What do these terms mean to you? Are they different ways of saying the same thing? And why are they important? We all know they are the “right things to do”. But do you ever catch yourself thinking, “I don’t have time to take on the world’s challenges on my own. These types of issues belong in HR. Let them deal with it.”?
Living in a moving, multicultural, multidimensional world means that these issues emerge everyday, whether we realize it or not. Let’s start with examining diversity.
Have you ever wondered why your daughter or son wants you to buy them those tickets to that particular band that you completely dislike, but they consider way more awesome than soft jazz, light R&B or Frank Sinatra, much to your disbelief?
As Forrest Gump said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. You may not think of it this way, but your kid asking you for concert tickets to a particularly disagreeable band is, in fact, the essence of diversity. It is the chocolate that tastes different in that box of life.
Diversity is inescapable. It is a force of nature, a part of the human condition. Each of us has our own individuality, so there are times in our lives where we fit, and other times in our life where we do not. It is up to us to somehow make it work, and find a way to assimilate without losing our unique identity.
But, I have discovered that there is more to the story. While we, as individuals, have the obligation to try to fit in wherever we are; we also have the right to expect that the environment around us is receptive to our efforts to fit in. That environment is our responsibility as leaders in our organizations and communities.
And that environment needs to be one of inclusion.
Diversity is the mix. It is the foundation to everything that is different – it piques our interest in the new, and it is the core of the old.
Inclusion is making that mix work. It is engaging in what we are exposed to, soaking in all we learn about the new, and embracing a different way of life in a manner that is common to all of us.
So, if diversity is our kid asking for tickets to a strange concert, inclusion is our acceptance of that inexplicable request, our listening to a couple songs by that group, our genuine attempt to understand why he likes what he does, our finding a way to leverage that to add richness to our lives, and our buying him those tickets in the name of unconditional love.
It is our enjoying that different tasting chocolate for the way it tastes, and creating an environment in which our children can flourish for who they are, rather than for whom we might want them to be.
And what about engagement, you ask?
That’s the best part of the story. That’s when our children kiss us and tell us we are the best parents in the world because of our understanding, acceptance and support. That’s when they buy into our vision for them, find a way to somehow make it their own, and work towards making that vision real
Engagement is the natural outcome of people feeling included, in spite of, because of, and regardless of their diversity.
And engagement will lead to business performance and results beyond your wildest dreams.[A1] Ultimately, that is why diversity, inclusion, and engagement are important. They lead to a sustainable impact on customer satisfaction, investor satisfaction, and employee satisfaction.
So there is my simple, perhaps simplistic, view of the world. Diversity is inherent in any given situation in today’s world. Inclusion is our response as leaders to the natural diversity in our environment. Engagement is the outcome of our inclusive actions. The reason all of them are important is because they have a huge impact on business performance.
What is diversity to you? How have you made your world an inclusive one? As a result of your efforts, do you have truly engaged employees and citizens? And have you seen the impact of that engagement in your business and community?