Inclusion – the glue for diversity

In my last post, I’ve shared that true workplace diversity extends beyond gender parity. The goal should instead be cognitive diversity, which includes diversity of thinking, perspective, and intellectual style. Having a variety of thoughts and opinions can increase organizational effectiveness to help companies improve and grow. 

However, leaders also need to understand that diversity should not be a tick-the-box program. Simply throwing a mix of people together doesn’t guarantee high performance. You’ll need to complement that with an environment that enables people to be comfortable expressing their opinions, asking for help, and succeeding without feeling that they have to shift a significant part of their identity to fit into a specific organizational culture. And this is what inclusion is all about. 

Why diversity and inclusion should go hand in hand

As diversity advocate Vernā Myers puts it, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Inclusion is what makes diversity stick. Without inclusion, diversity will become like a revolving door that brings in various talents then spins them just as quickly as those people don’t feel connected to the workplace or their colleagues.  

Research has shown that organizations with an inclusive culture are six times more likely to be innovative and agile. It is therefore no surprise that they are eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. 

So what does a truly inclusive workplace look like? According to Deloitte, it is one where everyone is treated fairly and with respect, and people feel valued and a sense of belonging so much so that they can bring their authentic selves to work. Crucially, it provides a safe place for employees to speak up without fear of embarrassment or retaliation, and feel empowered to share their views and do one’s best work.

Putting words into action

As people are at the heart of our business, we’re taking concrete actions to make every Clouderan feel valued and motivated to do their best work. The first step that we’ve taken in Asia-Pacific (APAC) was to set up a diversity and inclusion (D&I) leadership team made up of representatives across the region from different lines of business and levels. Meeting monthly, the team will develop a list of D&I initiatives with two to three major focus areas per quarter. 

Some notable initiatives include implementing mandatory unconscious bias training (called Bias Busters) for our managers in APAC; eliminating hidden biases in our recruitment and performance appraisals; and reinforcing positive behavior through quarterly D&I awards. 

In sum, inclusion is the glue that binds and brings the best out of your diverse talent pool. However, building an inclusive culture can’t be done overnight. As leaders, you’ll need to continually communicate openly and be transparent – on both good and bad news — to build trust. Over time, this will trickle through all the layers of the organization such that employees feel safe to give honest feedback. Apart from that, having knowledge of how the company is doing and its goals will help create a shared sense of purpose and engender stronger commitment from employees to rally together.

While there is no prescribed path for D&I, you can take cues from other organizations on how they’ve successfully fostered a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Hear from our Chief Diversity Officer Sarah Shin on her vision for Cloudera’s D&I here, and look out for my next post that will touch on what it takes to become an inclusive leader. 

Mark Micallef
VP, Asia Pacific & Japan
More by this author

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Links are not permitted in comments.