The final post in this short series has arrived. In the introductory post, “Current State on Diversity & Inclusion at Work” I introduced a fantastic report commissioned by Culture Amp and Paradigm called, “New Technology Industry Diversity & Inclusion Report 2017“. The main point of this post was, through the report findings, that the sense of belonging is critical to diversity and inclusion program success. Further, without minimizing the importance of “diversity”, the real impact is felt when organizations design and implement inclusive business practices.
A great quote from leading diversity and inclusion expert, Verna Myers.
Keep in mind that diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.
The following post, “Getting it Right – Diversity & Inclusion at Work (Part 1)“, was focused on “diversity”. I argued that we tend to focus on a select few things that make our organizations diverse, but need to broaden our horizons to include ALL things that make us different. I applauded the efforts of leading tech companies like StackAdapt, Hubba, and others for their efforts in leading the conversation. We are headed in the right direction, but we need to expand our horizons on what diversity means, and to focus on inclusion.
Inclusion is Where the Rubber Hits the Road
Workplace inclusion is not as easy to fully understand like diversity is. I have had the fortunate opportunity to speak on diversity and inclusion as it relates to employee engagement a number of times at leading conferences in Canada and the United States. In each of my talks I emphasized that highly inclusive workplaces positively impacts employee engagement and business outcomes. Leading HR expert, Josh Bersin, found in a 2015 research study that teams who operated in an inclusive culture outperform their peers by a staggering 80%.
While diversity DOES matter, inclusion matters more. So what is the true definition of workplace inclusion? There are many but here is mine. Workplace inclusion is where every single employee is fully respected and valued for the contributions they bring to the organization, regardless of their individual differences. It occurs when barriers are knocked down so all employees can bring their true selves to work and realize success and their full potential in what they do. You may have your own defintion, and that’s okay. Whatever it may be, the key is that inclusive workplaces are highly engaged workplaces. The connection between the two is incredibly strong because it’s about how employees feel about their work, organization, and everything in between.
So How Do You Build an Inclusive Workplace?
I built a model many years ago during the early part of my career, which has since been tweaked and enhanced several times. It has served me well because it is multi-faceted and is focused on the key things that enable and drive home “sticky” business practices. Just think of any business practice that you currently have in your organization. How did the practice come to be? How did it stick around? Why is it important? What outcomes does it help achieve? You get the idea. It’s one thing to talk a great game about diversity and inclusion, but if you want to actually do it, properly, have a look at the model and understand it. See below.
At the centre of the model is “Values-Based Workplace Culture”. This should be a no-brainer because everything you do in business should somehow connect and align to your values. You recruit to your values. You manage people to your values. You make difficult business decisions based on your values. How you treat your customers is based on your values. How you build an inclusive organization is based on your values. If you don’t have values, or you don’t practice them ALL the time, this is where you need to start. Everything else that you do has no credibility if you’re wishy washy on your values. Don’t believe me? One word… UBER!
The other components of the model interconnect and support the centre. In no particular order.
Senior Leadership Commitment – “Walk the Talk”
I know many senior leaders who talk a great game and are experts at portraying a certain image. But, when it comes to acting they do something else. If you’re one of those leaders or you work for an organization with leaders who don’t walk the talk, this is a problem. Think of a house that looks great on the outside but is literally crumbling on the inside. It’s also called “lip service” and nothing but utter bullshit. If you’re going to do something, and you say it, DO IT!
Broaden Definition of Diversity – “Serve the Market”
This was the core message in Part 1. Not only do we need to broaden our minds on what diversity is, we need to employ the market in order to serve it. This is a fantastic quote from the leaders at RBC, a leader in diversity and inclusion.
Empower Employees – Educate
I have a severe hearing disability. 99% of the people who I have worked with have never worked with someone like me. As a result, they have no idea what they need to do to help me. How can they? To no fault of their own they either a) don’t ask questions because they perceive asking questions as being disrespectful or rude, or b) do something that they think is helping, but really is not. They simply have a preconceived bias on what they should and should not be doing. It’s up to us to educate our co-workers on how they can help us so that we can be successful. Knowledge is power, and inclusive organizations have employees who have knowledge. Facebook has an absolutely fantastic resource on how to manage unconscious bias. Take some time to view the videos and the slides and references used at the bottom of the main page. Click https://managingbias.fb.com/.
Focus on Consistent and Constant Communication
Like any successful change management initiative you need to communicate consistently and constantly so the message becomes part of your organizational DNA. Communicating what your values are, what they mean and what they look like in action is extremely important, as is what inclusiveness looks like in your organization.
HR Business Practices Re-Engineering
As I mentioned earlier we are naturally unconsciously biased, and we act, make decisions and behave based on what we know, via our experiences. When you throw the inclusiveness layer on top of your HR business practices you will likely see areas that need improvement. Do your recruiting practices enable everyone to participate fairly? Do you compensate people equitably? Does your organization understand how to accommodate specific needs of your employees? Do your employees practice safe ergonomics? How do your handle employee complaints of inappropriate behaviour, including harassment and violence in the workplace? Do you have a process in place to support employees dealing with mental health, and other temporary illnesses and disabilities? Do you recognize and reward employees for the right reasons, or are you biased based on other factors? These are just a few of the questions that you need to answer and resolve when you’re looking at your HR practices. If you don’t have practices relating to the full spectrum of HR then create them.
Real Business Measures and Metrics
Last but not least is metrics. The research is clear that workplace inclusion is positively correlated to employee engagement. We also know that employee engagement is positively correlated to business outcomes. So, what do you think would be the 2 main groupings of metrics? You guessed it… employee engagement and business results. From an employee engagement standpoint I highly recommend you take a look at TemboStatus — Toronto-based employee engagement software. Data is king and the biggest thing that HR can influence and impact is employee engagement. TemboStatus has a fantastic platform, and the people behind it truly understand what drives employee engagement in leading organizations today. Believe it or not, it’s really easy to see the impact of your diversity and inclusion efforts. Specific programs, initiatives and practices will positively impact engagement. Form a baseline of where you are today, and measure from there.
Getting diversity and inclusion in the workplace right is not easy. Then again, nothing in organizations that are made up of people is easy. However, you can certainly make a commitment to making your workplace more diverse and inclusive, and follow through. It’s a multi-faceted approach that has a massive impact on your organization. Needless to say, diversity and inclusion is a strategic business imperative that every single organization on the face of this planet needs to embrace and practice.