Why workplace inclusion is HR’s orchestra

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Diversity and inclusion are often discussed as a pair but one business leader says it’s important to remember that the issues are completely independent – achieving success in one area doesn’t always mean you’re doing well in the other.

“I was asked to talk at a diversity and inclusion series a couple of years ago and when I was there, they were discussing what the difference between diversity and inclusion was,” says Claire Matheson, founder of Coffee Educators and recent winner at the Diversity Awards New Zealand.

“The resounding response from all of the speakers was that diversity is like fruit and all fruit is different but inclusion is like fruit salad because it’s all mixed together,” she continues. “I was the only one who stood up and completely disagreed – I think that’s a really bad analogy.”

Matheson – whose organisation won the Diversability Award for its efforts employing and training people in the deaf community – says the difference can actually be explained in a better way.

“To me, diversity is like a musical instrument – you think about a guitar and you think about Hendrix or Clapton or Carlos Santana, even Ed Sheeran, all of these amazing guitarists who all play the same instrument but it’s so unique and personal to them,” says Matheson.

“Inclusion, on the other hand, is about bringing different instruments together to create a band or an orchestra because they’re not just being thrown together like fruit in a fruit salad, they’re working together and they’re actually more aware of the people around them.”

Just like in an orchestra, Matheson says if one section or person starts to fall behind, the others don’t just blindly carry on playing.

“With the help of the conductor, everybody slows down, everybody waits, they find that beat together and then they all come in and they all start on the same piece again,” she tells HRD.

“That’s what I truly believe diversity ad inclusion is about – it’s about being more aware of the people around you and it’s about providing support to your colleagues because that’s how we create a strong foundation in a business.”

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