The benefits of diversity in the workplace include faster problem-solving, better decision-making, increased innovation, employee engagement, and better financial performance.1,2 Yet diversity can only deliver on its full potential when it exists in a genuinely inclusive environment. An organizational culture that does not make talented diverse employees feel valued and supported is certain to lose them.
Inclusion, then, is the mechanism for achieving sustained diversity. It relies on cultural awareness and the people and communication skills involved in cultural competency.
Cultural awareness refers to the ability to recognize and appreciate the nuances of culture and background – both one’s own and those of others – and it is at the heart of societies, communities, and organizations that aspire to be equitable and inclusive for all of their members.
We are not born with an innate ability to navigate diversity with ease, in fact our brains are wired to mistrust differences with others, that leads us all naturally to develop biases. Because of that, to become effective, trusted leaders within our organizations and communities, we first need to become students of culture. That is, we need to develop competency in effectively understanding, communicating with, and interacting with people whose backgrounds and culture may be different from our own.