As awareness of the importance of fostering an inclusive workplace grows among business leaders, many can feel overwhelmed and not know where to start.
Here, IoD member and founder of Inclusion 247, Teresa Boughey shares 9 ways to become the destination of choice for those who seek an inclusive environment at work.
"Leaders can no longer sit on the side-lines when it comes to inclusion and creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong. Research shows that embracing inclusivity and diversity not only ensures employees are supported and engaged, but also enables any business to stand out from their competitors. However, the prospect of shifting a culture of ingrained bias and outdated mindsets can seem daunting. Leaders often don’t know where to start at all, and/or those that have launched initiatives often find that traction to close the gap is slow.
Creating an inclusive culture is about recognising that your organisation is about your people – and I mean all your people! It’s not about those who shout loudest nor is it about creative ‘exclusive inclusion’ initiative that fail to address systemic bias and typically exclude the vast majority of the workforce. No, I’m talking about the creation of a culture in an environment where individuals come together to a place they call ‘work’, where within this environment all individuals feel a sense of belonging, where their contributions, unique differences, voice, views and talents are valued with parity.
Inclusion however isn’t the role of one, but it’s the coming together of many and whilst leaders should be figureheads for their programs, all employees also need to be engaged through the company values and be ready to implement the positive culture. This article will show you 9 ways in which you can transform your organisation to become the destination of choice for those who seek an inclusive environment.
- Senior Figurehead – It’s important to have an authentic figurehead within your organization that would champion diversity; someone who tables diversity at the top of the leadership agenda, challenging the norms and spearheading initiatives and policies, but it’s equally imperative that everybody else within the organization plays their part.
- A role for everyone - By definition, inclusion isn't exclusive but inclusive! This means that when it comes to considering whose role it is to shape and influence an inclusive culture it’s imperative that people don’t stand on the side-lines waiting for someone else to act or call things out. Yes, you may need to have a senior leader who is your Inclusion Champion, but everybody needs to recognise that they have a role and contribution to make when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion – not least because it actually means them!
- Company Values - As an organization, it's important to set out your values, mission and vision so that employees clearly understand what they are and know how to can apply them consistently across all operational activities, whether it be through hiring new employees, managing performance, or how employees engage with each other, as well as how you engage with your customers. Your values should form the bedrock of how your business operates and will set the tone for employee expectation.
- Community Engagement Often organisations can become so inwardly focused that they forget to consider the environment and talent which is around them. Make a commitment to tune in to the local communities within which you serve: this is a great opportunity to understand the challenges faced by the local community. Connecting with schools and colleges is also a great way to build your brand as well as harnessing talent for the future.
- Not just the role of HR - Creating an inclusive culture is not just the role of HR, and it goes way beyond creating policies - it's the role of everyone. Ask yourself: what role does your procurement team play when it comes to sourcing suppliers? Is Diversity and Inclusion included as selection criteria? How does your marketing team ensure that your branding and marketing messages are inclusive? Does your IT department look for ways to utilise technology to make your employee and customer experience inclusive?
- Unquenchable thirst for learning - Employees should be encouraged to have an unquenchable thirst when it comes to learning, not only in the sense of enhancing any technical knowledge and competence, but in terms of being open and exploring the different ideas, viewpoints that are diverse and inclusive culture can bring. Employees should feel safe to be able to bring themselves to work and have open and honest conversations about their experiences in the workplace.
- Tune into bias – Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have an unconscious (and even at time a conscious) bias. Employees should be encouraged through a holistic approach to understand and tune in into the biases of themselves and potentially their colleagues, helping them to understand the impact it has on others. When something is different, we can often feel unsure and this can be when bias can kick in. We may become influenced by our own past experiences, and or look to others and slip into conformity or affinity bias.
- Stretch and development – provide opportunities for all employees to experience stretch or development opportunities. These could include taking on a project, chairing a meeting, setting up a community event, shadowing a Senior Leader, attending conferences – the list is endless. Its important however to encourage participation from those who may not get an opportunity or who wouldn’t ordinarily put themselves forward. Whatever stretch and developmental learning experience you offer ensure that you link it with succession planning.
- Zero Tolerance - Having a zero tolerance towards behaviour which is not inclusive can only occur if you have set out expectations. Having clear values therefore provides an accountability framework – something which all employees can align with, follow and ultimately call out when not followed. If your values don’t refer to anything which touches upon respect and diversity, then it’s time to consider revisiting your values to make them fit for the future.
Even though many companies agree it's the right thing to do to create an inclusive workplace culture, in truth many fail to look beyond recruitment. Organisations have to set all of their employees up for success and should create environments for everyone to thrive and perform at their best, and not focus on implementing well intended stand-alone initiatives which can often result in exclusive inclusion, frustration, ill feeling and even divide.
It is only when organisations take stock and assess ‘their own’ organisations Diversity and Inclusion position, when they are truly honest and transparent with their findings and when they work collectively with their people to create tangible yet holistic actions that they will journey towards transforming their organisation into the destination of choice for those who seek an inclusive environment."
About the author
Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR and founder of Inclusion 247. She is a TEDx speaker, a Non-Executive Director and author of Amazon bestseller Closing the Gap, designed to support business professionals at every stage of their inclusivity journey. Closing the Gap has recently been shortlisted in the ‘An Exceptional Book That Promotes Diversity’ category of the Business Book Awards 2020. Teresa is a UK Female Entrepreneur Ambassador, business board member of the Women and Enterprise and the Women and Work APPGs and a regular contributor to the media and public policy. Learn more at https://www.inclusion247.com/
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