With the frequency that we hear the terms "diversity" and "inclusion" today, it's fair to say these concepts have made their way into mainstream conversation. No longer confined to the Human Resources department, workplace diversity and inclusion are becoming key topics when discussing an overarching business strategy.
First, let's take a minute to lay out the difference between the two terms.
Ultimately, diversity is a metric; it points to the numbers making up the employee representation at a given organization. This means companies can mandate goals for diversity initiatives. For example, a CEO could require a hiring manager to bring in three new women to increase the percentage of female employees. This method of promoting diversity has become more popular in recent years following the results of research such as McKinsey & Company's, which showed the financial benefits of diverse perspectives in the office.
On the other hand, inclusion refers to the actual impact the workplace environment has on the employees. While a company could be reaching certain diversity numbers, they could still fall short of creating an inclusive work atmosphere where a diverse group of people feel comfortable and safe. Without safety or a sense of belonging, employees are less creative and less productive.
So how does recognition promote inclusive workspaces for diverse employee perspectives?
Keep in mind how employee recognition comes in a variety of forms - from annual performance reviews to gift cards to "employee of the month" awards. However, not all recognition is created equal. Financial rewards can reduce long-term motivation and complicate the relationships between coworkers. And other forms of recognition like annual performance reviews lack key elements for lasting behavioral change such as timeliness, frequency, and visibility.
Recognition is the most impactful when it is:
- timely and frequent
- open for anyone to give or receive
Now, let's go over the reasons why recognition (when done right) is a key player in the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the office.
1. Recognition creates a sense of belonging.
It can be hard to feel like you belong in an office setting, and this is especially true for minority identity groups. At the same time, many argue a sense of belonging is a basic human need for motivation, meaning everyone needs it to be successful. Without a sense of belonging, employee engagement and retention can suffer. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to create environments where diverse perspectives feel included.
In order to create belonging with recognition, it's important that recognition is being given and received by a diverse range of people. Rather than only hearing what top leadership positions have to say, the best program will allow for everyone to participate in the "Give-Get Cycle" of recognition. It's easy to get in the habit of recognizing the same people over and over again, but if everyone is able to contribute, there's a greater chance everyone will be recognized and grow their sense of belonging. In this way, recognition applications like Preciate honor the value of diverse contributions.
When done correctly, recognition helps people feel appreciated, valuable, and motivated to work towards a shared purpose. With a diverse group of people all being recognized and feeling like they belong, the workplace environment becomes an inclusive space where everyone is valued and engaged.
2. Recognition encourages a culture of shared values.
By implementing an employee recognition system, companies are able to encourage and support a particular office culture. Specifically, visible public recognition allows for reinforcement of desirable behaviors making up an office culture. It is far more powerful to reinforce social norms such as, inclusivity and compassion, through social rewards like recognition than it is to do so with external, financial rewards like gift cards.
No matter what positive values are a core part of the company culture, the best recognition systems are effective at promoting continued progress towards shared values and goals. Because more and more companies are turning towards diversity and inclusion as shared values, it is crucial for them to utilize recognition to promote behaviors that best support diversity and inclusivity initiatives.
3. Recognition can be measured and used to encourage further progress.
Although diversity is relatively easy to measure with demographic data collection, it's a lot harder to come up with ways of measuring inclusion. In addition, the way diversity is measured doesn't tell the whole contextualized story.
With a modern recognition system, the organization can have access to a plethora of data related to engagement and appreciation. Digital tracking of recognition gives everyone real time data that shows who is recognized and engaged and who is being left out.
Now, it is possible to measure inclusion and other positive values in a variety of ways including seeing how many recognitions related to the company's values are being awarded. With Preciate, this can be done using core value stickers and corresponding reports. The data can then be used to show which areas need more work and which are thriving, allowing the organization to make the most insightful changes to its culture.
What does this mean for the future of workplace diversity?
With diversity and inclusion only growing in popularity, it's more important than ever to think about how recognition systems can be utilized to optimize the benefits that come from a diverse and inclusive workplace. More and more companies are focusing on diversity and inclusion when it comes to ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other social factors in order to maximize success.
Some companies have already taken it to the next level, creating a top leadership position called the Chief Equality Officer. Although this maneuver can be commended for its innovation and forward-thinking nature, it isn't necessary for every company looking to promote an inclusive workforce. All it takes is starting the chain of recognition, and a culture of inclusivity and diversity will follow.
"Imagine this: imagine a place where people of all colors and all races are on, and climbing every rung of the corporate ladder; where those people feel safe -- indeed, expected -- to bring their unassimilated, authentic selves to work every day, because the difference that they bring is both recognized and respected." - Janet Stovall, TEDTalk