Your company recruits a diverse workforce which includes a range of different ethnicities, religions, ages and worldviews. Identifying and hiring the right people with such diverse characteristics and backgrounds is a great achievement in itself. However, diversity is only the half of the diversity and inclusion (D&I) picture. Creating a culture where the employees are appreciated and respected require a different level of effort which may not be getting the attention it needs.
The challenge lies in having a culture where all the employees feel included. It’s a big investment to bring the right talent into the organization, so why should you bring them in if they’re not happy when they get there? That’s why you should get the inclusion part right.
Five practical strategies for creating an inclusive environment for a diverse workforce are:
Your organization’s leadership will be instrumental in your D&I efforts. It’s the leader who’s in the front and the other employees look up to them and follow them. It’s the experience that the leader creates which is going to make or break the D&I initiatives. There’s a mandatory training in the leading companies for the people at the vice president level and above which starts with the basics of what inclusion is and why it is important. Small groups discuss the strategies on how to foster it in the company. Although, we always focus on inclusion and know this is something very important, however, we take it for granted when we tell the leaders that they need to be inclusive but we do not know whether they know exactly what we mean.
The leaders have to create a safe and secure team environment where all the employees can be heard, speak up and feel good while expressing their thoughts and views. Leaders must embrace the input of all the employees whose backgrounds or expertise usually differ from their own and foster collaboration among the diverse staff, facilitate constructive arguments, provide actionable feedback and act upon the suggestions of the diverse employees. Moreover, the leaders can make the women feel valued and included by understanding that a range of presentation and communication styles from them can succeed in the workplace.
The women won’t get a seat at the table unless those at the top allow them to pull the chair. Companies need to take steps to make that happen. For example, a multinational company developed a leadership program which doesn’t put only the high potential employees on the management track but also targets the supervisors who select the candidates. In order to debias, the supervisors had to learn to recognize and control their biases towards nominating candidates who were like themselves and instead acknowledge great candidates from the diversity. Employees participating in this program reported feeling more engaged and much better positioned for advancement. More importantly, their supervisors committed to offering these women the leadership opportunities within a year.
You need to think about the culture you want and how you can create that one culture which is authentic for your brand while meeting the needs of the employees. We serve a diverse workforce, but, more importantly, we want to make it an inclusive workforce which means making the strategic decisions which align us with that thinking. Leaders need to conduct regular town hall-style meetings as part of their communication with staff. It would let the leaders know what people really need and what would make them feel more comfortable and included. Just being listened to is very important to people—being able to voice their concerns indicate towards a safe place.
The leaders need to make sure that inclusion is one of the core values of your organization — not just something you do to tick the box only. But, how do you measure and know the progress in this regard. In order to do that, you need to introduce a tracking and reporting system to measure the progress against the diversity and the inclusion goals for each department. Leaders must be held accountable for this with a certain percentage of their bonuses tied to these goals.
For the businesses to grow and thrive in the future, it’s imperative to listen to the voices of the diverse workforce and eliminate the institutional barriers from their roads to success. In order to achieve this, the business leaders should willingly and proactively address any discrimination which continues to hinder the diverse employees from doing their jobs smoothly. You need to unleash all the top talent and in the process create a more profitable business towards forming a better world.
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