Diversity, civility and inclusion in the workplace By realizing there are multiple dimensions of diversity, businesses can begin to create an environment where they make inclusiveness a priority. Here are a few ways teams can work together to create a more inclusive environment in the workplace.

“Be nice to each other.” It’s a message that seems, on the surface, like it would resolve much of the strife seen in today’s workplace. However, “be nice” can mean dramatically different things to different people, depending on their background. In some workplaces, no matter how nice employees try to be, certain practices may unintentionally exclude members of the team. When you consider that all racial and ethnic minority populations are now growing faster than white populations in the U.S., it highlights the need for more inclusive solutions.

Recently, HealthPartners hosted a webinar that introduced the topic of diversity, civility and inclusion in the workplace. The presentation demonstrated little ways teams can work together to create a more inclusive environment in the workplace.

Multiple characteristics

Diversity can be far more complicated than it seems. Most people can be defined by more than one characteristic. Cultural background is only one of many “identities” people have. One person may be defined by his or her country of origin, religion, race, education, accent, age, socioeconomic status and more. When asked to define themselves by only one characteristic, people have a difficult time, since one characteristic doesn’t define anyone.

Diversity versus inclusion

Although there are many challenges to diversity and inclusion, it’s important to find ways to overcome those obstacles. And while inclusivity is key to building strong teams that work well together and move an organization forward, a diverse workforce does not automatically result in an inclusive workplace culture.

Diversity can be compared to a water-filled bucket with holes in it. Without strategies for inclusion, as fast as you can fill spaces with diverse people (the water), that’s also how quickly those people will leave, because they haven’t been equipped with the resources they need to thrive. As Andre Tapias notes in his Ted Talk on “Upside Down Diversity,” diversity is the mix, but inclusion is the strategies that make the mix work.

Civility and inclusion

One such strategy is the practice of civility. Civility can be one of the best tools businesses can use to take their workforces from diversity alone to true inclusion. So what is civility and how can it help organizations?

Civility is:

  • Compassion, being empathetic to someone else’s point of view even if you disagree
  • Respect, listening to others without judgment or dismissiveness
  • Courage, saying what needs to be said and not shying away from difficult conversations
  • Cultural humility, acknowledging that we can’t know everything that there is to know about someone else or their culture. Cultural humility helps us be curious, lifelong learners.

When employees can engage with others and show respect for their opinions and views, they can arrive at a place where everyone feels included. For true inclusion, employees must be willing to learn and honor other people’s perspectives, placing them alongside their own views.

Encouraging civility

For employers, civility becomes an investment in business growth. According to Deloitte, civil workplaces see an increase in collaboration, retention, innovation and customer satisfaction. Additionally, research from the Center for Talent innovation suggests that certain behaviors, in particular have been shown to drive civility and inclusion, including making sure team members feel comfortable speaking up and proposing novel ideas. Leaders should also empower employees to make decisions and implement feedback. When the entire team succeeds, leaders should share credit for those successes to make everyone feel appreciated.

By realizing there are multiple dimensions of diversity, businesses can begin to create an environment where they make inclusiveness a priority. The first step is to get these conversations flowing, encouraging team members to take a deeper look. Over time, they’ll begin to learn more about their fellow team members and those conversations will help strengthen teams and create a work environment where regardless of background, every person feels welcomed, included, and valued.

Learn more about diversity and inclusion in the workplace by watching the HealthPartners webinar.

  • Shamayne Braman is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at HealthPartners. She is responsible for the organizational development and change management initiatives necessary to execute and sustain the organization’s Diversity and Inclusion strategic priorities. Her work focuses on building relationships and breaking down barriers to create a culture where every colleague, patient, and member feels welcomed, included, and valued. Her past experience includes roles in Global Diversity and Inclusion at Thomson Reuters and as a Teach for America corps member. She has served on the board of Teach for America Collective: Twin Cities and she is currently the C3 Board Chair of OutFront Minnesota. A New Jersey native, Ms. Braman holds a bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University and master's degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.


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