The goal today is to celebrate diversity rather than strive for conformity. When a company embraces and honors the unique attributes of their employees, they find it boosts employee confidence, increases morale and overall job satisfaction. However, before a company can promote diversity there are steps that need to be taken to uncover unconscious bias among employees and create an environment that allows for everyone to feel accepted.
Unconscious bias is within everyone because our brain takes in 11 million pieces of information in a second through our senses and we are only consciously aware of about 40 pieces of information. Therefore, we are susceptible to unconscious bias no matter how intentional we try to be. Our brain makes associations or filters based on what people tell us, our own experiences, media, etc. The good news is we can educate ourselves and train the way our brain works to change the filters as we become aware of our biases.
Bias operates on quick judgments and assumptions — examining them more deeply is a good way to counter bias. First, we must recognize and understand your own stereotypes and biases; identify what you think you know about someone, for example:
- Not taking a young employee’s ideas seriously because they “don’t have the experience”
- Not giving a mother of small children a project lead position because she “doesn’t have the time”
Then we replace bias thoughts with a real understanding of your co-workers. In our examples above, once we understand the bias, we can change the narrative to think instead could this be an asset:
- Not taking a young employee’s ideas seriously because they “don’t have the experience” – could a new idea from a different perspective foster innovation
- Not giving a mother of small children a project lead position because she “doesn’t have the time” – could you look at it as she may have excellent time management skills
When we work to uncover our unconscious biases and accept each other’s differences, we can start to work better, together. There are several benefits to honoring and celebrating diversity within an organization, such as:
Employees are more likely to be engaged, efficient, and contribute to business success when a company encourages open exchange of ideas. Without it, the alternative will be underutilized employees who are discouraged because they do not feel heard.
Creating an inclusive environment allows us to consider multiple points of view and maximize our potential. With diverse backgrounds, knowledge, training, language, and experiences we can look at a project or problem from several lenses to cultivate a better solution than if we only heard one point of view. This leads to better solutions for your customers. When bias hinders us from hearing and considering these varying views, we are not able to be innovative.
Improved customer engagement
Customers are not excluded from also becoming more diverse. Encouraging new ideas through an inclusive environment will allow for improved customer relationships not only because you are able to innovate, but sometimes employee(s) may be more familiar with the customer’s background.
The adverse effects of not fostering an environment of inclusivity are lower employee morale, creates a hostile environment, and reduces productivity.
How can you start to promote diversity within your environment:
- Set aside time in meetings for everyone to share an idea on the problem or project that the team is working on
- Once a month or quarter hold a round table discussion to hear new ideas – unrelated to a specific project
- Send employee surveys
- Make sure all voices are heard in a meeting and if you notice someone is being cut-off, make a point to speak up so they can share their idea
- Be a good listener – active listening is the best way to do this, be fully-engaged in the conversation and work to understand your co-worker’s point of view
- Get to know your co-workers at happy hours or team building events to understand their hobbies, home life, etc. instead of just knowing what skills they have within a work setting
- Provide training on unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion
- Start to become aware of your own unconscious biases and work to retrain what your brain has learned to be more open
At Solü we encourage free exchange of everyone’s ideas to establish mutual respect among employees. We are proud of our employee-centric culture, and we value constant improvement. Which means we are always trying to be better for our employees. We know there is much work to be done, but we are doing the work to foster an environment where all our employees thrive.