Diversity and Inclusion
Government agencies serve the American public, and thus should not only be representative of the population they serve, but demonstrate the value of that diversity in their workforce. However, a recent survey put out by the Government Business Council and Monster Government Solutions identified some concerning data about how Federal employees experience diversity and inclusion efforts. The study found that 75% of government employees feel misunderstood because of some aspect of their identity, and only 28% believe their organization is effective in leveraging diversity.
Organizations that Get D&I Get Results
Research time and again has demonstrated the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace for organizations. Diversity and inclusion enhance employee morale, productivity, and innovation. Truly inclusive organizations embed diversity into the very fabric of the organizational culture. The organizational identity to which everyone belongs is one of inclusion. It’s not only in the written policies and practices, but also in the unwritten norms and social ways of being. It’s part of the organizational language. Everyone feels equally valued for what they bring to the organization. There is transparency in decision making. There is representation of diversity at all levels of the organization. Individuals at every level of leadership are committed to and responsible for building and sustaining a diverse and inclusive environment.
Senior Leaders Need to Pave the Way
Although 82% of the respondents to the survey agreed that a deeper understanding of diversity and inclusion would benefit the organization, 40% of respondents believe there’s a lack of support from leadership, and 35% believe there is a lack of dedicated resources to lead and manage D&I initiatives.
Organizational leadership must initiate noticeable organizational culture change, where they actively acknowledge the current state of the organizational culture and how it helps or hinders inclusion. They must elicit a vision for an inclusive organization from every corner of the organization, rather than dictating what that vision will be. They need to actively and visibly remove barriers to inclusion by ensuring sufficient resources are available to support D&I efforts.
Managers and Supervisors Need Skills
Although the study found that 65% of managers believe they have the resources to effectively resolve diversity related issues, 67% of non-managers lack confidence in their supervisors’ ability to resolve D&I issues.
All supervisors and managers must hold themselves and their teams accountable for creating and sustaining an inclusive working environment. One-off training that only focuses on EEO compliance is not enough to build a cadre of supervisors who are committed to diversity and inclusion and have the skills to foster an inclusive workplace. Supervisors need adequate development and coaching to ensure they have the competence to support diverse and inclusive working teams.
Individual Contributors Need to be Advocates
Individuals at all levels of the organization must see themselves as advocates for inclusion, and be willing to have open and honest conversations about identity and how it impacts individuals’ values, perceptions and behaviors at work. Individual contributors must be able and willing to elicit and provide feedback that may be tough to hear, to test their own assumptions and prejudgments, and acknowledge that they have implicit biases that may cloud their vision of others.
Fostering diversity and inclusion is not a new challenge for government organizations, and past efforts can yield valuable lessons. In order for D&I initiatives to thrive, the organization must embed diversity and inclusion values and practices into the organizational culture and structure. Every member must see themselves represented in this organizational culture, and everyone must own the path forward.