This week I am traveling to Hong Kong. Besides being one of the world’s top financial centers, Hong Kong is also a food lover’s paradise. Strolling through the noisy and chaotic side streets of the working class neighborhoods of Kowloon, I’m overwhelmed by the different and tantalizing smells coming from dozens of small food stalls leaning against centuries-old buildings. When I venture off the main road I find the most delicious and fascinating food and the perfect blending of tradition, culture and new friends.
The same ideas apply to diversity and inclusion.
The more you can leave your pre-conceived ideas and perceptions behind and open yourself up to new ways of thinking and doing things, the greater the rewards will be.
Usually, when I’m asked “Why does diversity and inclusion matter?,” I say:
“It’s simple. Diversity and inclusion can drive business and should be top of mind for every smart business leader.”
But sometimes that simple message gets lost and needs to be tied to more than just a business outcome; it needs to be tied to how we experience the world around us every day.
Around the world, diversity is no longer just about the color of our skin, our gender, or our age. It’s about respect. It is about cultures. Heritage. Communities. It’s about how we respect the differences we all have, including our diversity of thought and opinion.
What diversity and inclusion means in a respectful workplace:
1. Coworkers take the time to understand
In respectful workplaces this means taking the time to understand and learn from the diversity of our colleagues and customers and to also challenge our triggers and unconscious biases that may lead to less cooperation or willingness to try new things.
2. Coworkers explore what it means to make others feel respected.
It also requires that we explore and pursue what it takes to make others feel respected. While we may tell ourselves that treating everyone the same way is the right thing to do, it’s often not true.
Respect means different things to different people depending on the very things that make each person different, including culture, background or any other dimensions of diversity. Taking the time to find out what respect means to others is the first step in building strong relationships that will yield multiple benefits professionally and personally.
Why invest in diversity and inclusion?
As we integrate more and more into a global economy, we must create these respectful and inclusive environments that fully welcome and leverage all our diversity in order to be fully competitive. Being able to easily move between cultures, understand different points of view, and collaborate on a global basis are the new skills of a successful workforce. Leveraging diversity and inclusion advantages, we can better mirror and understand the markets we are in and anticipate our customers’ needs that build closer business relationships and more successful businesses.
The world will never stop being diverse. It is filled with wonderful, new adventures and experiences around every corner for those who seek them out. The key is that sometimes we must leave the comfortable and known path and venture into the noise and the chaos to uncover the true simplicity and untold benefits that come from embracing diversity and inclusion.
Click here to learn more about Legacy Business Culture’s Diversity and Inclusion consulting.