By Lawrence Wagner
A study found that a majority of organizations (71 percent) say they aspire, within three years, to have an “inclusive” culture that celebrates employee diversity and channels it for increased business value. Yet only 11 percent of the 245 organizations surveyed report that they currently have an inclusive culture (and 56 percent of the organizations surveyed are global or multinational).
What is Inclusion?
Diversity consultant Verna Myers has vividly described inclusion as promoting an environment where people from different cultural backgrounds:
- Are welcomed and treated with respect
- Feel included and integrated
- Are given equal access to opportunities
- Are given opportunities to contribute their ideas and concerns
Unfortunately, many people of color (including myself) have worked for organizations where we were not a part of an inclusive work environment. We did not feel valued, empowered, that we belonged, and that we could express ourselves openly within the organizations we worked for. Therefore, we contribute to the number of employees who are disengaged at work.
“I see you, you see me. I experience you, and you experience me. But I cannot, I have not, nor will I ever experience your experience of me.” ~ R.D. Lang
How do we create a culture of inclusion?
The following principles help in the process of creating a culture of inclusion, building stronger teams, and developing more productive workforces:
- Treat the evolution of diversity and inclusion as business-critical, not compliance-necessary. Organizations that approach diversity and inclusion as a business priority are more likely to report superior business outcomes.
- Move beyond diversity to inclusion and diversity. Organizations that focus on the value of inclusion, in addition to diversity, typically enjoy superior performance as compared with peer organizations that do not.
- Prioritize inclusive leadership. Leaders who demonstrate behaviors such as courage, curiosity, and cultural intelligence tend to enable cultures that encourage inclusiveness.
- Reinforce an inclusive culture by integrating both demographic diversity and diversity of thought into all talent management practices. It is especially important to do this at moments that affect the talent pipeline, such as decisions that impact talent acquisition, promotions, succession management and leadership development.
- Provide diversity and inclusion resources that empower individuals to take action. Inclusive organizations are more likely to offer resources that enable individuals to bring their authentic selves to work, manage unconscious bias effectively, and leverage the support of mentors and sponsors to help them navigate their organizations. Further, more mature organizations offer these resources broadly – not just for diverse populations.
- Drive accountability, not metrics tracking. Organizations should create accountability by sharing strategic measurements about diversity and inclusion-related activities and their impact, and have senior leaders discuss achievement on an ongoing basis. One aspect of this might be to tie compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes, a practice employed currently by only 6 percent of companies surveyed.
Diversity and its partner in innovation, inclusion, are no longer a social responsibility but rather a business imperative in an increasingly globalized marketplace. It’s time for everyone to be invited to the party – with a chance to dance.