Create awareness and value diversity and inclusion through facilitation

In an online discussion taking place at the E-learning course of Future Learn ‘Understanding Diversity and Inclusion’ I was expressing my concern on how difficult it was to build and sustain relationships with people who are very rich when it comes to sharing meals, going to expensive clubs and dressing up accordingly.  Somebody confronted me online with a question, check how is it for people who earn even less than you?  Ask them, how it is for them to keep relationships with you. This question was really an ‘eye-opener’.  Although I have worked in more than 25 countries, there are still untapped areas and things to learn about diversity and inclusion.

The simplest definition of diversity is difference.  Understanding diversity and inclusion embraces acceptance, respect and empathy. It means we understand, that each individual is unique and this is okay.  The exploration of differences and diversity happens best in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. This means understanding each other. For this process, facilitation is needed to further make a mind shift and a cultural transformation in an organisation.  There are 4 phases of facilitation to value diversity and create an environment of inclusion;
Phase 1:              Increase self-awareness
Phase 2:              Increase awareness of others
Phase 3:              Manage emotions and thoughts
Phase 4:              Shift frame of reference, attune emotions and adapt behavior.  

The key in managing diversity is not an attempt to change others, but to accept others as they are and to create a safe environment, where everybody can flourish and development their talents.
For organisations who are making a shift from a homogeneous  to a more diverse culture, Bennetss has developed a model for intercultural sensitivity. In this model a shift is made from an Ethnocentric mindset to a Ethno relative orientation.  Watch the video of Bennetss model;   

In a homogeneous culture, there appears to be an ethnocentric mindset. There is a culture of denial defense and minimization. Denial is the inability to see cultural differences. There is a atmosphere of ignorant stereotyping. In a phase of defense the other culture is considered as minor or as inferior. And in the phase of minimization people of an homogeneous group stick to each other and try to isolate people from other different backgrounds.
In the Ethno relative stage there is a move and change in one’s view. In this stage there is acceptance of the other. There is no good or bad. There is adaptation and a shift of approach. The identity of the other is accepted and people adapt to the situation. From here things can start to grow and to develop.

To shift from an Ethnocentric mindset to a Ethno relative it requires openness and curiosity. Research suggests that curious people are more successful in working with diverse groups of people. These successful people are willing to ask complex questions and then seek the answers to those questions.  Simon Sinek, a management expert, confirms curiosity is a key for making diversity work >>>>> Video Simon Sinek
 Openness is an attitude you are willing to initiate and develop relationships with persons of a different race, ethnicity, age, educational background, gender orientation, national origin etc… Suspending judgement of those different from you is required.

Benefits of diversity and still open opportunities for untapped talent
McKinsey has been examining diversity in the workplace for several years. In McKinsey’s  latest report, Diversity Matters, examined proprietary data sets for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In this research, McKinsey looked at metrics such as financial results and the composition of top management and boards.1 The findings were clear:
  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and the same country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.
Organisations, with a homogeneous cultural focus, still miss opportunities. There is a famous video of the Greystone Bakery in the USA. In a very limited time they became a million generating company. Their slogan is  “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, but we bake brownies to hire people!”          
Another example is the Microsoft Autism program.  Watch video >>>>>  Microsoft Autism Program.


How to facilitate a cultural transformation from an ethnocentric mindset to an ethno relative orientation?
Facilitation is key on how to facilitate the cultural transformation from an ethnocentric mindset to an ethno relative orientation.    The gender & diversity audit is an excellent process on how to facilitate this.  A gender & diversity audit looks into the extent to which gender and diversity are addressed within an organisation (policies, its work, organisational culture, recruitment policies and organisational structures and proceedings including decision-making processes).    Usually much attention is paid to creating a pleasant environment in which diverse staff self-assess their organisation. There is a high emphasis on storytelling and sharing, self-assessment and in-depth discussions for change and improvement.

Benefits of a gender and diversity audit
A gender and diversity audit brings the following benefits;
  • Establishes a baseline on the extent to which staff (diverse staff) feel involved, respected and connected
  • Establishes a baseline on the extent to which the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are harnessed to create business value
  • Identifies good practices and challenges
  • Identifies opportunities for the organisation
  • The gender and diversity audit is composed of several steps, where commitment from the top, the management and a diversity & inclusion working group is established step by step. Hereafter research and dialogue is facilitated by the Gender and Diversity experts. Finally an action plan with monitoring moments is established for implementing Diversity & Inclusion change in the organisation. Various research and dialogue tools are applied in the process.

Interest in a Gender and Diversity audit?
If you have more questions on how to prepare and conduct a gender and diversity audit in your organisation and the costs, you can contact  Saskia Ivens, e-mail.  saskia_ivens@yahoo.com , e-mail  Christine Verheijden  christineverheijden@gmail.com   or Simon Koolwijk, e-mail. faccom@xs4all.nl   

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