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Diversity and Inclusion: Bottom-Up as Well as Top-Down

Diversity and Inclusion: Bottom-Up as Well as Top-Down

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 7, Episode 19
  • Learn how to accurately define "diversity" and "inclusion," along with how well the U.S. workplace is doing on these issues and the impact millennials are having.

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Dr. Ella Washington, diversity and inclusion subject-matter expert at Gallup, and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, about diversity and inclusion. Ella defined the terms and then shared about 4 data points that indicate the state of the current U.S. workplace on these issues -- including a look at the impact millennials are having on D&I.

Our guest host was Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup.

Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.

[4:49] Mike McDonald: Before we get right to the data, Ella … I think we're a little bit loose with our language about exactly what we're speaking to when we say "diversity"; when we say "inclusion." I think sometimes we're guilty of interchanging those reference points. Can you clean up for us the definition of both of those things, and primarily how they are different from each other, so we have a real clarity around the technology?

Ella Washington: Certainly. So we would define "diversity" as any difference between individuals and groups. Now traditionally, diversity conversations have focused on demographic differences, such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status or physical disability. Those would be the topics that are usually entering into the diversity conversation.

And though those demographic characteristics are very important and most salient to a person's identity, Gallup agrees with the trend that is happening now as our workplace and world is changing, to adopt a little broader definition of diversity. That includes lifestyles, personalities, opinions, family composition, education level, tenure and other elements of diversity that represent that underlying definition of any difference between individuals and groups.

So sometimes it can be challenging to think about -- everything can be diversity, but it really can be. So it depends on the context of the conversation. And that's not to belittle the saliency of those demographic characteristics -- the ones you can usually see or pick up on, the ones that are most salient to our identity. So it's really having a balance between those things in these conversations.

[6:42] EW: As we think about inclusion, we define that as a culture that values the unique perspectives and contributions of everyone. So in an organization it would be of all employees, but it could be of everyone in the community or other type of atmosphere. We would assess inclusion by the extent to which people (employees) are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organization.

A few points on what diversity is not, and what inclusion is not. Diversity itself does not guarantee inclusion. So it's important to parse out the differences between diversity and inclusion. Although they are often paired together and they certainly are complementary, one does not automatically beget the other.

Again, diversity does not only refer to race and gender; there are many other aspects of diversity that can be understood and applied. Diversity also doesn't require organizations to "lower the bar" for diverse groups. So a truly diverse and inclusive environment is one that is valuing everyone's contributions and raising the bar for everyone and not lowering the bar, as some people might assume.

Finally, diversity is not just a responsibility of an HR department or even the CEO of an organization. It's a topic that is important from both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective. We need our local teams and local managers to take inclusion as seriously as we expect from our leadership.

I'll just add a few more points around what inclusion is not. Inclusion doesn't automatically happen just because you have a diverse workforce. It also doesn't come only if you have strong leadership that is promoting diversity but no buy-in from the rest of the organization. As I mentioned, local teams play an equal role in promoting inclusion.

And then finally, inclusion doesn't get solved through training alone. Training is wonderful, we do a lot of it here at Gallup, and I enjoy it, but a systematic strategy is also required for truly inclusive cultures that go beyond just training.

[10:21] MM: I love the definitions and I'd like to get into the landscape. Our first data point is 55. That 55 represents 55% in Ella's study of that population who strongly agree that their organization has policies that promote diversity and inclusion. So Ella, just as with every data point, what does 55% mean? In your own estimation, is that good? Is that bad? Does that show growth? What's the context around 55% that provides opportunity?

EW: So 55% is certainly progress, if we look at the last 20-25 years. But certainly there's still a lot of work to be done. In today's changing workforce that you mentioned earlier, not only is diversity and inclusion the right thing to do, morally and ethically, but it's also smart for businesses. And I know we'll talk about some of those smart business outcomes a little later.

