Why diversity is just part of the equation

Imagine you’re a startup founder who recently hired two qualified professionals. You were excited to have their expertise and diverse perspectives on your team and expected interesting discussions and insights on the projects they were working on. The current team warmly welcomed them during their first weeks, and everything seemed fine when you checked in with them.

However, after the first month, your expectations were not met. The new employees hardly spoke during meetings, didn’t stay after hours at the office, and didn’t respond to your messages on Whatsapp regarding ideas for moving forward with the projects. They weren’t behaving like you or the other employees.

Ultimately, you decided to fire one of the professionals after the trial period because you felt they weren’t performing well. The other employee left the company after six months for another job opportunity.

What happened here?

It’s likely that you and your team continued with the same routines and practices even after hiring the two new professionals. Perhaps things were going smoothly and you didn’t give it much thought, but it’s important to realize that not everyone will:

  • Fight for a moment to speak during a meeting where there is no clear space for contributions.
  • Be able or willing to stay after working hours for work or socializing.
  • Feel comfortable receiving messages on platforms other than the company’s official one.

This story highlights what can happen when individuals and companies operate in a fixed pattern without considering alternative perspectives and approaches.

Diversity alone is not enough.

Many reports, articles, and, books suggest that hiring a diverse workforce can benefit a company’s bottom line, innovation, decision-making, and crisis management. However, simply hiring people who look, behave, or speak differently does not guarantee success.

In our story, the founder hired two professionals but failed to create an inclusive environment for them to contribute and feel valued.

Studies show that focusing on equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace leads to more consistent positive outcomes. These factors are linked to performance, retention, employee engagement, commitment, and well-being.

So how can you create an inclusive environment for new hires and achieve positive results for the company?

  1. Conduct an Employee Engagement Survey before recruitment to understand areas that need improvement. This survey can be used as a parameter as the company is growing and be sent every quarter or year depending on the need;
  2. After analyzing the survey results, you can prioritize the areas that need improvement to ensure that current employees feel more comfortable and new hires have a positive experience and feel included in the company culture, just like the old employees. 

Some of these practices could be:

  1. Inclusive Meeting Structure: where everyone has a chance to speak, not just those with louder voices or higher positions.
  2. Define Working Styles: Have conversations with employees and newcomers about their working and feedback styles, ensuring that there is space for different styles but also aligning them to work together.
  3. Working Hour Guidelines: If someone is hired for 25 hours/week, they should not be expected to work 40 hours/week, even if they are paid overtime.
  4. Establish communication channels: and their use to organize and save information as the team grows. While quick messages may be practical, they can have a personal tone and be misused.
  5. Plan team-building activities: within working hours that provide opportunities for current and new employees to get to know each other and explore commonalities. These activities should consider food preferences and allergies, physical limitations, and personal and religious decisions, among other factors to make them inclusive.

While diversity can be noticeable through visible and audible differences, creating a welcoming environment is equally important. By fostering an inclusive culture, initial efforts will become routine and provide long-term benefits for your team’s growth.

Author: Julianne Lopes
Editor: Amelia Suda-Gosch

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