How inclusive is your culture? It’s time for a health-check
29 January 2021
Every employee responsible for building, and maintaining, an inclusive culture. Leaders need to lead, yes. But culture is the outcome of everyone coming together. So how do you know when there’s still work to be done?
Diversity is part of everyday life, but inclusion often isn’t
In many US cities, you’ll come across people from a variety of age groups, genders, religions, and ethnicities as you walk down the street. People with different perspectives, and education levels; people who’ve experienced life differently, and who bring something new and unique to the culture you’re both in.
This is diversity at its finest.
Now, if you walk into your place of work, and the same is true — that’s brilliant (and quite rare!). But that’s only one side of the diversity and inclusion picture. Having an inclusive culture means that all those diverse characteristics and traits are actively acknowledged, respected, and accommodated so that everyone in the workplace (or society) feels seen and heard.
The importance of nurturing an inclusive culture
Inclusive companies are 120% more likely to meet their financial goals, and their employees are both happier and healthier, too. In fact, there’s an abundance of evidence to show how inclusivity benefits the business, its workers, and its customers, as well.
“D&I needs to be something that every single employee at the company has a stake in.” —Bo Young Lee, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Uber.
In short, there’s not a single department of any organization that shouldn’t be prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion in their teams. But that’s often a lot easier said than done.
Neither small, mid-size, or large companies are immune from issues of cultural segregation or sameness, but it’s often a particular challenge for large, disparate teams. Here, lack of communication channels, transparency, and opportunity to see everyone together in the same room, can make “cliqueness” hard to spot.
When you think about your place of work, how do you think it fares on the cultural inclusivity meter?
How inclusive is your culture today?
In another of our recent blogs, we argued how D&I relies on so much more than filling quotas. And that’s true: inclusion should be a long term vision, not something you try to “sort out” overnight.
Ways that you can measure inclusivity
There are a number of macro trends and metrics to draw upon, including:
- Employee turnover
- Worker productivity and satisfaction
- Organizational flexibility
- And, as we mentioned above, sustainable revenue, too.
But there’s also a number of more everyday facets to consider:
- Collaboration and communication between employees: how easily do the conversations flow?
- Homogeny in your teams: does everyone look, think, and act the same?
- Psychological safety: what happens when people offer up new ideas, are they listened to and respected, or silenced and shunned?
We can’t sit here and tell you, from the outside, how inclusive your culture really is. But consider the above food for thought, and ask yourself the hard question: how much am I really doing today to promote inclusivity in my work?
Taking steps towards a more inclusive culture
In many ways, organizations are taking really positive steps towards greater diversity and inclusion in their teams. But the hard work is far from done.
1.Upskill your leaders
How confident are you that every team leader in your organization knows what D&I really means? And how many of them could suggest a few tactics to improve the inclusivity of their teams?
The truth is, only a handful of business leaders can act as true advocates for D&I. Not because the others don’t care, but because they haven’t got access to adequate training and tools. Armed with proper knowledge and respect for D&I, leaders can influence their teams to be more inclusive, too.
2. Recognition is key
Once there’s buy-in across the organization, you can start to dismantle any pre-existing cultural cues that act against Diversity and Inclusion. To do that, there are a few things that need to be recognized:
Recognize your bias
No-one is free of bias. And the sooner we all accept that truth, the sooner we can work to remedy it. Prejudices leak into the way we work, the way we treat our colleagues, and the candidates we choose for roles and promotions.
For this reason, it’s vital that individuals — as well as the organization as a whole — actively work to identify their biases. The Harvard Implicit Association test is a great place to start for yourself. And for your teams, you can:
- Organize company-wide bias training
- Create new guidelines for hiring practices
- Reinforce openness and inclusivity with their hiring teams.
Recognize everyone’s achievement
Democratizing praise and reward is vital for making every employee feel validated. All levels of hard work and achievement should be recognized — not just those performed by people with a “C” in their title. This could include:
- A new parent successfully re-onboarding after a maternity or paternity break
- Or a junior-level employee successfully pitching a campaign idea to senior team members.
Recognize and respect individuality
Whether it’s race, religion, gender, or any other differentiating trait, it’s important that every individual feels they can be their authentic self in the workplace.
Ask yourself the following:
- Which holidays do you celebrate in your workplace? Easter? Hanukkah? Chinese New Year? Holi?
- Do colleagues with young children feel comfortable about having to leave early for childcare, or is there a stigma?
- Will LGBTQ+ couples enter company social events with their heads held high? Do they know that they can bring their plus-one at all?
These are all ways that a person’s full identity can either be suppressed or supported. Multi-faith prayer rooms, National Parents’ Day celebrations, bathroom access for all genders, and consciously-inclusive socials are just a few ways to reinforce space for employees from all backgrounds.
3. Increase accountability
Who’s going to tell you when you’re not doing enough?
An inclusion council is a group of employees that acts on behalf of the company to grow, nurture, and challenge the organization’s D&I practices.
The horror stories of people who are hired by white institutions to do “diversity & inclusion” recruitment only to be undermined or ousted by the institution for doing their job could be its own anthology.— Unite in justice for the poor & oppressed (@BreeNewsome) December 22, 2020
Members should represent as many characteristics as possible, and though they should primarily be senior-level executives, there should also be some junior staff members present. This is so that the council has the power to enforce change. For this to be effective, councils should meet with individuals or diversity groups within the company regularly, to receive feedback, complaints, and suggestions. The council should then be responsible for communicating with the entire company what they’ve learned, and how they plan to enact relevant change.
4. Foster a spirit of openness and honesty
Lastly, for these measures to succeed, it’s important that every employee feels comfortable speaking up. Whether there are anonymous forms, regular D&I catch-ups with HR staff, or open letters from CEOs to all staff members, honesty and openness must be highlighted as a genuine company value.
Better still, challenge traditional feedback procedures and think up innovative ways to promote inclusive communication throughout your organization. Break down the silos, get disparate teams mixing together, and you’ll soon remind them that we have much more in common than that which divides us.
Create diversity, then insist on inclusion
Before Inclusion comes Diversity, and yet you can’t have one without the other. In companies where D&I is truly part of the cultural identity, diversity in thought, action, and representation feeds seamlessly into a feeling of true inclusion, for every team member.
Maybe today you’re still at the very start of your business’s Diversity and Inclusion journey — and that’s okay. We built Headstart to get you off the ground. Our AI-powered recruitment platform strips all the unconscious bias out of the hiring process, improving diversity up to 18%.
Book your demo to learn how Headstart can help your organization today.
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