Updated: Mar 3, 2019
It is almost 2019 and so many people are throwing around inclusion as if we're playing hot potato and we dance around diversity like we're playing musical chairs! These are two important facets of running a successful business and yet many organizations struggle with integrating them within their organization at its core.
To build sustainable systems of inclusion, which would also help attract and retain diverse talent, inclusion must be clearly defined within an organization. Inclusion is multifaceted and yet simple all at the same time. I generally divide inclusion into two categories. You have inclusion as it pertains to an employee's able-ness, sexuality, gender, race, age, etc and how work systems and workplace climates excludes individuals who don't meet the status quo in these areas. Inclusion also focuses on giving staff as a whole the opportunity to be more involved and invested with the company; giving staff the chance to have their voice heard in general.
So how do you build systems of inclusion that actually work and serve as a catalyst for increasing staff engagement and attracting diverse talent for the company?
Here are 3 steps to get you started, particularly if you have a business experiencing change management of some sort.
1. Check your staff pulse. Understand where they are, how they feel, why they feel what they feel, and what inclusion means for them! You cannot solve a problem others have without understanding why something is a problem for them and understanding what a solution looks like from their perspective. Duh!
2. Be honest and transparent about the challenges of upper level management. It shows you are human and are struggling in some areas just like the staff. This really helps to open up lines of communication.
3. Implement systems that can be sustained and grown as the company evolves and grows. A guest speaker facilitating a one-day retreat on inclusion will not suffice. Neither will a bulletin board that displays the company supports "difference" and welcomes all employee feedback. Companies must be pro-active in demonstrating the “how” by establishing systems that support and sustain inclusion. In order for that to happen, transparent and challenging conversations need to happen on all levels for understanding, growth, and productivity.
Now unless you live under rock, (sometimes I do in my mind), you're familiar with Google and Amazon. Both use (or use to use) a model that is simple, yet genius to increase/maintain employee engagement and likely aid in fostering a system of inclusion. These companies allow(ed) employees to share innovative ideas pertaining to company growth, improving workplace systems. Google even went a step further and supported some ideas that were simply passion areas for employees. What made this idea work is that decision makers chose ideas each year to support and implement. This concept can potentially solve a variety of organizational problems and also challenges the staff to be creative, to challenge themselves, to grow professionally, and is a great way to help staff to feel included as a valued member of the organization.