When we talk about diversity and inclusion in the labour market, we shouldn’t just stop at words or look at statistics, but actually ask ourselves what kind of an environment we want to create. Moreover, we need to know and speak up about why these values are important. Young people, especially NEETs, the target group of the StayOn project, can both benefit greatly from these efforts and make the biggest difference for the future of inclusive culture.
Putting an emphasis on diversity and inclusion is seeing value in everyone’s potential contribution, their different backgrounds and perspectives as well as actual equality and collaboration that stems from it. In an environment where everyone is given a voice and heard, there is room for (young) people to learn from each other through their differences, and consequently create a better community for everyone together. If we acknowledge that this is what we are aiming for, we soon see that looking at numbers is not enough, though it is a good beginning. Diversity alone doesn’t automatically mean an inclusive environment. It can quickly become void without real inclusive efforts, actions and system in place which aim at increasing access to opportunities for everyone as well as the same sense of belonging for minority groups than the majority. Both also being the goal of our project.
As Christine M. Riordan explains in her article Diversity Is Useless Without Inclusivity (Harvard Business Review), there are psychological dynamics that often work against inclusiveness and make it hard to achieve real progress and support. A similarity bias makes us naturally gravitate towards people like us, and subtler forms of discrimination often still result in certain groups participating less in decision-making or being judged more harshly than others. We might also lose the positive impact of diversity when minorities try to conform to the norm. Conversely, we might also experience resistance from the majority. To address and counteract these tendencies, we need to be ready to actively observe, reflect, talk, ask important questions, really listen to the answers, have a general conversation about the purpose of our efforts and, last but not least, invest in trainings. We must not assume things happen on their own, but actively work for quality relationships and better communication. In the StayOn partnership, that is the mission of BB Consulting’s team in their role of project integrators. Soft skills training, psychological safety and sensemaking are all essential to integrating differences for better collaboration.
So, inclusion in our society and labour market means not just putting diversity on the agenda and monitoring the numbers, but maybe even more importantly including everyone in the conversation about why it is necessary and how it benefits the society as a whole. We must actively build an environment of respect and openness. We need different perspectives for developing critical thinking, imagination and flexibility which the current and future trends demand from the workforce. It should be noted that team members who feel included and have a sense of belonging are more engaged, responsible, prone to dialogue, open to participate, collaborate and share; making teams more efficient, too. It is not that farfetched, then, to say encouraging diversity and inclusion among young people is also equipping them with an important skill for work and life: communication, teamwork, leadership and more.
This is where and how the StayOn project can make a real difference. Its trainings, destined for NEETs in the rural areas, have a twofold role. They are actively working for a more inclusive world by making sure a disadvantaged group of young people with different backgrounds is included in the labour market. Additionally, they are promoting these values broadly by training the youth in an atmosphere of trust and appreciation, so they can become an example to follow and ambassadors for a more inclusive future.
BB Consulting Team