Staff Networks: A key piece in the diversity and inclusion jigsaw
6 Mar 2017
A recent group discussion entitled 'Diversity means Inclusion' resulted in some interesting and insightful comments from the participants. One person wrote: "Diversity is just a basket of ingredients. Inclusion is what you get when you know how to cook up something special. Inclusive diversity is the new recipe for success.And not to forget that equality of opportunity often means treating individuals differently in order to enable fair outcomes."
It was encouraging to see that come people understand the difference between diversity and inclusion. Often these two rather distinct elements are thrown together like salt and pepper. Like the condiments, diversity and inclusion are very different. Some employers have incorrectly assumed that because they have diversity, they have inclusion - not always the case. Diversity focuses on organisation demographics and can create the 'inclusion illusion". Whereas a focus on inclusion concentrates efforts on the removal of obstacles to full participation and contribution of all employees.
One of the participants stated: "Diversity of representation is only half of the story in achieving successful and integrated workforces or demographics. However despite being separate concepts, businesses need to embrace both to prosper. For that to happen, both concepts need bonding agents to cement them. BREXIT and the rise of Trump show for me that discussions on diversity alone do not work. People need to feel included. Communication, consultation and dialogue (my bonding agents) help to ensure a successful partnership between the two"
Effective staff networks can act as bonding agents in an organisation. Using their human capital such as education and experiences, and social capital such as resources and connections, staff networks help to bolster communication, dialogue and engagement. They step up and step out to say difference is good and can be used constructively. They are an important piece in the gap between the output of diversity and the outcome of inclusion. However, they are cannot be effective in isolation; they must be placed correctly in the organisation's jigsaw to help paint an accurate picture of diversity and inclusion.