorship for all in order to create an environment that is conducive and open to learning. They demand diversity of their partners in order to mirror the variety of people they are serving. And lastly, they think of DEI differently by making it an essential part of their culture and how they do business.

Investing in IDEA means investing in your employees and your organization’s success. By working together toward a common objective in a supportive environment, your workplace can realize the competitive advantage.
To learn more about employing IDEA and fostering a positive workplace environment, visit SHRM’s website or watch the recording of Delight’s webinar with Sentinel Group. 

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