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The Power of Representation in the Workplace

a group of employees of mixed genders, races, ages, and ability having a meeting.

When you walk into your workplace, who and what do you see reflected back at you?

Decades of research have demonstrated the profound benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. But the Employee Care Principle of Human Representation is next level DEI – it’s about making the commitment to diversity visible and tangible. Seeing is believing, and Human Representation is the promise of diversity realized.

Human representation is a powerful expression of diversity in action. When employees of different genders, races, ethnicities, abilities, and backgrounds see themselves reflected in leadership and peer groups, several positive ripple effects occur:

Affirmation of identity and value. Seeing people who look like you in positions of influence sends a clear message that you belong and your contributions matter. It encourages people to invest in their professional development and seek opportunities for advancement.

Inclusion and trust. Representation fosters a sense of community and psychological safety. Employees will feel more comfortable being their authentic self and speaking up when they see others with a shared identity in positions of authority and leadership.

Belief in equitable access. Representation signals that opportunities for hiring, development and promotion are truly available to all. Employees gain faith that they have a fair chance to succeed based on merit.

Culture of innovation. Interacting with colleagues of diverse backgrounds ignites creative thinking and problem-solving. Having a variety in perspectives leads to breakthroughs in products, services and processes.

While well-crafted DEI policies and programs set an important foundation, human representation is about bringing them to life. Seeing diversity embodied in real people - in the faces of leaders, mentors, team members and new hires - makes has a real and powerful positive impact. Employees think, "People like me can make it here. My voice matters. I can achieve my potential."

Representation also provides an opportunity for an enhanced feedback loop, allowing an organization to continuously gauge its DEI progress. Visible diversity provides motivation to intensify efforts and fill gaps. Lack of representation in certain areas reveals where focused outreach and development are needed.

At the same time, human representation should be authentic, not simply cosmetic. People can quickly sense when diversity is showcased in superficial ways. Employees from underrepresented groups may feel used as figureheads if not given actual influence. Representation must reflect genuine inclusion, voice, and decision-making power to drive positive impact.

To harness the power of representation, organizations can:

  • Ensure diversity in candidate slates and interview panels for all open positions.

  • Provide high-profile stretch assignments and leadership development opportunities for employees from underrepresented identity groups.

  • Establish mentoring programs and employee resource groups to support employees who are part of underrepresented identity groups.

  • Set diversity goals for leadership levels and feeder roles, with clear accountability.

  • Regularly measure and report on diversity metrics, including promotions and attrition.

  • Showcase employee stories that highlight diversity across the organization.

  • Weave representation through all internal and external communications.

Human representation is the true potential of diversity unlocked.  It allows employees of all backgrounds to envision themselves thriving and making a difference in your organization. The visible presence of diversity validates the message of inclusion. And an inclusive culture empowers every individual to fully express their identity, abilities, and ideas for the benefit of all.

Representation matters - and it's the key to turning diversity's promise into an organization's competitive advantage.  The most successful organizations will be those that move beyond diversity as an abstract concept and bring it to life through human representation. They will make diversity unmistakably evident and irrefutably relevant. In doing so, they will unleash the full power of all their people.


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