Encompassingness: A New Approach to D&I

Companies have reached the end of days with diversity and inclusion – the term “d&i efforts” has become a Treadmill Verb that triggers activity but gets people nowhere, the pressure of meeting quotas has overshadowed the spirit of the field, and discrimination lawsuits have skyrocketed.

Insincere and ineffective strategies have produced resentment and concern for mere compliance, rather than inspiring better interpersonal relationships. Strategies, like employee resource groups, are empty efforts that perpetuate separation and raise more awareness of differences than they do to help people find common ground, despite those differences.

Society is painfully aware that people are all different. Decent people not only know, but practice, respect for others whose outside may be different than their own. And, rather than continue the hamster wheel of diversity and inclusion, it’s time that proactive steps be taken not to “do inclusion”, but to BE inclusive.

Employee resource groups are nice rhetoric – a nod to “doing what’s right” that I call well-meaning segregation. But what do they create? Being set apart, as an issue to consider, doesn’t bode well for the message that WE ARE ALL EQUAL. Inclusion means getting everybody into the family picture, making everyone A part, not apart.

When organizations get serious about more inclusive workplaces, they will get serious about creating more inclusive workplaces.

Enter: Encompassingness – the quality of being accessible to as many people as possible.

In the same way that advertising seeks to transcend demographics and connect a brand to as many customers as possible, or how people are united by fear or trauma, inclusion efforts that leverage the strength of peoples’ similarities will realize the rhetoric (aka: walk the walk, instead of merely talking the talk).

By tapping into ideas that apply to everyone, anyone from individuals crafting a personal brand to large corporations seeking HR solutions can find more-compelling ways to reach across statistics and into the nature of humanity. Literature offers examples in the form of universal themes, like coming of age or seizing the moment. Feelings and situations provide the common ground on which people can connect and construct new relationships.

Here’s one of my latest ideas for a d&i program, based on the notion that we’re all kids who got big.