Charles Spinelli on True Diversity and Inclusion
The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” are often used together; many think they mean the same. However, diversity and inclusion are not interchangeable; they are distinct concepts. A workplace can be inclusive but not diverse. Conversely, many companies are diverse but not inclusive — which can negatively affect company culture. Charles Spinelli discusses diversity and inclusion and their key differences.
What is diversity?
Charles Spinelli explains that each term needs to be defined to understand the difference between diversity and inclusion.
Diversity is the characteristics, distinctions, and experiences that make an individual different. Many people understand diversity only on a surface level — characteristics they can easily see. Diversity does mean individuals of varying gender identities, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations, but it’s so much more than that. The term represents a wide range of experiences, including upbringing, education, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, neurodiversity, life experience, and socioeconomic background, adds Charles Spinelli.
A diverse workplace hires people of different backgrounds. Distinct perspectives enhance the pool of talent at work. Diverse companies are typically considered innovators, enjoying increased revenue and higher retention.
What is inclusion?
Charles Spinelli says that inclusion is the “secret sauce” that makes a workplace more engaging, profitable, and innovative. It means creating an environment where individuals feel accepted and valued regardless of their differences. Charles Spinelli points out that no individual must be denied access to resources, education, and opportunities based on what makes them unique, whether inadvertently or intentionally.
Creating an inclusive environment requires intention. Technically speaking, companies are typically not required by law to make their workplaces inclusive. But every company benefits from doing so, according to Charles Spinelli. Inclusion is important to both the workplace and society. It’s more than just hiring people who look different. It’s about challenging the notion that different means inferior.
Key differences between diversity and inclusion
Can a workplace be diverse but not inclusive? Companies only looking to “check the diversity box” may fall into the trap of recruiting talent based on surface characteristics. A person who feels “tokenized” at work is unlikely to show their full potential — or stick around for long.
Charles Spinelli explains that tokenism includes one member of a minority group in a majority. That may mean hiring one black employee in a predominantly white office or one woman in an all-male workplace. Tokenism is detrimental to diversity and doesn’t lead to inclusivity.
In an era where social justice is a widespread concern, companies are feeling pressure to improve their diversity efforts. However, Charles Spinelli believes that creating an inclusive environment can’t be achieved overnight. He notes that building diversity with shortcuts can harm company culture.
How can you create an inclusive workplace?
Creating an inclusive workplace requires commitment. A member of an underrepresented group knows that the things that make some people feel unwelcome are often covert and subtle. The organization must be willing to work on every level to make major changes.
At some point, a company’s recruiting team must focus on recruiting and hiring diverse talent. Recruiting teams need to avoid barriers to entry, such as expensive certifications and advanced degrees in the hiring process. Organizations should focus on hiring diverse candidates for entry-level and leadership positions.
Companies should also consider reviewing the language they use internally and externally. Some commonplace terms are now recognized as insensitive. Charles Spinelli notes that organizations need to intentionally use terms that reflect their commitment to inclusion. It is particularly important when it comes to race, gender, and disability. “People first” language should be used, and organizations should never refer to an individual by race or disability status. If an employee tells you their pronouns, it’s appropriate to use them.
Charles Spinelli adds that employees should learn more about diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity — both inside and outside the workplace. The benefits of diversity should also be shared with employees.
Many companies talk about stereotypes at work and offer implicit bias training. Working with a coach can help employees confront their biases, challenge assumptions, and continue conversations about real diversity. Coaching can also encourage conversations geared toward changing organizational behavior.
Understanding the distinction between inclusion vs. diversity isn’t just about choosing one area to focus on over another. Instead, the goal is to help organizations pinpoint where their strategy may fail. Charles Spinelli shares important information on human resources in his blogs. Read them on this page.