But when we think about the 55% that would agree that their organization has policies to promote diversity and inclusion, the reality is that not every company has committed to policies to promote D&I. It's kind of an assumption that we have these days, but not every organization is there yet. Many organizations are on the continuum between compliance --that we saw 20-30 years ago, when many organizations started their D&I journeys -- to awareness, which is the next level up and (involves) really understanding what are our D&I challenges? How can we be more aware of them? What training can we implement? -- to true inclusion.

So it's this long continuum, and every organization is somewhere on that continuum. There's no endpoint. It's an endless journey -- a journey that will continue to be iterated as D&I changes, as our workforce changes. So if your organization is still in the compliance or awareness phase, it's not something to panic about, but it is the reality that every organization is somewhere on that continuum.

Now, for example, many companies have not yet gone beyond basic recruiting policies around D&I. And so, getting beyond that level of "D&I means recruitment policies" is where you start to push more into the awareness -- push more into the inclusion perspective. Now for those many companies that do have diversity and inclusion efforts, that 55% statistic probably represents a lack of awareness of what the company is doing.

So we talked about the need for D&I to be bottom-up and top-down -- many organizations need more concerted efforts to let people know what their company is doing around D&I and how it impacts their daily jobs and the overall culture of the company. And so if you're relying on HR and you think diversity and inclusion sits in the Human Resources department, and the leadership is not making sure that employees are tuned in not only to what is being done around D&I but how that impacts their daily jobs, then there's a missed opportunity there. And I think that 55% is represented there as well.

[16:13] MM: Coaches, our second data point is 44.2% of millennials are nonwhite. And that's only going to increase with Gen Z. So the reality of diversity and inclusion and the way it's bringing itself into the workplace is that we will have to integrate in effectively, or struggle with -- if 44% of that group is nonwhite, and 70% of the workforce is going to be millennials next year, it's now. We're probably already behind the game if we haven't started that journey already.

So what are the features of and the pressures and the opportunities within the 70% millennial workforce coming in, who represent a very different face, personality, profile than what the traditional workforce has been built on?

EW: Great question. What's so fascinating about that statistic when it came out 5 years ago -- it seemed like a really long ways away. Now, we're looking at 2020, just next year. And so it's like you said, if you haven't started thinking about this, the time is now -- you're behind the ball, even.

But that 70% of the workforce being millennial really means that globally, millennials will occupy not only the majority of individual contributor positions, but the majority of leadership roles as well. It doesn't stop at the individual contributor place. So millennials will be responsible for making very important decisions that affect workplace cultures and the lives of people everywhere.

As we mentioned earlier, we know that millennials define diversity and inclusion much more broadly than previous generations, who mainly focused on those demographic differences such as race and gender, and other visible demographics. But now, millennials are thinking beyond those demographics and thinking about backgrounds and experiences and perspectives, which introduces a whole other layer of diversity.

So in that, managers have to find new ways to bridge the gap of all the generations in the workplace. In many organizations, there are four and even five generations in the workplace, and that will continue to be exacerbated over the next few years.

So a few things managers should be thinking about are:

  • Millennials are such a connected generation. So how do you leverage that level of connection to build more inclusive teams? Are there ways that you can think beyond the traditional mechanisms of team communication and connection, and to leverage that ability to make everyone on the team feel more inclusive -- particularly as we think about remote workers, or even remote workers with nontraditional schedules.
  • Secondly, what we know about millennials is that there is now an expectation to have inclusive conversations. I think our technology platforms, our social media platforms -- they have allowed people to be much more vocal about their opinions on different issues.
  • And managers now have to be equipped with the tools to have conversations around diversity and inclusion, to talk about some of those challenging things we might see in the news that's happening outside of our workplaces. It's no longer OK for managers to skirt the issues and not feel comfortable talking about these conversations anymore, because this new generation of the workforce are going to expect not only to have the conversation, but they're going to look to their managers and leaders to demonstrate some knowledge and care around those topics.

Dr. Ella Washington's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Individualization, Focus, Harmony, Achiever and Discipline.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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